The Whiskey 50 has been on my calendar for quite some time. It was the first race that I registered for this season. Ever since I heard about the $20,000 prize purse, I was super motivated to train for this race. Of course I wanted to win because first place takes home $4,000. Not bad for a mountain bike race. I also knew that with that kind of money, there was sure to be some serious talent. I did this race in 2009 and remembered the course well enough to feel like I would have an advantage over the guys who didn’t pre-ride. I went into the race with a positive attitude and a realistic goal of finishing in the top 10 (they paid 10 deep). I felt super prepared; my bike was ready to roll thanks to the guys at Sunday Cycles in Phoenix for letting me ship my bike there and build it up, I had been riding quite a bit and the legs felt good, I pounded lots of pasta the week before, and I was pumped!
This year the promoter, Todd, decided to host an old school fat tire criterium in old town Prescott, AZ. It was on Friday evening and turned out to be a great spectator event. It also was the most anaerobic that I have been on a bike in awhile. I felt like I was going to puke at the top of the first climb. I hung on for almost the entire race until Chris Sheppard lapped me on the last lap. That guy was on fire this weekend! It was awesome to see all my old friends and to have the local AZ crowds cheering for me since I grew up there. For me, the crit was a great opener for the 50 miler on Sunday… on Saturday, I did a short ride with my buddy Stevie who also rides an Air9 Carbon. We ripped around the neighborhoods and strategized our plans for the race the next day.
I got to the start/finish for the Whiskey 50 about an hour prior to start time (8:30am) and rolled around to try and warm up the legs. It was a little chilly at the start, but it felt good coming from Colorado. It turned out to be a perfect day. I lined up with a stacked professional men’s field of about 80 riders and waited for the gun. These were no wimpy start guns, I’m talking full on rifles, BANG! And we were off. The race starts on a paved road climb which we were escorted out of town on. It climbs up thru some neighborhoods and then funnels you onto a sweet single track climb that instantly bottlenecked. I was in disbelief that the 25 or 30 guys in front of me could not seem to stay on their bikes and pedal, DAMN IT! It was frustrating, for sure, because I was struggling to stay in the pack up the first road and then when we hit the trail, we were just walking and chatting. Nonetheless, I started to pick guys off, “On your left, on your right!” By the top of the first climb I was sitting comfortably in the top 10. Perfect position for a long, fast, rugged descent ahead where I picked up a few more spots. After maybe 20 minutes of white knuckle descending with drop offs, hairpin switchbacks, and loose shale, the trail pops out onto a fire road that undulates through several creek crossings that are just perfect for drying out your chain and soaking a shoe or two. In fact, in ’09 I punctured a tire in one of those crossings. A sharp rock, shaped like a chisel, about an inch wide was wedged in the top of my tire. Luckily, I made it thru without a flat or mechanical. I was with the leaders at this point and we formed a group of 6 for the dirt road descent into Skull Valley with only a couple guys off the front. The group consisted of: Carl Decker (Giant),Barry Wicks (Kona), Jay Henry (Tokyo Joes), Jake Wells (Dogma), Kalan Biesel (Yeti-Sram) and myself. We made good time and caught up to a couple guys that were off the front. At the turn around, I knew things were about to get a lot more difficult. Decker led out the climb with Colin Cares (Kenda-Felt). It got strung out pretty quickly and I settled in with Wicks and Wells for most of the climb.
Near the top of the climb was my girlfriend, Lauren, waiting patiently with a bottle of water and some words of encouragement for the final section of single track and pavement that led to the finish. I was cramping extremely bad and getting caught by several riders like I was standing still. I went from the top 5 to the top 15 on that freakin’ climb. When we hit the final section of pavement, I was relieved that most of the work was done, however, I was with another rider and I had a feeling it was going to come down to a sprint. We both sat up and tried to recover. Seriously, every pedal stroke, multiple muscles in my legs were locking up. Just when I thought I had the top 10 in the bag, I looked back to see another rider charging for us. Now there were 3 of us coming into the last corner. Jeff Herrera launched a huge attack on the outside of the corner and I was caught off guard. I reacted and chased, but it was over. I finished 11th, missing the ten spot and $200 by 1 second. Oh well, it made for a great finale to an epic day. My time was 3:17 and Sheppard won it with a time of 3:05. I am happy with 11th. The funny thing is that in ’09 I finished 13thwith a time of 3:43 and the winning time was 3:19. It’s amazing what $4,000 will do to old course records!
Be sure to check out the Gnome’s write up over at Drunkcyclist !!
And if you care to see an interview of me at the finish, click here. Thanks Dave!
See what’s new with the Big Revolution too! Get on a Niner.
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