10 May 2012 | Race Reports
Whiskey 50 Race Report or “How I Lost $2000 in 10 Minutes”
I like racing bikes. And while I like the typical cross-country format, I also enjoy both longer and shorter races. And a big prize purse doesn’t hurt either. So after a few years of hearing great things about the Whiskey 50 (including that it offered an equal payout for men and women), I decided to check it out for myself.
We arrived in Prescott on Thursday afternoon to clear skies and cool temperatures (leg warmers? In Arizona?), and Teal and I headed out for a quick spin before dinner. The next day was the fat-tire crit in downtown Prescott. I have to admit, I was not looking forward to it. My crit-racing experience is limited, and frankly, I find it pretty terrifying. When we arrived downtown, however, I could tell the race was going to be hard. The course climbed a steep hill for 2 blocks, was flat for another block, turned and climbed another 2 blocks, turned and descended 2 blocks and a few more flat turns brought you through the finish. Luckily, it appeared there would be plenty of spectators there to cheer us on. There were tons of people out milling around (it was about 5pm and some of the amateur Whiskey categories were finishing and the beer garden certainly attracted a few more). The course was not your typical crit: it was more like doing hill repeats with 30 friends (I mean sworn enemies!)
At the start, the pack took off, and I found myself somewhere in the middle of the group thinking, “you guys know we are going to have to ride up this hill at least another 8 or 9 times, right?” Sure enough, people started to blow up on the second lap. I saw Chloe and Kelli had a gap up ahead, and I slowly made my way up to the front. Chloe dropped off a few minutes later, but Kelli and I continued to ride together (not really working together, since there wasn’t really any drafting, but just taking turns setting the pace up the hills). It was hard, but I was comfortable, and as the laps ticked down I started wondering how comfortable Kelli was. I decided I didn’t want to find out in the last lap to find out, so with 2-to-go I put in a huge attack on the steep climb and was able to get a gap that I maintained to the finish. The spectator turnout was huge (including a gorilla and a man with not nearly enough clothes on- see below), the cowbells were loud and I decided that maybe a fat-tire crit CAN be awesome…
The next day, Teal and I headed out with a few other folks to pre-ride some of the cross-country course. We decided to do the 15 miler which included the first few miles and last few miles of singletrack in the 50-miler. I was impressed by the trails- a mix of rolling, fast singletrack and doubletrack trails with some rocks and roots thrown in here and there. The final 45 minutes or so of the course is mostly downhill with only one real climb- the infamous “cramp hill” which comes about 40 miles into the race after a 10-15 minute descent. When we were pre-riding, Teal and I were both pleasantly surprised to find out that cramp hill was “no big deal” and “wasn’t very steep or hard.” Yes, I’m pretty sure we actually said something like that to each other. Really, I think I scoffed. “THIS is cramp hill?” Yeah, really snotty-like. I would regret that…
The morning of the race I was nervous- not so much about my fitness but about pacing for a longer race. It had been awhile since I had raced anything longer than a typical cross-country race, and I didn’t really know what to expect. We started off at a pretty mellow pace (the first 4 miles of the race are paved) but I picked up the tempo as we got closer to the singletrack- I wanted to get in there first. I did, and as I rode along I found it really hard to keep myself reined in. I got a gap and had a few seconds heading into the first long downhill, and by the time I got to the first feed-zone I couldn’t hear anyone behind me. I turned and started the 12-mile fire road descent to Skull Valley.
The dirt road was sandy and loose, and I almost crashed taking one of the first corners a little too hot. I eased off a bit, and settled into a steady pace. Then, about halfway down the road I heard something behind and turned to see Pua right on my wheel. He-llo! I guess I need to stop messing around and ride my bike fast again! I jumped on her wheel- she was going FAST down that road, and she knew where she was going a little better than I did. Right before the second feed zone, she had a shifting problem and had to stop in the feed zone for a few seconds. I grabbed my bottles from Zak and headed back up the road, trying to stretch the gap as much as possible. At the bottom of the climb I saw I had about 20 seconds, but I wanted to give myself a good cushion, so I put my head down and rode hard up the climb. At the next feed zone, people were telling me I had a huge gap and there was no one in sight. Phew! Only one more downhill to go…
I started the last descent and was tired, but I knew I only had about 40 minutes to go, and it was mostly downhill. I just had to ride smart and safe. I got to “cramp hill” and immediately cramped. Ah, yes, karma coming back to bite me, and I’ll admit, I totally deserved it! Luckily, cramp hill isn’t too steep or too long, and I was able to spin out my legs and keep the cramps at bay. As I neared the end of the trail, more and more spectators were on the course cheering, and I knew I was getting close. And then, WHAM! I smacked my rear wheel on a rock in the last flat technical section of trail.
Psst! Psst! Psst! Psst! I could hear the air leaking out as I kept riding, but I hoped the tire would seal up. Then I thought I should stop and put some air in it, just to be safe. My hands were shaking as I tried to undo the Velcro strap holding my Big Air to my seat post, and I could feel the seconds ticking away. I put air in the tire and then jumped back on- I was literally within sight of the pavement. The last 4 miles of the course were slightly downhill pavement. “I can make it!” I thought. A guy I had passed earlier rode by, and I jumped on his wheel. The air held for about a minute, and then the tire went completely flat.
I was 10 minutes from the finish. At that point, I thought the fastest the thing would be to just ride it in (the pavement section was so short in the pre-ride…). I put my head down and pedaled as hard as I could, but it felt like I was riding in slow-motion (probably looked like it too…) and I had to slow WAY down to make it around any corners (there were more than I remembered..)
With 1.5 miles to go, Pua passed me. And that was it. I managed to roll through for 2nd, but I was bummed. To lose the race in the last 10 minutes! Argggh. Well, at least it was exciting for the spectators. It was a great race and even though I didn’t get the BIG check (the winner received $5000) I still got a pretty big check ($3000). It was a great weekend of racing, and I was really impressed with the event and the support of the local community.
There’s always next year…