Deidre and I made the return to Grand Junction for the second annual “off-road” event. It’s organised by Epic Rides, the geniuses behind the Whiskey 50. To be honest, it was hit and miss whether we were going to come back after last year. We both did really well, enjoyed the event and the amazing trails, but the overriding memory of the weekend was the unbearable heat. We camped last year, which was a really bad choice. Without air conditioning to stay cool, we sweltered all day Saturday and didn’t enjoy ourselves very much. This time around we had a lovely house to stay in courtesy of friends Donny and Tabitha (with Tabs parents). The promise of air conditioning and a cool, dark basement to sleep in were enough to convince me that this race couldn’t be missed.
We made a good choice.
Last years event was kind of a trial run; the crowds were small and the pro fields not much bigger. This time around we got into Grand Junction to see the town buzzing. Downtown parking was scarce, and the restaurants and bars were packed alongside the criterium course for the evening. I rode around the course with likeminded lunatics Kalan and Collin, before the racing got underway in earnest.
The racing was carnage. Whenever you line up for a road race, you know the mountain biker is going to be the sketchiest rider in the race. Now imagine making a whole race out of Mountain Bikers on the road. You get the idea. Two tyre explosions (yes, literally), two high speed tangles, many near misses, and multiple pedal scrapping turns got the action going for the weekend. I dangled around at the back of the pack, giving myself enough room to dodge the carnage and stay attached to the race. I thought about contesting the final sprint, but realised there were many guys that wanted it much more than I did. I finished 11th, with the lead pack, happy to have my skin still attached.
Saturday: the down day of the Epic Rides weekend. The amateurs get to battle with the same course we do, whilst we hang around, drink coffee and do some soft pedalling. Deidre and I headed out to pre-ride the first couple sections of trail – about 8 miles total. The start and the end of the race take in some amazingly technical trails, and any reminder of what to expect before the race gets there is an advantage.
The desert blows me away every time I’m lucky enough to ride here. It’s indescribable.