Thaw Massacre Inter Mountain Cup. Moab, Utah

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First race of the 2015 season, and first Mountain Bike race for me in Boulder Cycle Sport colours. I feel like I’ve been part of the BCS family for a little while now, even though it’s taken me a while to do an MTB race for them. They looked after me throughout cross season, and I got used to seeing a lot of teammates around at the races on the Front Range. So it was a little strange to be in Utah for the first race of the season, surrounded by unfamiliar kits, and definitely no-one else in BCS black and orange.

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The Grand Junction Offroad

The last big race of Mountain Bike season! The Epic Rides team did a great job of attracting talent to the race; there were ‘only’ thirty guys signed up. But it was thirty guys who thought they could win. It meant that a compact group of riders rolled out of downtown Grand Junction on Sunday morning, each one with an idea of getting into the lead group and challenging for some cash on the line.

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The Steamboat Stinger – round 4

I raced the Steamboat Stinger in 2011, 2012, 2013, and now here in its fourth edition I’m lining up for the fourth time. I’m proud to say I’ve been here since the beginning; this race and my cycling career started at a pretty similar time. In 2011, I was lucky enough to be handed a green and grey jersey of the Epic Endurance team, and from there on I proceeded to race everything put in front of me. The Stinger fell towards the end of that season. It was about the time I started thinking of myself as a Mountain Biker.

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British XC National Champs

British National Championships XC - Photo by Frank Baddick
British National Championships XC – Photo by Frank Baddick

My first attempt at racing British Nationals. I feel like I’m a pretty experienced bike racer at this point – It’s been four years since I started pinning on numbers in earnest, and I’ve raced a huge number of events across the world. With all of that, though, I’ve very rarely raced in the UK. My racing started in Colorado, and has continued there ever since. I’ve not had the chance to come back to England and race, and I realise now that I haven’t had the fitness or experience to do so either. This race marked the last UCI race for 2014. This season took my count of national races from 2 to 9. In the process I’ve learnt exactly what I’ve got missing, and where I can get faster next year. I was really happy to have my Dad as support crew number 1 this weekend. We went through the learning process at Sherwood last weekend and we had everything dialled in for nationals. My Brother Frank, and sis-in-law-to-be Vicky also came along to shout at me in the woods.

Hopton Woods in Shropshire. Closer to Wales than anywhere in England, but a great venue for a bike race

I had a stupid warm up for the race – after a gentle spin on the lovely country lanes around Shropshire, I tried to get a last-minute lap of the course in. I hadn’t had time to pre-ride before hand, and the thought of starting nationals without knowing the loop was a bit scary. I managed to ride up the opening climb before a marshal decided I shouldn’t be on course. They told me I couldn’t ride any further, but had no idea how I should get back to the start without going on the course. Cue a last-minute scramble through the woods five minutes before race time! I found an old DH track that went straight downhill to the venue, but obviously wasn’t in the mental state to be riding it. I crashed pretty hard, opening a gash in my knee, and pulling my ring finger far enough back that I thought it would come off. (Yes, the race hasn’t even started yet and I’m already covered in mud and bleeding!) Once I finally made it to the start line, I slotted into 52/55 position on the grid. The course had a big wide open climb to start, and I was very confident of moving up. The gun went and that’s exactly what happened. Avoiding the obligatory start line crash, I moved up the outside of the course, and my brother counted me at 25th going into the singletrack. Now the ‘luck’ part of the racing was done I felt like I could relax a little. The climb (about 700 feet per lap) worked its way up on a mix of singletrack and dirt road, with plenty of passing places.

British National Championships XC - Photo by Frank Baddick
British National Championships XC – Photo by Frank Baddick

From the top, the descent dropped steeply through an old quarry back to the forest road below. First time down was very scary! I followed Lee Gratton, who I’d raced with last weekend, and I was confident he knew the lines. The surface was a mix of roots, slick rocks and hero dirt, and I had no idea what sections of the course I could trust. After feeling like Bambi on ice for the first lap, I got into the groove and was regularly dropping people on the descent. That felt good. Towards the middle of the race my forward progress halted and I found a couple of guys to ride with. I was faster down, they were faster up, but it gave me something to keep pedalling for.

Photo by Frank Baddick
British National Championships XC – Photo by Frank Baddick

At this point, the ability to suffer was waning, and my concentration on the downs was also failing. Towards the end of lap 6 on the successive drops back to the start/finish, I came in way too fast. With no way to slow down, I took to the undergrowth, and somehow managed to ride out a nose wheelie to avoid going down. That stymied my chance of catching the guys in front, so the last lap was an exercise in getting around. I probably lost 45 seconds in the last lap, but really had no ounce of drive to go any faster.

I crossed the line 16th. That’s a gain of 36 places off the start line, and a pretty good benchmark for what I can achieve in the future. The event (Organised by Pearce Cycles) was the smoothest and best run XC race I’ve been to. I have a lot of thoughts and comments about the difference between XC racing in the UK and the US that I’ll be writing down soon, but the gist of it is that the UK scene is a fantastic and friendly place to race bikes. I feel like I already have the fire I need to come back stronger next year.

British National Championships XC - Photo by Frank Baddick
British National Championships XC – Photo by Frank Baddick

The rest of this mountain bike season comprises of fun races in Colorado. I have the Steamboat Stinger coming up in August, which is my favourite race anywhere, and then some local Winter Park races, too. Suddenly thoughts turn to cross season (news on that front to come!), which is just around the corner!

The Firecracker 50

What does it take to lose a 50 mile mountain bike race by 0.16 seconds? It takes so much. So much support and effort on many people’s parts.

The Firecracker 50 is a big event in Breckenridge. It’s held in the midst of the Independence Day celebrations; it forms the start of a carnival style parade through the centre of town. The street is lined on either side by happy, relaxed families out for a day of celebration. It’s a great privilege to get to start off the festivities, and riding through the throng of people whilst ‘high-fiving’ kids of either side of the road is a great experience!

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The race had a neutral start for the first 3 miles – a huge contrast to XC style racing that requires eye popping effort from the gun. The pace quickened in a gradual effort until we were cruising up Boreas pass road in a group of 25 people. The first lap formed a huge group that wouldn’t separate, and it made for some good close racing and a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere. I was dismayed to see Thomas Spannring – a long time competitor and token Austrian – lose some spokes to a wayward log in a freak incident very early in. I was expecting punctures all around, but that was annoying to see.

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The first big test of the race is Little French Gulch. It’s a 10 minute scree slope climb through pine trees and across glacial streams running off the north side of Mt Guyot. It’s here that the racing started in earnest as Cam Chambers put in a good effort to break up the group of about 15 people. We all strung out along the climb, and not wanting to miss anything, I made sure to move slowly through the group until I could see Cam just ahead. The effort caused a good separation that maintained itself. We finished the first lap down the new ‘flow’ trail towards Carter park, with four people in the group: Bryan Alders, Peter Kalmes, Jamey Driscoll, and me. I grabbed a couple of bottles of Carborocket from Christa and her Mum, and settled in on the road to eat as much as I could. Peter set a blistering pace up the first road section of the climb, and I just dug in and held on, knowing that the pace was really needed to keep the other rider at bay who were just behind us. This effort kept our group together and at the top of Boreas pass, the four of us were still together. The next challenge was Little French Gulch, once again. This seemed like the only point in the race were I could get any seperation, so I chose it to ramp up the effort. I knew it’s hard to ride anything but “full gas” up the climb, so it felt like a good place to see who would come with me. No one did. It was a risk, as there were still almost 15 miles of racing left, but I had no choice at that point but to commit to my move. The undulating terrain from the top of little french provided no respite, and I could feel my legs getting closer to cramping with each pedal stroke. I finally had to start thinking about damage limitation, rather than an all out effort to the line.

10409316_10202180596701673_589353042800193409_nWith little chance of getting people to all the feed zones scattered in the hills, I relied on the neutral bottles handed up by volunteers. These were filled with Gatorade, which is electrolyte free. It was an oversight that I shouldn’t have overseen, especially because I know I cramp so easily. Without Carborocket, I was struggling, and could feel Jamey Driscoll reeling me in.

The last aid station came five miles from the finish. I looked back to the inevitable sign of Jamey right on my wheel. I started the switchbacking climb and felt Jamey glide by me on a straight section. I grasped for his rear tyre as he pedalled on by, and the motivation of seeing him in front of me was enough to dig deeper. Pedalling through cramps is one of the most horrible experiences, but I dealt with it. Over the top of the climb, Jamey had a maximum of three seconds on me which I closed quickly. We were dodging back-markers left and right – these are the people who were finishing up their first lap in the time it had taken us to do two. Down the last switchbacks there was almost nothing I could do to get by – I tried in every turn to find a shorter line to the bottom, but Jamey’s experience showed through, and I was left coming into the home straight on his wheel.
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I gave it everything in the first pedal strokes out of that corner. My bike responded and I seemed to come up on Jameys left side quickly. That’s when I pulled my right foot out of the pedal (similarly to in Missoula), and lost just enough momentum to stay behind Jamey. Second place.

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I said, right after the race, that in a couple of days I would be happy with a hard fought battle. I thought the sting of losing so narrowly would fade. But I was wrong. I’m really disappointed to not win. It would have been a great event to add to my resume, and something I would have really cherished going forward. As it is, I’ve been replaying the events in my mind on every ride for the last week. It’s burning inside me. It’s motivation. I’m really looking forward to coming back much stronger. Strong enough that there will be no sprint finish, and no doubt whatsoever about who won.

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Colorado Springs US Cup

The Colorado Springs US Cup was the last round of the four race series. After the preceding three races being held in March (still winter in Colorado), I was worried the series may have lost some of the momentum it had gained earlier in the year. As it turned out, this was the best race of the series by far. There was some negatively circling around the race; rumours of a terrible gravel track course, and plenty of the usual USA Cycling hate from people not very well informed.

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It was with this attitude that I headed to Colorado Springs with Bryan on Saturday morning. We’d decided to save some time and money and just drive down on the day of the race. We arrived to the small little tent city and a great vibe. The women’s race was being broadcast live across the internet, and the production value seemed to be much higher than the previous races. I think this sport is learning how to do things! Bryan and I got a lap on the course after the women had finished. The rumours circulating about a terrible course were entirely unfounded. The opening straight gave way to sandy two-track road, and then silly steep and loose climbing, before another 10 minutes of constant up and down on singletrack and sandy trails. It was tough. Someone who knew about racing had done a great job of intertwining passing places and technical sections.

Only complaint of the day: After spending my hard earned to travel down to Texas and California, with the aim of gaining points and moving up the rankings, I was dumbfounded to find I was listed on the starting grid in the mid 50’s. It looked like they’d just pulled names out of the hat again for the starting order. On a course that was all about the first section of the first lap, it pretty much killed my chances of getting into the top 15.

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The start went as expected: I moved up to about 35th before the bottleneck into the singletrack. I watched the leaders up ahead ride through the rocks as we waited. Yes, waited on the trail. After the first three minutes or so the race got moving and I could move up well. I latched onto Jamie Driscoll, a cyclocross rider who also had a back row start and was moving through the field. He pulled me past 10 riders before I finally made a mistake on the steep loose climb and lost him. With two laps to go the heat was starting to make itself felt.

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Christa had thought ahead: she filled stockings with ice for us to shove down our jerseys, which made for a great temperature regulator. Christa and her Mum did a superlative job as support crew for Bryan and I. The heat was wreaking havoc on my stomach, and it was great to know I had a bottle of ice cold water waiting for me each time I came through.

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As the gaps got bigger towards the end, my strong finish didn’t end up gaining me too many more places. I passed a couple of people on the last lap, and came across the line 20th. That marks my best result at a national race, and it came on a day where all I did was pedal sensibly around the course. I missed out (again) on the 15th place I would have needed to get a UCI point, but at this point in the season I’m done chasing. I’ll be heading back to England with no expectations about how I’m going to race. Coming from a back row starting position means I just have to work hard and see what happens.

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Missoula ProXCT – reflections on a bad day on the bike

Twelve hours is a long time to drive, no matter what you’re doing at the other end. When it comes to racing, a long drive just seems to amplify expectations. The planning that goes into a drive to Montana means that I’d weighted this race pretty heavily. For my first season of racing the full ProXCT series, one might say that I’m being harsh to expect results straight away, but I’m here for that reason only – the experience and the atmosphere, the trails and the new places are definitely secondary to gaining that one UCI point.
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I knew the course in Missoula wouldn’t be my ideal scenario. Marshall Mountain is a defunct ski resort with a rusting chairlift and a couple of lodge buildings. Just outside of Missoula, the hills don’t have a huge elevation change, but enough for an amazing purpose built course carved out of the side of the hill. Each lap was one steep 10 minute climb, gaining roughly 900 feet (300 metres) followed by a technical downhill. The climbing would favour the riders that weighed in a little less than me, but I looked to the positives and saw that the slightly smaller field and wide dirt road climb on each lap would give me plenty of opportunities to move up, even if I had a bad call up on the starting grid. The downhill would suit me too; lots of tight alpine style switchbacks and a big six foot drop half way down the hill. I was confident. In the end, there really wasn’t much I could do on race day, as my legs stayed at home and left my mind to suffer up the hills alone.
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The start was furious, but I weaseled my way through the four rows of riders in front of me and found a position in the top 15 on the dirt road. There wasn’t any significant bottleneck, as the singletrack started far enough up the hill to spread things out. I was where I wanted to be. I felt terrible, but as anyone who’s raced an XC knows, terrible is exactly where you expect to be at this point in the race.
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I just remembered to reach down and unlock my fork going into the first descent, and felt pretty comfortable descending, even if my brakes had decided they weren’t going to be very effective.
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I hit the big drop in a chain of riders, and felt my foot loosen from my left pedal just as I left Terra firma and sailed through the air. The next second or so slowed down as my bike twisted underneath me and my left leg sprung upwards. The weight of the bike that I expected to be on the bottom of my foot was not there and my balance suffered greatly. I landed one footed and just held on through the corner at the bottom. I took a couple of deep breathes and got back to the racing.
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At some point on lap two, my body started dictating orders to me. I’m very used to ignoring those calls and suffering onwards, but this time it would be different. My back and hips seemed to seize up to the point where the signals coming down from my brain didn’t get through. I eased back and fell through the mid teens until I found a group of riders spanning 20-25th. It worked well for me to be in a group. The draw of a wheel in front of me was enough to keep pushing hard, but by lap three even that was too much. I cracked on the climb, then crashed into the bushes on the descent trying to chase back on. I was now in no mans land with two laps to go. The ‘quit’ signals from my brain got ever stronger, but the thought of driving twelve hours back to Boulder after not finishing was even worse. I just pedalled around, alone, in agony.
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I finished in 25th. A much better result than I thought I was riding for at the time, but still a long way short of where I wanted to be. Two weeks ago, when I raced the GoPro games in Vail, I’d finally started riding with some names I’d been paying attention to this year. I had finished four minutes behind Howard Grotts (the winner on both occasions), rather than twelve minutes back here in Missoula. I know that I have a top 15 ride in me, and it’s really disappointing to see who I want to be competing against doing well in the important races, and leaving me floundering behind.

It’s the bad races that really make me appreciate having a coach, though. Dave’s hard work for me really shows through when I’m having a bad day. He cares about how I do, and that support helps lessen the burden of figuring out where to go from a bad race. It makes going into the next one a little less scary, and reminds me that there’s a bigger picture out there that he’s painting for me.

Colorado Springs ProXCT is next weekend. I’m confident of having a better race than this weekend. Whether that better race will fulfill my goals is another question. I’d really like to head back home to England with a UCI point.

The GoPro Mountain Games

Vail in the evening light of June

The GoPro games is Vail’s way of filling the town with 50,000 people during a time of year that most ski resorts still idle and empty. The protective white coating on the hillsides has barely revealed the fresh sprouts of summer grass, and the Aspens have their young yellowish-green leaves in contrast to the dark evergreens. The GoPro games is unlike most other races, as it combines a whole bunch of different sports into one festival. Alongside the XC mountain bike race, climbing, kayaking, running, ‘slacklining’ and road bike time trials vie for spectator’s attention. It’s a great opportunity to perform in front of a bigger crowd, and a crowd of people who probably wouldn’t choose to attend a bike race under any other circumstances. The event puts up a sizable chunk of money to attract the names. $6000. Because of the money on the line, I’d set a goal of top 10; it wouldn’t get me in the money, but I just wanted to prove that I can compete against the guys I’ll be racing against in the next ProXCT in Montana in a couple of weeks.

The start arena at Vail Mountain for the GoPro Games

Mountain Biking is pretty selfish. It’s an individual pursuit than requires entire self-absorption. At the same time, it can’t be done without a huge network of people supporting and helping out. With the race being in Vail, I had the Ghent household out in strength to support me. It made a big difference. Christa is a seasoned expert in dealing with me before races.

We lined up on a downhill corner on loose gravel. Switching the opening loop to run in reverse would have been simple, creating a nice fast climb right from the gun. Instead we ended up with a chaotic stampede into a treacherous corner. I lined up on the second row (yay for not needing UCI points to get a good start!), and managed to get smoothly through the first corner in about 6th place. I have to admit to a novice-error on the first steep climb though; as Todd Wells pulled up alongside me, I briefly decided that I wasn’t worthy of rubbing shoulders with Olympians and let him slip effortlessly in front of me. Although I was never going to challenge him at the end, I still feel like I should have held my own a little more at the start.

GoPro Mountain Games. Photo by Linda Guerrette

Howard Grotts, made mainly of thin air and pure glucose, lead the pace up the first climb. I was on my limit, and thanks to my good start I was able to find a small group to work with just behind the leaders. The Vail course is all about climbing – right from the gun it’s all about digging deep into your muscles. These kinds of climbs don’t allow rhythm – they require constant tension in your muscles, constant force to keep the pedals going forward or else you’ll be going backwards before you know it. I didn’t dare look back for the first 10 minutes of racing. As we neared the top of the climb, I was expecting to see a procession of riders behind me, but momentary relief flooded me as I saw open trail behind. I’d managed to get some separation, and was in about 10th place. I found Russell Finsterwald and Mitch Hoke to ride with over the top of the descent. It was a mixed blessing on the downhill however. I benefitted from not having to think too much on the way down, but Russell’s constantly drifting rear tyre filled my face with dirt. I would be coughing dust for the next couple days!

GoPro Mountain Games. Photo by Linda Guerrette
Lap two. The dread of starting all over again and doing what I’d just done for the second out of three times. This time I metered my efforts just slightly. The now comforting presence of pain in my legs told me I was going plenty hard enough. Heart rate and power mean nothing at this point in a race – the altitude and crumbling dirt under your tyres are the limiters on performance. Russell had dropped Mitch and I, and we hit the base of the climb together. Through the winding Aspens on the least steep section of course, I upped the pace slightly, trying to keep some momentum over the wet roots. Mitch dropped back a bit, and from there on I was alone. A quick sneak over my shoulder saw me entering the descent with no one around, and although I thought I’d be caught before the bottom, I came out the other end alone too. At this point, the shape in my rear view mirror was Ben Sonntag, the German now living in Durango. He caught up to me at the base of the climb, and I attached myself to his wheel. As I would expect him to have had a better start, I assumed he’d be giving it everything up the climb, and it was safe to hold on for dear life. That’s what I did. It came to the top, and his little acceleration seemed to push me backwards as fast as he went forwards. He now had 15 seconds on me. 15 seconds that would hold to the end. Me chasing, and him holding me off meant that we caught another rider just before the finish. Try as I might, the sickening feeling of hydrogen ions blocking up muscle fibres stopped me going any faster. Getting out of the saddle was an exercise in going though the motions. I couldn’t catch Ben, or Troy Wells, and I rolled across the line in 9th place, just six seconds behind 7th place.

results from the 2014 GoPro Mountain Games Pro XC
I’d come into the race with a goal of top ten. As I perused the start list, I had no idea whether it was realistic. I’m happy that I pulled it off, and very happy that I was a solid three minutes ahead of the rider behind me. I’m getting more confident about going out as hard as I possibly can, and then holding on for dear life. It seems that’s the way these races are run. It’s all in the start, and holding on to the finish has nothing to do with endurance. It’s all about suffering, tactics and pure will. It’s a good result going into the Missoula race in two weeks time. Although I won’t have the luxury of choosing my own start position there, I’m confident that I can make up some places on the steep climbs and hold on to the finish.

Let’s talk about the summer

One of my very rare “looking forward” posts. What’s in store this summer?


As the snow falls gently outside on this May Sunday, I’m excited for the adventures coming up in the next few months. The first adventure starts on Monday, when I will begin teaching the month long intensive class on Clinical Nutrition. I have a feeling my students are going to have a lot of cycling examples, and I hope I can learn a little more myself in the process. It’s Monday – Friday, four hours a day. That’s a lot of talking. I’ll be balancing it with a healthy dose of racing, too.

I was planning trip to Canada next weekend to race in the Canada Cup in Quebec. Unfortunately, reward flights and other generous offers from friends didn’t quite pan out, and the logistics seemed to be getting ever more complicated. I had to call it quits on that and look a little closer to home. I’ll be racing the “Gowdy Grinder” instead. It’s a local race near Laramie in Wyoming. At 20 miles long, it seems easy, but I’ve heard from many people to expect over two hours of brutal technical riding. It should be my first race on the new Turner Czar too, which I’m really excited about. My two year old Cannondale has done me proud, but it’s certainly on its last legs.


Up next, after Wyoming, is the Iron Horse Classic in Durango. What better reason to spend a long weekend in Durango staying with the O’Block family! The race itself is a strange one. Durango is a cycling mecca just like Boulder; the field will be packed with locals out to impress. The course starts in downtown, winding through the city streets and onto the steep and dusty trails around the edge of town. From there it loops back around, and THROUGH a brewery. Actually right through the front door, down a ramp and out the back door. It creates an amazing atmosphere for the spectators. For the racers it’s a tough race that ends up tactical. Above all that racing, I’m looking forward to catching up with some Durango friends, riding good trails, and eating tacos in the sunshine on main street.

That pretty much wraps up May. June brings some more US Cups in Colorado Springs and Missoula, Montana. I’m really excited to be on much better form than I was in March. I’m still gunning for a single UCI point. I think I can do it.

July is my first chance to go back to England in the summer. I have lots of things to do, and people to see. First up is some more Mountain Bike racing. I’ll be doing the British Series race in Sherwood Pines, up near my brother in Nottinghamshire. Then the weekend after is British National Champs in Shropshire. I have absolutely no expectations from these races other than to let people know I exist. It would be rewarding to race well at either one, show people I’m doing well over here in the US, and get my name recognised when it comes to qualifying for some bigger races in the future.

After that I have a couple of weekends to live it large. Trevor and Sarah are getting married in Hampshire at the end of July, and my Cousin Hannah is getting married to Tom in Devon at the beginning of August. I’m really hoping I can catch up with a bunch of people at both those weddings. After that, it’s back to Colorado and back to reality.

So, that’s the grand plan – let’s see what happens on the other end!

Prescott, Arizona.

I collected up most of my friends and went to the Whiskey 50 last weekend. Prescott, Arizona is located half-way between Phoenix and Flagstaff, tucked into the northern edge of the Bradshaw Mountains. A high desert outcrop of hills covered in Conifers and scrub oak trees. They stick out from the Sonoran Desert, a strange bump on the cactus riddled plains of Arizona. As you drive north from the disgusting sprawl of Phoenix, you’re released into a huge valley, with the chain of mountains running along the western edge. You wind between towering Cardón cacti, climbing from the desert floor to 5500 feet, 1600 metres.

Prescott was the territorial capital of Arizona in the 1870’s. The huge town hall in the middle of the square is a reminder to its grand origins. It’s now home to a mix of bars and restaurants in the compact downtown, a big old theatre, and huge desert-style houses spreading out in the foothills in every direction.

The view from our house above Prescott

We’d rented a big house in the hills to fit our 12 friends into. We wound our way up the driveway in the dark on Thursday night, wondering where on earth we were going. To wake on Friday to the expansive views was exactly the introduction to the weekend I needed. The wind whistled gently against the gargantuan conifers, the warm sun filled me with energy to ride.

Friday was a packed day. In the morning we checked in with team sponsor Carborocket, who was one of the first companies to get set up at the expo. Brad from Carborocket looked after us really well; handing out recovery drink after the crit, and giving us ice cold water after the main event. I wanted to ride as much trail as possible on Friday – I wanted to remember the ins and outs of the course. My memory had shortened every aspect of the course. I had to go back and put the details in place. We rode for two hours in the morning, arriving at the Elks theatre in time for the riders meeting at lunch.

The fat tire 'crit' around downtown Prescott. Thumb Butte in the background

Friday afternoon was the “Fat Tyre Crit”. A spectacle for the locals, something for the amatuer racers to watch. A 50 mile race doesn’t lend itself well to spectating, so this is the organisers way of making Mountain Biking a little more accessible. We started in the town square, riding a two-minute loop up a steep hill, then careening back down to do it again. For 30 minutes. I metered my efforts from the gun, choosing to avoid the chaos of the lead group, and settle into a nice rhythm. It paid off, as I moved through the field, never getting out the saddle, never digging into those precious reserves. It’s great to race around with so many people cheering you on. It makes me feel like my extravagant past-time of bike racing is actually worth something.

Bike prep before the big show on Sunday

Saturday morning. I’d prepared for some bad weather. I’m pretty certain that Bryan spends all of his free time browsing the NOAA weather website; he’d told me to expect rain, and I’d packed accordingly. I wasn’t expecting the weather we woke up to, though. As we surfaced inside our warm mountain house, the driving rain was pushed down the valley by a vicious wind. The town below was obscured by clouds, and rather than warming as the day progressed, the rain turned white. Through hail, sleet and finally an inch of snow, we waited inside, knowing the mass participation amateur race was supposed to be going on. To give you an idea of what it was like for them, read Kate Ginsbach’s report of her trials in the forest.

The snow came and went within hours. A bad dream for anyone trying to race on Saturday
The irony of snow in the desert; by 2pm the sun was out. The temperature had climbed from -2*c to 15*c. The wind was still high, but it had wiped the snow right off the ground, leaving behind dry, tacky dirt. This is the kind of things mountain bikers get excited about – good dirt. Hero dirt. Grippy and smooth and sculpted by the rain. We headed out to ride for a little bit in the afternoon. Spin the aches and hydrogen ions out of the legs from the criterium the day before. We found a piece of singletrack at our front door, and proceeded to ride a couple of laps up and down until we were forced to pull ourselves away, to save the energy for the big deal tomorrow.

Sunset over the Bradshaw Mountains in the Sonoran Desert

A house of professional cyclists eats a lot of food. It’s difficult to plan for three days of meals – it gets expensive to go to the supermarket everyday without having huge amounts of left overs. We tried our best to avoid waste, but it happened anyway. We were really lucky that Deidre’s Mum Lorraine came down to help us. She just quietly got along doing all the things no-one else wanted to. Such a stress reliever.

My race report from the Whiskey is here. Read it at your own peril. I’m yet to master the art of writing about races without including all the details. Everything went so smoothly on Sunday that I don’t even know what to write about. Perfect temperature to race in, no stress or hassle at any point, and coming home with a cheque for $500. We piled into the minivan after the race. Every position I tried to hold was uncomfortable. I drifted into a dazed sleep as we cruised back toward Phoenix. I’m so happy I wasn’t driving home. These interludes of racing squeezed into normal life are surreal. I was sitting in the office on Monday morning surrounded by colleagues who have no idea what my weekends entail. It’s kind of nice to have that alter ego.