I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Winter Park this week, in order to show Jason Sumner around “MTB Capital USA” (aka the larger Winter Park area). I’ve spent a lot of time up in Grand County before, although not much recently. It was great to have a solid base to explore from, and pre-arranged locals to give me some guiding.
The rail line runs straight through the valley on its way between Denver and Grand Junction
There’s trails like this littering the hills. It’s really simple to thread a good ride together.
It’s been even longer since I’d headed to Granby Ranch. The bike park used to be called Sol Vista, and when I first arrived in Colorado in 2010, it was the hot place. Everyone was always heading up there to ride, and their trail development was a good few years ahead of anywhere else. Some changes at the ski area cut off their momentum though, and they’re now back and rebranded as Bike Granby Ranch. We looked around the XC trails for a while before hitting the lifts, and I was happy that the memories of good trails didn’t disappoint. The riding was great!
I’ve really missed competitive Mountain Biking: I haven’t done enough of it this year. My return to Colorado set the stage for a return to the wonders of XC racing, and I was really happy to race in Winter Park this last weekend. I started my Mountain Bike career in the Grand Valley, at the headwaters of the Colorado river, and it’s great to continue it now. My first XC race was a collegiate race in Sol Vista, just down the road from Winter Park. I raced in the ‘B’ category, and came an emphatic second after feeling like my sea level lungs were about to explode.
Winter Park is barely thirty miles from Boulder. You would think that nothing could significantly change in that distance. In fact, its a good job it is no longer possible to drive over Rollins pass; the direct route into the Grand Valley may provide too large of an atmosphere change to handle successfully. As it is, the drive up and over Berthoud Pass is a primer into the Mountains. Once crested, the top of the pass offers unrivalled views across the back-end of the front-range. James Peak and Indian Peak Wilderness areas tower over the valley forming the grand barrier into the Grand Valley. Winding down to the valley bottom, the mountains spread, and become lazy slopes of beetle-killed trees interspersed with shimmering Aspens. The resort of Winter Park is seen before you get to the town, and its here where I have spent a good chunk of my summer.
Without meaning to, I accidentally won the series overall at the Winter Park series. To be truthful, I tied for victory with Tim Allen. Tim is a true Gentleman of cycling and someone whom I was very happy to share the top step. The “Accidental” part of my win may have you thinking that I do not value it, but that it not the case. This is the first time I have successfully completed a mountain bike series, and the happenstance is that I had no plans of doing so at the beginning of the year.
I came into the season with grand plans of racing my way across the US, and achieving some UCI points. The reality is that, although my form was excellent this year, the pursuit of national racing has its foibles, the main one being the time, energy and expense it takes to achieve. Although I have great support for my racing, its no-where near enough to finance a full season. So after a couple really good races in Arizona and Colorado, I turned my attention more locally. The reasons were multiple, but a large one was employment. With my visa imminently ending, I have had to pay a lot more attention to the world of work than I had anticipated. Travelling across the US was therefore less of a priority. I settled into racing the last five races of the winter park series happy that I could still get national standard competition just a short drive from home. My new, undisclosed, goal was to win one of the races. Alas, it was not to be. Its a testament to the quality of the fields these local races attract, that even though I strung together some of my best races of the season, I always walked away with a lesser podium spot. So to win the series was a fabulous way to rescue what had otherwise become a lack-lustre couple of months of racing.
What next? Well, I would rather like to race the Fall Classic in Breckenridge. That’s happening on the 8th of September and is entirely dependent on Cannondale hurrying up and warrantying my bicycle. If that doesn’t happen, I will call the Mountain Bike season to a close and jump on the Cyclocross bike. I haven’t done much CX before, but I’m sure some misplaced enthusiasm (and naiveté as to the suffering which will ensue) will get me through.
Before that, though, I will mostly be focussed on not getting kicked out the country in four weeks time. Fingers crossed.