The Epic Rides Grand Junction Off-Road was this past weekend and was the second stop in the three race series. After the first race in Prescott a few weekends ago, it was evident that this style of racing was proving to be a steep learning curve for me but I have found excitement in learning how to race for a much shorter period of time. It has been a real humbling experience, but one I would not change for anything. It has provided me with a clear view of what I need to work on and how different the training is from the 100 mile races that I am used to.
I was super excited to leave town on Thursday in the sprinter van as we are almost done with the build out (!!!), but was bummed that Mary wouldn’t be coming along on this trip. We work so well as a team at these races and having her there not only for the support, but also the fun times, really is the highlight of each weekend of racing.
Friday's short 20 minute+3 lap crit was totally different than in Prescott with the course being super flat and not really allowing the group to separate like it did with a big climb. I decided to play it safe and stay with the lead group without getting involved in the crashes that went down. The crit result doesn’t count towards the overall race result, but it does offer a great way to showcase some close racing for the town and fans to watch. After the crit, it was time for a pit stop at Chipotle with Nick Gould and off to get cleaned up. In the past, our good friends Jeff Kerkove and Karen Jarchow, have been kind enough to offer up their shower in the places that they rent, and this weekend they were equally as amazing in letting me get cleaned up after each day of riding. It was also a great time to hang out with all of them as well.
Saturday morning is where the weekend got really, ummm, surprising! Jeff, Karen, Bryan Dillon, Jeremiah Bishop and I were all slowly gearing up for a pre-ride when something pretty awesome happened. I was in the van when I heard a car pull up. Out jumped Mary and Jessie Rice! They drove 600 freakin' miles to surprise me at the race!!!! I seriously couldn’t believe it! Jessie came up with the idea on Thursday and they made the drive out of town Friday after work. They slept in the car in Moab on Friday night for a few hours and drove the rest of the way to Grand Junction on Saturday morning. Mary used “Find my iPhone" to track me down (a little creepy I know hahaha) but holy shit, I couldn’t believe they would drive that far for such a short stay!
The weekend was officially awesome now, and we were off on a nice 2.5 hour pre-ride to check out some of the course for Sunday. During the pre-ride I knew the course would be a good fit for me but I still had some questions on how I could really perform and if I could handle the short spiked efforts these races throw at us.
Sunday morning was about as nice as they come with an early wake up alarm in the van. After a quick, easy warm-up it was time to get to the start line and get’er goin' on my Pivot Mach 429SL rolling on Industry Nine Ultralites. The field of 80 or so pro-men started off fast on the paved roll out of town, and as we hit dirt it really ramped up. Looking back, Jonathan (an amazing friend and my coach), realized that these spikes in power are something totally foreign to my body and it really kills me in the middle and at the end of these events. The first hour or so of the race was pretty OK (sat with the top 15) but then I settled in to the pace that I know best (which is how to race and win 100 mile events) but that simply isn’t the way you do it for races like these that are half the distance.
Like I said a few weeks ago at the Whiskey 50 in Prescott, this style of racing is a massive learning experience. This past weekend in Grand Junction offered me even more insight as to how I need to train differently and that I cannot rush the changes my body needs to go through before I can expect the results I know I have in me. At any rate, Mary and Jessie were absolutely amazing with the feeds on course and the support as I rolled across the line in 19th. A small improvement from the first race of the series but I came away with more knowledge and insight on what I need to do with my training.
The drive home from Grand Junction was filled with brainstorming on what I could have done differently and honestly, I can confidently say nothing at all. I rode hard in the the only way I know and that is not good enough in these races that are stacked with the absolute best. I have enjoyed racing my bike for a looooooooong time and wanted to step out of that comfort zone this year and really work on something different. I have had success in long endurance events, and now I am searching for personal success in these shorter races - and I have to say that getting my ass kicked is the best motivation I can think of. We have 3 weeks off until the third and final round of the Epic Rides series in Carson City and I am excited to make some adjustments in that short time.
Looking back and reflecting on the weekend I have so many crazy things to be amazingly happy about.
The absolutely obvious, no-brainer is that Mary and Jessie dedicated their weekend to drive out and support me handing off Infinit Nutrition. I know they were able to do other things with their time and I still really cannot believe they pulled that one off! Thank you so much guys, that is definitely a highlight of the 2017 race year for sure!
Another thing that really sticks out is something that happened at the end of our pre-ride on Saturday. As Jeremiah and I rolled back into town, the super fast and talented amateurs were rolling in. I was there as fellow Elevated Legs riders Jason Swain and his 11-year-old daughter Monroe crossed the finish line. It is pretty badass to see those 2 out there tackling the course and having a blast together. Jason and Monroe both ride Pivots (she is on an XS LES 27.5) and you would not believe the enthusiasm they each have for riding and racing. Monroe did the 30 mile event this weekend and it is unreal to see how much fun and talent she has with the support of her dad. She even finished 4th in her class (female 18 and under)! That is crazy for someone so young! Congrats to both of you for showing everyone what mountain biking is all about!
Time to get some good recovery in and a couple quick training rides before we leave this Friday for the Full Growler in Gunnison, Colorado! Check back soon!