Rock Cobbler 4.0 2017

I really wanted to do this ride last year but my wife was days away from giving birth and I couldn’t quite justify being out in the middle of a field on my bike all day and missing the big moment…so here I am this year. With all this rain I was dreading the course. I knew it would be muddy but I was hoping it wasn’t clog the tires and prevent them from moving muddy, like the last Pedalers Fork grinder we did. The night before I even grabbed the Trader Joe’s coconut oil non-stick spray and gave my frame a coat, which, was by the way a terrible idea because coconut oil becomes solid at room temperature and formed a wax like coating on my bike that was nearly impossible to get off and did not prevent one drop of mud from sticking. Live and learn.

Rock Cobbler 4.0 Lengthwise brewing Bakersfield

Reg

We lined up just before 8am at Lengthwise Brewing Company in Bakersfield. It was a chilly 44 degrees and a temperature inversion made for a foggy and smoggy sunrise.

Rock Cobbler 4.0 Start Lengthwise 2017

Lining Up

After a talk from Sam we headed out on the neutral bike path rollout for about 12 miles. There were pee stops and chasing back on the group as it had already began to string out along the way. By the time we hit the road it was game on. Hornbeck hit the gas on the first paved climbed and chase we did. There was a regroup at the top and things slowed down until we hit the first dirt when Jake Orness harnessed his CX speed and sprinted up the first climb with everyone in tow. I managed to hang right behind Scott Lundy in 4th or 5th wheel and right around Neil Shirley who kept offering the wise advice to chill, this was a long day. By the end of the first punchy climbs a group of about ten of us had broken off the front. We stayed that way through orchards, river crossing, cow paths until Neil and Phil Tinstman flatted right around mile 30ish. Then there were 8.

Rock Cobbler Jake Orness Ryan Steers Bakersfield 2017

Jake literally captures his point of view

We hit the road again and Jason and a small group caught back on. We pushed hard after the second aid station and managed to drop the pack down to six riders with myself, Scott Lundy, Brent Penslow, Menso de Jong, Jason Siegle and Vincent Ownes taking turns pacelining the pavement. It was awesome. Such a great group of dudes just working together and out for a ride. We kept turning around and catching Neil working his way back to us, and amazingly he caught back on when we hit the fire road. What a beast. Unfortunately he had to dig a little too deep and wasn’t able to hold on when the pace picked up around the crazy suicide murder hike-a-bike hills. Speaking of those… ever been assaulted with beach balls on a 35% grade while jogging with your bike? It will mess with you.

Rock Cobbler 4.0 2017 leaders Bakersfield gravel grinder

Elite 8

From there we hit Mr Toad’s and had the most amazing flowing descent back down. I put a little pressure on the front and by the time we hit the bikepath home stretch it was just Menso, myself and Lundy. Menso threw down a crazy TT and pulled away with Lundy and I chasing but I just couldn’t hold his wheel and slipped to 3rd. Overall it was an amazing day. I can’t say enough great things about this event and it’s everything a gravel grinder is supposed to be; not too serious, dirty, painful, beautiful, bloody, and comprised of the coolest cyclists around.

Rock Cobbler 4.0 2017 Ryan Steers winners

Top 6

Ryan Steers Dave Zabriskie Robbie Schaeffer Pedalers Fork 10 Speed Coffee Peloton Gravel Mob

2016 Peloton Gravel Mob

DZ and Robbie had great things to say about this ride last year so I had to jump aboard. Fortunately I was in town this weekend and the family was cool with me getting away again so at the crack of dawn Gideon, Robbie Dave and I piled into the 10 Speed Coffee truck and hit the road to Ojai.

Ryan Steers Dave Zabriskie Robbie Schaeffer Pedalers Fork 10 Speed Coffee Peloton Gravel Mob

It was a neutral rollout to Sulfur and then we regrouped for a few minutes…then it was go time. We hit the climb pretty hard and Dave, Marco and I got off the front. We pushed it just to open even more of a gap and then it was smooth sailing. About 45 minutes later we were cresting the top, grabbing water, and then heading down the pavement to the base of Sisar. I’d been looking forward to this climb for a while. It’s 8 miles and about 3000 feet of climbing so just my cup of tea. I programmed the live segment into my Garmin a few days before so I knew what I was in for. The bottom was a little rough on the CX bike with lots or big rocks and not a great line but by the time you hit the top it’s great fire road dirt. I felt awesome. I think it was the Topical Edge that Gideon gave me to slather on my legs beforehand. They were slippery but didn’t burn. Up the top we went.

Start Peloton Gravel Mob 2016

2016 Peloton Gravel Mob Ojai

More water at the aid station and then came the most spectacular views. You’re over 3k feet above Ojai looking down at the world. It was spectacular. We chilled out and enjoyed the view and then hit the few miles of singletrack back to the 33. The trail was a blast. Lots of exposure and tight turns; really really fun on the CX bike. Marco had the advantage on the MTB but he had a little crash and I was able to stay with him. Why he was trying to eat a gel on the trail is beyond me. Zabriskie disappeared behind us, I think he had a little crash and was starting to cramp. It was a really hot day and the Santa Ana winds were in full swing.

Ryan Steers 2016 Peloton Gravel Mob Ojai Winner

Marco and I flew down the 33. I had the bike advantage and threw in a little attack on the rollers into town. What a blast. The afterparty slowly gathered steam as people stuffed themselves with the all you can eat tacos. Only complaint- the beer cups were the size of a thimble. We were thirsty!

Gravel Mob Shop 2016 Ojai Taco

 

Pedalers Fork Sufferfest

 

I’ve been waiting months for this race. We’ve hosted a few rides/races at PF but Gideon and I began scoping out this route back in May. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a gravel grinder and take it on the Millennium trail?
Calabasas Millennium Trail switchbacks
We’d been mountain biking up there for ages but one morning we took the Tuesday AM gravel ride down the switchies and decided it would be too much fun.

Millennium trail Calabasas
We added that section to the Ahmenson route from the spring and threw in Calabasas peak for good measure. What’s Sufferfest without a gigantic soul crushing climb? Or so we thought…

Calabasas Peak Skratch Labs
I’m SoCal you can always bank on beautiful weather, and, in October it will be sunny and warm. Maybe there will be the Santa Anna’s to deal with but just beef up the aid stations. Right?

About a week before the race rain began to creep into the forecast. Oh well, probably a drizzle at best. No big deal.

There were a few showers on Friday evening but when the course was marked on Saturday morning it was 100% hero dirt. The rain had packed things down, the dust was settled and the trails were in perfect shape.

Calabasas peak Sufferfest
On Sunday morning we woke up to a steady rain that turned into a light drizzle by the time we lines up in the Pedalers Fork parking lot. Coffee was flowing and we were trying to stay warm.

It was cloudy and cool when we took off. Perfect. I was tasked to lead the roll out to  The Oaks and the start of the Millinium trail single track. The pace kept rising as I was getting half wheeled and by the time we hit the trail we were cruising. Nervously I hopped the wet curb, slid out, and smacked the rear tire resulting in a dismount. Balls. Everyone behind me just had to get off their bikes. Sorry. Safety first?

Millennium climb Oaks Justin Beiber
The peloton immediately separated on the switchback climbs. Myself, Marco Arocha and  Brandon Baker went off the front and were being chased by Tydeman Newman and Dermet Carroll. As the trail got more technical the gap narrowed behind us. Brandon, Marco and I chatted about the beauty in front of us. Neither had ridden Millinium and were blown away. Suddenly Tydeman was in our wheel as we descended to Bark Park. No surprise as he’s super fast and was on his FSI. The mist was beginning to get heavier.

As I pulled us along Las Virgenes Tydeman mentioned that some guy on an orange FSI ate it hard. Dermot! Noooo!

By the time we hit Ahmenson the rain was steady. The trails went from packed to peanut butter and the wheels got so clogged they refused to spin. Shit.

Cannondale SuperX mud
It quickly turned to hike-a-bike as Brandon and I shouldered our CX bikes. Marco was on a MTB and disappeared behind is and Tydeman kept riding unencumbered …the beauty of a Lefty.

After about 2 miles of jogging, pedaling, shoving muddy gloves into the fork and chain stays we finally began the ascent out of Ahmenson and the transition of  trail from clay to sand. Tydeman was stopped and we chatted for a minute and pulled fistfuls of mud off the bikes as Brandon hiked up behind. We set off again and the wheels began to turn. By the time I hit Crummer road there was no one behind me. Weird. Kind of neat. Expecting a chase I flew down the descent and pounded Moreau as hard as I could. I swung through the PF lot hoping for a hose but Gideon said no. Back on the road. A seventeen pound SuperX with 15lbs of mud. Awesome.

Last race I was on the MTB and got reeled in on Stunt. I was determined not to let that happen. 300-400-500 watts. I banked on good dirt ahead but if Calabasas peak was muddy I was turning around. Up I went. The sand was sticky but packed. Pretty nice.

Ryan Steers Tydeman Newman Pedalers Fork Sufferfest mud rain
By the time I got toward the top there wasn’t anyone in sight behind me but I kept on the gas. I was having a blast. I came across and surprised Derek and Matt who were in the process of building a jump on the summit to summit descent. No thanks. They tried to talk me into it but these boys were suffering from a concussion and a broken shoulder. I skipped their advice and decided I’d be better off living to ride another day. The Santa Maria trail was in spectacular shape and I railed it. From there is was a push up the pavement, down dirt Mulholland and back to PF.

Ryan Steers Sufferfest scar
I rolled into the parking lot to… “dude did you just finish the whole route?” It was awesome. Sufferfest beer was flowing and happy faces were everywhere. Most people had abandoned after the first muddy half and hadn’t done the best part. Oh well, more of an excuse to stop and drink beer.

Ryan Steers Robbie Schaeffer Pedalers Fork Stinner Sufferfest beer
Brandon rolled in about 15 minutes later followed by Tydeman about 15 minutes later. The sun was starting to shine and the party was in full swing. What an awesome day. Can’t wait until the next one! Oh, and I won’t ever complain about the dust again. I’ll take it any day over peanut butter clay.

Ryan Steers Brandon Baker Tydeman Newman Larissa Conners Pedalers Fork Sufferfest

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BT Epic 2016

Ryan Steers Pedalers Fork Missouri
The BT Epic has quickly become one of my favorite mountain bike races as it encompasses every element that a great mountain bike event should contain. The location is beautiful and rural, the trails are amazing and well maintained, the course is well marked, the organizers are some of the funniest and most down to earth bike dudes you’ll ever meet, the turnout is exceptional (all 475 spots sell out almost instantly and next year they’re bumping the number to 600) and run the gammet from pros to first time racers, the start is a great fire road climb separator before the 50 miles of singletrack begins, there, the support is top knotch with great aid stations every 10 mile, there are spectators everywhere and they’re super friendly, there is a post race BBQ and all you can drink beer, there’s a raffle with great prizes and over 30 bikes given away, and the awards payout is more than generous. In summary you really can’t ask for a better event. 

Christian Hon
My buddy Chris Hon lives in St Louis and introduced me to this race last year and I had such a good time I had to come back. Once again I borrowed his bike and once again we set off into the Mark Twain National Forest to tackle the Berryman Trail. After years of petitions Chris finally got a Clydesdale category added and at just barely over 200lbs he was ready to win it. We registered at Bass River Resort and got the keys to our cabin. Oh, did I mention you can camp or get a cabin right by the starting line? That’s another huge plus. We had a smaller cabin this year with Chris, myself and fellow racer Brian Roggeveen. 

BT Epic Start 2016
When we woke up it was freezing by LA standard. It was in the low 30s and the sun was just starting to rise. The cow pastures were frosty and we sat inside rather than ride around to warm up. We got to the line right before the 8:30 start and jumped on the front. The shotgun went off and we were moving. 

BT Epic bass river resort 2016
The start was a little slower this year. Maybe it was the cold. From the campground you roll out on a bit of pavement, across a bridge and then the climb begins. It’s about 3 miles and 400 feet of climbing and my bread and butter in LA. There’s a KOM prize for the first rider to the singletrack and I saw my chance. There was one rider alone up ahead and I knew I could reel him in. I hit the pedals and pulled in front and be sucked my wheel for 2 miles while we sprinted uphill to the trail. I made it to the dirt first but was worried about how my legs would hold up for the next 47 miles. Spoiler alert they felt great. I had a lead of about a minute on the trail, which I knew I’d need as the top riders are all way more skilled on these rocks and roots. After about 30 seconds I dropped the chain and front endoed in the the middle of the trail. Amateur hour. Still I was alone so I popped back on and kept pushing. It took another 2-3 miles before Garet Steinmetz, and Bryan Fawley passed me around the Bikini Wax descent with Brian Roggeveen was close on their heels. I was now in thirds but still happy and hoping to hold a top five. I chased Bryan and Garet around through the first aid station and back around the new trail that had been cut. Bryan started to pull away and Garet and I began trading places as he’d smoke the descents and I’d catch him on the climbs. He’s won the race in years past but was looking winded. Bryan won last year and knew what he was doing. Every descent I could hear Brian hot on my heels. I was glad it was him. Nothing like friendly competition.  We bobbed and weaved around, Brian putting time on the descents while I kept putting a few seconds on the climbs. A few chain drops later and he would get close and then disappear. By the second aid station at mile 21 I was solid 2nd place, grabbed bottles, hit the descent, wrecked again and was a little more cautions. No bike damage. Whew. Sorry Chris. At one section with a fan with an airhorn around mile 28 I clicked Brian about a minute behind and shortly after heard someone yell that Bryan was 2:30 ahead. 


We hit the dirt road again around mile 35 and I didn’t have much in the tank. After 2.5 miles we were back on the trail and when I turned around Brian was on my heels. We traded spots a few times and I chased him up the First Sister climb but he washed out on the descent and layed the bike down. I made sure he was ok and he told me to keep going so off I went. Crashes will crush your power and rhythm and he slipped behind me again. When we hit the last aid station and mile 42 I could see him clawing back on the pavement a few hundred yards behind. Bryan was 3:30 ahead and I turned on the gas. The last 8 miles flew by and I pushed the pavement climb and gravel as hard as I could. When we hit the trail again I couldn’t see Brian but knew he wasn’t far behind. I took some risks on the trail and kept the rubber down and crossed the line in 4:06:52, about a minute and a half behind Bryan and about a minute ahead of Brian. It felt amazing. BBQ and beer time.


 Chris had an amazing ride and came in about 40 minutes later and grabbed 2nd in the Clydesdale category- in the money! 

BT Epic BBQ 2016 post race
One of my favorite parts or the race is hanging out with everyone afterwards. The finish line is at the beer tent, people are cheering, everyone is happy and there are so many friendly faces. We hung out for a while and caught he bmx/trials stunt show, which was new for this year. They were super talented riders and had even done the race earlier in the day.  It made my legs hurt just watching them.


 The awards started around dark and the raffle was in full swing. Beer was flowing and there were smiles all around. See you next year Missouri!

There was even a list award beard contest and the winner got a bike. Only in Missouri. 

Mammoth Kamikaze Pro XC 2016

 

Ryan Steers Alé Cannondale FSI ESI grips Early Rider push bike

High Five!

I travel quite a bit for races and the worst part is being away from the family, so it’s always great when they can tag along…especially when the race is in such a spectacular setting as Mammoth.

Mammoth Panorama Dome hike

Panorama Dome

The focus of the race changes a bit when kids are involved. Naps trump warmups and family hikes take precedent over pre-rides but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Panorama Dome Mammoth hike

Family Time!

I snuck out of the hotel after a quick breakfast on Saturday morning and got in a long warmup. Due to the large volume of races the XC course was closed until 7:30 Saturday morning for pre-rides. I tried to hit the course on Friday evening but was kindly told to keep out as there were overlapping sections of endure and Kamikaze.

The start was organized into two groups- the pro field lined up in the front and everyone else was a few minutes later. We were a small group and the feel was very different then nationals. There would be no jockeying for position or sprints to the singletrack. Very low key. I pulled up next to Nic Beechan had a feeling I would be trying to chase him down. He’s fast. Really fast. UCI qualified fast. He was the clear favorite after winning last year but I’d try to put up a fight.

The start was slow and chill. Tate Meintjes took the lead and Nic, Brian Gordon and I hit the singletrack right behind. No one really wanted to set the pace but we settled in. When we got the the long steep fireroad climb at mile two I attacked and Nic jumped with me. We opened up a gap and Brian and Tate fell off the pace.

The rest of the race was pretty much me trying to hold Nic’s wheel for the first two laps and then falling farther and farther back. Did I mention he’s fast?

Ryan Steers Mammoth Kamikaze Brian Gordon Podium

Podium Kids!

Bottom line- the course is amazing. Similar to nationals but more single track and a little longer laps (four 5 mile laps instead of 6 four mile laps). Lots of rocks, dust, climbs and flowing descents.

Shimano Kids race Mammoth Kamikaze

Call ups!

I love this race but the highlight was watching Rex race the Shimano Kids race right after the awards ceremony. He lined up with about 8 other two and three year olds on push bikes. They were called to the line and then it was feet to the ground. Dust flew, elbows might have been thrown, there was a crash or two…it was pure excitement. I wasn’t sure how Rex would handle it but after an hour of warmup laps he was committed. He pushed hard and finished, got his medal and proclaimed that he wanted to do it again. Next year!

Mammoth Kamikaze Kids race

Medals!

 

Floyd's of Leadville UCI stripe kit jersey Dave Zabriskie Cannondale Scalpel SI Sugarloaf mountain

Leadville Trail 100 MTB 2016

Ryan Steers Leadville Trail 100 MTB Pedalers Fork Cannondale FSI

I’m so excited that I got to get back to Leadville again this year. It’s such a cool town and amazing vibe watching a city come to life around a bike race. I don’t even know where to begin…

I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to come back after the multi-flat debacle and race abandonment of last year but after qualifying in Tahoe and Dave deciding to go and having a lodging offer at Floyd’s I just couldn’t resist.

Floyd's of Leadville

Unboxing and building at Casa Floyd

The past two years this race has been close to a one week ordeal. The thinking being that if I get in Sunday or Monday then I’d be acclimated and better off for the following Saturday, however, I don’t think that’s the case. Seems like it’s about a month to acclimate and the longer you’re at 10k feet the more your body breaks down. A Thursday arrival was perfect and I had no side effects this year other than a little trouble sleeping. Maybe it was the 4 races over 7k feet in July that got me prepped (Crusher, Mammoth, Tahoe, and Big Bear) or maybe it was just all the water I kept pounding. Either way I think Thursday is the best arrival day.

Floyd's of Leadville Dave Zabriskie Leadville 100

Floyd’s of Leadville International HQ

Dave and I got in on Thursday afternoon and after taking a shuttle to the wrong Enterprise car rental location we had to cram DZ’s bike in the back of an Uber Black and find the hotel where the car was waiting. After that it was more waiting as we had to stalk the UPS truck in Aurora for the shipment of Floyd’s of Leadville Castelli kits that we had to pick up and deliver to Leadville. Totally worth it. They look amazing. By the time we rolled into Leadville it was close to 8 and we hit La Resistance for dinner and trivia night with Landis and the Floyd’s of Leadville entourage.

Friday brought the usual routine of registration and pre-ride. We headed out toward Turquoise lake and did the Sugarloaf climb and power line descent to check on the conditions. Really it’s the only part of the course that needs a preview just so you can gauge the line down power line and not lose time getting stuck in the ruts on race day. The rest of the day went fast. Too fast. There was a nap, bottle prep, food prep, and some logistics and then it was time for bed.

Floyd's of Leadville UCI stripe kit jersey Dave Zabriskie Cannondale Scalpel SI Sugarloaf mountain

Looking like a world champ.

4:50 am came quickly. The best part of the gold corral is not needing to line up at 4am to get a good spot. It’s freezing, dark, and the race is long enough that you don’t want to spend hours standing around beforehand. We hit the line about 6:10 for the 6:30 start and stripped our outer layers and waited for the gun….I peed my pants a little. Could’t help it.

The gun went off and Wells, Bishop and Dombrowski and Morton took off from the start. By the time we hit the descent at mile 2 they were disappearing up the road. The peloton charged along covering the first 3 miles in just over 6 minutes. We were moving. I love the first climb up St Kevins but you’ve got to start to position right before. Riders start to blow up here and you don’t want to get stuck behind someone. I hit the gas and found myself with Ted King, Alex Howes, Ben Sonntag and a few other guys. It’s important to get over the top and hit the pavement with a group or you’ll find yourself going backwards on the pavement. We hit the pavement and pace lined to the bottom of Sugarloaf getting caught by DZ and a few other guys and Mortan came charging along after fixing a flat. Someone’s wheel blew up. Bummer.

Leadville singletrack Ryan Steers Pedalers Fork

Flow

Sugarloaf felt great. We cruised up and hit the power line descent. It was hilarious. I’m not a descender but being behind the GC road guys made me feel pretty quick and it was probably the first time I haven’t gotten dropped on a fast descent, which meant we were all together hitting the pavement on the way to pipeline. The pace was relaxed, too relaxed. DZ, Whitman and a few other guys caught back on and we rolled along the road. “Those guys up there will pop, we can get them” Howes said. I shook my head. They were gone. Wells and Bishop don’t pop at Leadville. They were gone. Bryan Dillon of Topeak/Ergon did most the work at the front not seeming to mind everyone hitching a free ride. I was sitting behind his wheel in 5th when we rolled through pipeline. It was an incredible feeling. We kept charging and things got a little strung out on the single track but regrouped on the dirt roads to Twin Lakes. Morton threw in a big attack and we chased but in a horrible twist of fate someone was having an open house and had put up red arrows right before the turn to Twin Lakes. Morton and two other guys followed the wrong signs and ended up a few hundred yards in the wrong direction before we were able to shout them back on track.

power line climb Leadville 100 Ryan Steers Cannondale FSI

Powerline will crush your soul

Columbine was a blur. It’s an hour of gravel switchbacks in the aspens that is a dead ringer for the first climb in the Crusher that then turn into a narrow, rocky, riverbed of kickers at the top. Guys were falling off quickly. Whitman popped, then King. We kept climbing. I lost touch with Howes’ group at the top, right about the time the three leaders came screaming down back at us. They were about 10 minutes ahead. The descent is one of the scariest moments of the race as you travel at 40mph on loose rocks only inches from a thousand riders climbing at you in the opposite direction. It’s amazing anyone survives. T

The nutrition was dialed. Hydration was spot on. Legs felt great. Ryan Petri and I worked together a bit but he started to pull away before pipeline. Timmothy Beardall came charging by and linked us back together for the road, taking long pulls at front and yelling encouragement in a crazed Australian accent. He popped on power line but Ryan took off and I lost touch of him down Sugarloaf. By that point I was 8th and only 17 miles to the finish. On top of the world. Nate Whitman came sailing by on the pavement climb back to St Kevins and disappeared as we hit the forest. 9th. Still top 10.

I made it through the checkpoint and though the flats and hit the descent on the backside of Kevins. Mile 90. Pshhhhhhh. The rear tire went flat immediately. I pulled over. After last year I’ve been running Specialized Controls for a year without a single flat. The Renegade just couldn’t keep the knife point of the rock at bay and it punched right through. Staying calm I hit it with CO2. The leak sealed for a second and then pshhhhhhht, an fountain of Orange Seal shot into the dirt. Stay calm. I took out the tube, mounted the tire and hit it again with CO2. Pshhhhhh. Air escaped around the valve stem. This wasn’t happening. Riders were starting to fly by. I took the tube back out and there was a small defective spot. I got out the patch kit but the tube was so slimy that nothing would stick. Blindly I tried the hand pump. Nothing but a flaccid tube dangling in my hand. More riders flew by. “Help, help. Please. Tube? CO2?” Nothing. Finally someone heard my please. It was Ten Dam. “Thanks so much man, I hope this doesn’t slow you down.” “Oh this isn’t slowing me down, my legs are slowing me down. I’m dead. I’ve got nothing left” he groaned. He tossed me a tube and disappeared. Saved! I started to inflate it in preparation for the install but right away air began to leak from pin holes. Another bum tube. Now I was panicking. “Help, please!” Bryan Dillon stopped and tossed me his tube and CO2. What a nice dude. He disappeared. I installed it and started to hit it with CO2. It cross threaded and exploded icy vapor on my hands. I started to pump. It was a road tube. This was going to take a lot of pressure. After 5 minutes of pumping it felt like a hard garden hose inside the tire. This wasn’t working. Cameron Piper rode by and tossed a CO2. Finally. Inflation. Rock hard but safe.

bazu-9162686

I packed up my trailside mess and started to pedal. When I flatted my Garmin was at 6:12. It now read 6:47. 35 minutes had passed and almost two dozen riders had sped passed. I was just happy to be rolling again. There was a moment when I thought I’d be stuck on the mountain for the rest of the day. To say it was disappointing is an understatement but that’s the allure of Leadville. It’s a long race and there’s a lot that can go wrong. In the end my time was identical to two years ago but instead of the elation I felt last time I was filled with disappointment. All that work to shave 30 minutes off the race only to lose it standing on the side of the trail. Next year. Maybe DH tires?

Leadville trail 100 MTB belt buckle

Tastes like gold

Floyd's of Leadville party PB Brewing Floyd Landis jersey

Afterparty!

Big Bear Grizzly 100 NUE podium Men's Open Pro 100k 2016 Tinker Juarez

Big Bear Grizzly 100 NUE 2016

Cannondale FSI Team

Plate’s on, ready to race.

This is one of my favorite races of the year and one of the best course you can ride in SoCal. To race here you have to be able to do everything well. Long, scorching, brutal fireroad climb? Radford. Check. Elevation? Most of the race is at 6500-8k feet. Check. Technical single track?About 40 miles of it: Cabin Trail, Skyline, Santa Anna River Trail, Plumbers Trail. Check. Ridiculous loose descent with massive exposure? Seven Oaks. Check. Pavement? A few miles but still a check. To win this race you’ve got to be able to climb, descend, flow, spin, climb some more, shred it, and hammer….and ride a singlespeed?

Big Bear Grizzly 100 NUE Course route

The Course

We lined up at 6:45 for a 7am start. It was already getting warm in the sun, which was worrisome. The start was quick- you have a few hundred yards of gradual uphill pavement on Pineknot and then you hit 2N08 and the race is on. It’s only a few miles long and just shy of 1000 feet of climbing so it gets the heart pumping. The peloton blew apart quickly. I was in the front with Tinker, Steven Mills, Taylor Lideen, Stefano Barberi, Cameron Brenneman and Alfred Pacheco. I noticed Steven was on a single speed and thought to myself, “wow this guys is going to blow up.” Boy was I wrong. After the climb you roll on the fire road a bit and the hit the singletrack and it’s right on to the Seven Oaks Descent: 2 miles and 1600 feet of descending a super narrow, exposed, sandy rut. No room for error. Every year I’ve been behind someone that’s taken a tumble- nothing serious but it’s easy to do some barrel rolling. Last year Munoz took a few spills and this year Barberi went toppled over. I always play it a little too safe and it costs me a minute or two. Most the guys were out of sight by the time we were halfway down but Barberi and I were together and Alan Laframboise caught us so I let him by. Barberi and I hit the fire road at the bottom and played chase with poor single speed Alan spinning out on the rollers. I pulled ahead and caught sight of the leaders (after watching Tinker add some air to his tire and then speed away again). SART trail is always a blast and seems longer every year. They’ve done some work to it so there are no more walking sections and it’s all ridable. It’s a hard trail to rail because there are so many sweeping turns with exposure but you can get some speed. Lots of sharp rocks (I flatted here twice 2 years ago) so I don’t run Schwalbes any more.

Big Bear Grizzly 100 NUE course profile

After the Santa Anna River Trail the real work begins. You roll along Seven Oaks road for a bit and then start to head up up up. Bit of advice- make sure you get aid here. Don’t hit Radford without full bottles. Sure there’s an aid station 3/4 of the way up but if you stop there you’ll have a really hard time moving again. My plan all along was to chill the first 30 miles and then give Radford a good push. I saved the segment in my Garmin and judged my effort against my time last year. On the way up I was able to pass Pacheco and Brenneman and catch sight of Tinker, and Tayler ahead. I also saw Steven throw the hammer down and take the lead. On a single speed! At the top of Radford! What a beast. This guy was not going to pop. I shaved over two minutes off my climb from last year but it wasn’t enough to catch the leaders.

The joy of Plumbers is immense. After a hot and brutal fire road you are rewarded with two miles of blissful single track….until you hit 2N10 and have to climb all the way back up to Skyline. Ouch. From there it’s about seven miles of rolling skyline but you’ve got to stay on top of your nutrition or it’s super easy to bonk or cramp here. You’re flowing and rolling along and suddenly you forget to drink and you’re out of water with 20 miles left to race. Miles of single track roll by. I caught a glimpse of Barberi about two minutes behind me and kept the speed up. I kept getting time checks that Tinker was two minutes up but I was never able to spot him. Cabin trail is a blast but the climb back out to the fire road is brutal. Punchy and steep and your legs will be screaming. However, once you get back to 2N08 it’s easy street. The race ends with 4 miles of rollers and descending. Don’t crash. The descent into town (the same as the starting climb) is steep, fast, and loose. You probably won’t catch anyone but you can end your day in sight of the finish.

Big Bear Grizzly 100 NUE podium Men's Open Pro 100k 2016 Tinker Juarez

Men’s Open 100k Podium (left to right): Alfred Pacheco, Myself, Taylor Lideen, Steven Mills, Tinker Juarez and Stefano Barberi

Derek does an amazing job with this race. Big Bear is so much fun this time of year and every year we’ve been treated to a thunderstorm at the finish. The course is amazing and the talent is exceptional. I’m 3 for 3 on this race and I’ll be back again next year. So excited to finish 4th this year and win a little cash. Shooting for top 3 next year!

Tinker Juarez Big Bear Grizzly 100 NUE

Hanging out post race

Open Air Big Bear Grizzly 100 NUE

Rocking Out