Epic rides have long been my favorite. Dave Wiens once said he wished he could just go out and do epic rides every day, but the specific demands of shorter events mandated some shorter glycogen burning high intensity training. The fall is a good time to do what really floats your boat, especially if it isn’t specific to your goal events…like a good ol’ epic on the White Rim. Brian mentioned this ride to me as we were decompressing from 24 hours of racing in Moab…but at that time, doing the WR sounded far too painful to consider. Chronic I am though, and before sunrise on Saturday I found myself at Mineral bottom road ready to embark on my 3rd trip around the rim in 2 months. This time was different – there were 18 of us. In my 6(?) times on this ride, this was the first to have company aside from the occasional bighorn ram. This was no ordinary group of riders, but rather (mostly) a group of professional mountain bikers.
The pre-dawn start was reminiscent of the Soul Ride, that great 100 mile event in Tucson put on by Todd Sadow & www.epicrides.com. Nothing beats starting in the dark. Riding a 24 at night is one thing, but you’re not exactly fresh at that point. Starting in the dark is entirely different.
So how does a ride progress with such a group? A series of sprints punctuated by long mechanical breaks, snack stops, and these.
We had intended to hold the group together for the ride – you know, strength in numbers. The first major mechanical hit just before Hardscrabble hill. A broken seat collar and a near terminal chain/spoke entanglement. Lynda saw the writing on the wall. The number of stops increases exponentially with the group size, and as any enduro freak can attest stops really get in the way of the endorphin buzz. So she just rolled over the top of the hill, thinking she’d stop in the sunshine…oh maybe stop after the descent…oh maybe stop at potato bottom…damn it’s cold down here…and she was gone.
In the meantime, we get the bikes sorted out and are on our way. Brian was riding a Trek 9.8 SS with 2:1 gearing. That pint sized rocket tipped the scales at 19lbs, or so he claimed. Felt more like 15 to me. One of the highlights of the day was rippin through the rollers leading to Murphy’s hogback. Brian was putting the hurt on a group of 6 – we were basically being motorpaced. This went on for about 30 minutes, damn were we having fun! Mitch looks over at me as asks if his wheel was dragging on something…yep, there was some heavy breathing. Brian would really punch it on the rollers (he couldn’t shift, right?), so in an effort to not get dropped on the rollers I did the same – held the same gear and stood for the rollers. Well…sounds good on paper, but when my chain broke there was a painful impact of crotch to stem while I nose wheelied over a small ledge with one foot flying solo. Found the chain, got it back on and off we went, only to have the chain break again 2 minutes later. They didn’t wait the second time around, which was fine – by that time the ride was split up so I had new riding partners.
A short while later we’re at the top of Murphy’s hogback, eating what we have. It was great to chill and get to know some new chronics. While we’re stopped, I’m starting to wonder how far ahead Lynda is. That gal is a lightning bolt – let her slip away and she’s gone. The problem was she drove, and if she ended up waiting for a couple hours, would she? The other thought…when doing the WR counter-clockwise, the second half is a lot more taxing than the first. Headwinds, rocky/slick rock, it just beats you up. There was going to be carnage, even in this group, or should I say especially in this group. The guys in this crowd are darn fast, which means at times the pace was pretty hot. The bigger the shovel the bigger the hole.
I made the call to go find Lynda…
The next 2 hours was a nice steady cruise, enduro freaks you know what I’m talking about, you’re in the zone, cadence is up, no MP3 but you’ve still got music playing, the views are killer and your bike is simply flowing with you…suddenly, there’s Lynda. Good for both of us as she’s getting bored by then, power starting to fade and getting a little bonky, and I don’t have to ride back to town. We are planning to do Trans Rockies as a coed team next year, so that was a big topic of conversation…how do we make the most of our collective strengths in Canada?
Can’t forget the litter leash. You know, the little tab of material on Clif Shots that prevent the top from ending up on the ground? That’s Lynda’s creation, a contribution to Clif that has earned her a lifetime supply of Clif products. Her inpiration? The tampon.
It wasn’t long before we were at the base of the Shaffer trail, a 1500′ climb at 10-20% grades. The views from the top are quality!
All that remained was a short spin to the cars, about 8 miles of pavement. Or so I thought. Right into the teeth of a norther we went, and Lynda was WAY more motivated than I. I mean, c’mon now, we just did all the fun stuff, what’s the rush? It hurt to ride her wheel at that point, I’m not afraid to admit it. Then she sees a rider up ahead and picks it up a touch more…then she’s had it so I go to the front. Going slower than she was, I’m sure…until I see that the rider in front of us is a roadie. Huh? Lynda says she knew exactly when I realized that bike had skinny tires – her power went up 80 watts. Completely subconcious…but funny. It only takes a little motivation, from wherever it may come. BTW, if you are a powerphile and have www.cyclingpeakssoftware.com loaded, you can check out her power file over on the files section of our website. There’s also a file of the next day’s ride, an upper and lower Porcupine rim adventure.
Meanwhile…back in the group there were varying amounts of pain in that final section of headwinds. For some, it was a religious experience. For others, apparently purely noxious akin to sticking needles on one’s eye. Brian carried on as Brian will, hammering up the Shaffer trail on that 2:1 SS, cleaning the 20+ minute climb out of the saddle in single-digit cadences. That ain’t human…at 30 he’s only hitting his stride. It’ll be tough on the endurance crowd when he starts getting bored with the 2 hour race!
It wasn’t long ago that the White Rim would have bent me into submission…but after 120,000 TSS in 3 years, the bonk is darn elusive anymore. For an enduro freak, it’s just a great day on the bike…and that’s my view.