I’m not usually a person who runs late, but it seems that being late is the name of the game for me with this blog thing. I have these intentions of being so good about recapping an event or writing something I want to bore you with and then *BAM* - shit hits the fan and I am late to the game once again. Ahhh screw it, just expect me to be late from now on :)
Anyway, the week after the Grand Junction Off-Road, Mary and I made the trip to Gunnison, CO for the Full Growler. We left Friday evening, after Mary was off work so it was pretty much a weekend full of driving with a little bit of riding. Luckily the race wasn't until Sunday, and with Monday being a holiday, we were able to get back to Phoenix Monday afternoon. We cut a big chunk out of the 650 mile drive to Gunnison Friday night and pulled in around 2pm on Saturday. After a quick spin it was off to bed to try and rest up for the 64 mile Growler.
26 freakin’ degrees - I shit you not, that was the temp when we woke up on race morning. It was going to be a rough first few hours trying to stay warm haha. My first time at this event was last year and it didn't really go as planned. Within the first hour of the race I had a dumb crash and broke off the shift paddle right at the shifter and that was it for my day. This year I was determined not to make dumb mistakes. The best way to do that was follow the king of this race, local Gunnison resident and badass for team Topeak Ergon, Bryan Dillon. Bryan knows the trails so well and I knew he would be the guy to chase off the front.
My gameplan going in to the race was to try and see his sneaky lines while suffering in the altitude. The first lap was surprisingly mellow as about five of us cruised around the first loop. The race course was also set up for the Half Growler, so we did two laps on the same course. The trails out at Hartman Rocks are pretty unreal, but also a bit disorienting if you’re not familiar with the area. It was easy to get turned around but luckily the course was marked super well!
After we started lap 2 Bryan made his attack (I had a feeling he would) and before we knew it, it was him and I off the front. It was a really weird feeling to think that we were "racing" because we were honestly having so much fun keeping a good pace that it really felt like a great ride with a good friend. We kept it gentlemanly and agreed not to attack each other if one of us had to stop for a pee break (for some crazy reason I had two of those, more than I ever have in a race). Thankfully Bryan's girlfriend Molly allowed Mary to tag along with her and Bryan's parents to hand off feeds at multiple places on course. We both agreed that we had the most dialed pit crews during the race as they were in the sun all day and hopping around course (thanks a million guys!)
As I checked down at my Garmin I knew we were getting close to the finish and we both hadn't created any separation from the other yet. I knew it would come down to a close finish, but how close I had no idea. I was getting really sick of riding at or above 8,000 feet, so I was excited to know the finish would be coming very soon. I made the decision to attack on one of the final two downhills in the hopes to create a little gap on the short climb and to my surprise, it worked! Just before the finish we hopped on a dirt road and were on our way to the final singletrack before the finish. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bryan jet past me on the dirt road and he got to the singletrack flying! It was downhill for maybe a minute or 2 to the finish and we ended up crossing the line less than one second apart - with Bryan grabbing the win.
It was pretty dang cool that after 5:08 of racing it was that close and I was super excited for Bryan. It was really awesome to see the people of Gunnison cheering him on and getting behind his efforts to get another win at this beast of a race. He has proven he dominates this event and you would never guess it with his humble approach and willingness to give me tips on what was coming up during our battle out there. I felt really good and it was refreshing to finally race a longer event, even though 5 hours is still on the shorter side of what I prefer.
To me the races that stick out in my mind are the ones that are fair and gentleman-like. I was lucky enough to have one of these earlier in the year with Dylan Johnson and now this one with Bryan. Agreeing not to attack or try to pull away when the other person is fixing a quick mechanical or stuffing their face with food is something I have great respect for. It's really cool to see that the spirit of mountain biking is still alive, even at the highest levels of competition. I believe that you should never feel like you were "handed" something, but rather you worked hard for it. Sometimes you come out on top, and other times you fall short but you raced fair, head-to-head, and that is what is great about cycling. This race will definitely stick with me as one of the more fun days on the bike. The combination of racing with Bryan, having amazing help from Mary and riding the sick trails are just a few reasons why this race will be a favorite of mine for the year so far.
Mary and I decided to get a jump on the drive back to Phoenix on Saturday night and it was a good idea to break up that long one after looking back. Can't believe it's already June and the face-melting heat is here, but it's a good change. At least early morning rides are super nice ;) We’ll be off to Carson City, NV next week for the final round of the Epic Rides Series (Carson City Off-Road) and then a month off until a long trip to Canada for the Singletrack 6 stage race. Pumped is an understatement for that one! Over and out!