Written by Sam Vickery (@slam_vick)
Spring has sprung and the race season is here! Over the next few months, I will be sharing with you some of my bike related adventures as well as giving my view into some racing that I am doing this season.
It has been a crazy spring both in my personal life and otherwise. Durango had a massive winter this year, making for great skiing but made preparation for the season a challenge. Between the commutes to and from Sedona and Moab, spending some time with one of my friends in Tucson, plus committing to some variety while at home (running and XC skiing) I am feeling amazing on the bike.
Speaking of the Bike, this year Eric set me up on what I would consider the perfect XC race bike. The bike has a long front center, Short stays, a slack head tube and 120mm of travel in the fork yet my position on the bike is low and racey ready to smash. Between the geometry, sliding dropouts for single speed and a build out I could have only dreamed of, it seriously does not get better for me.
Here’s some deets:
Frame: Myth Cycles Ti proto (#TiTrailSlayer)
Fork: Fox Factory 34SC touched up by Diaz Suspension Designs here in Durango.
Drivetrain: Sram XX1 Eagle OR Endless Bike Company SS Cog (usually 36×22)
Cranks: Rotor REX In/Power 36t
Brakes: Sram Level TLM
Wheels: Mismatched Rear-Stans Crest MK3- I seem to be rough on rear wheels especially so aluminum is a great choice for me. Front-Ridefast Racing Hotwire Carbon
Tires: Maxxis IKON 2.35 TR EXO front and rear
Seatpost: Fox Transfer 125mm
Saddle: Fabric Line race ti
Bars: Whiskey No9 flat 760mm wide, random Giant brand grips that I really like.
The first race of the year for me was the infamous Epic Rides Whiskey 50 in Prescott Arizona. One of the hallmark races of the year known for the heinous Skull Valley Climb and great single track, it is an amazing way to kick off a race season. This event was my first XC race back in 2016 and the beginning of reconnecting with all my bike friends from other corners of the US. To me, race weekends feel like vacation and a bike race just happens to be going on at the same time. It was great to catch up with everyone over some beer or food. Just another reason why this sport is the best.
The first race of the year is always a toss up as far as where your fitness is at compared to others and re-entering the depths of the “pain cave” can be a shock to the system. I headed to the start line on Saturday morning with a couple of goals in mind-Finish the race, take care of myself and ride 100% whatever that may be on that day and of course that bitch Skull Valley was in the back of my mind. From my first pedal stroke of the day I could tell it was going to be a good one. The first 5 minutes of every ride I “check in” with my body, ask myself how I am feeling mentally and physically. Mentally I was motivated, excited and confident. Physically I felt rested, loose, comfortable and my standard pre-race tummy trouble decided to take the day off.
Whiskey caters well to the single speeds since it starts up hill and gives us 1 gears something to push against to keep up with the rest of the field heading into the single track. Overall position is important in these races as you don’t want to end up losing time behind a big group trying to push your gear up a climb, So the start is always pretty all out to try and stay in the mix. I hit the first section of single track around 10 th overall with 1 other single speed in front of me (Ben Torvik from Boulder, CO). The race is made interesting early on by giving riders a fork with 2 options to get up the first single track climb. I just did what Ben did-the shorter but steeper and more technical option. While I did clean the climb, I would say I burned a match here in order to hang on to a good position. By the time we hit the top, the group I was with knew we had made the right choice and had a gap on the rest of the field.
The course then heads downhill for the first big descent, I closed the gap to Ben and was able to make the pass for the single speed lead. We then headed back up a jeep road for about 10-15minutes and at this point it was just 4 of us off the front-3 open category racers and me. The next big section was the anticipated crux of the course, Skull Valley. The way down is a chance to take a deep breath before the 8-mile grunt back up the road. After the turnaround, you can see your time back to other riders coming down. I had a good gap and the legs were feeling great plus the plan was that my crew would greet me at the top with a couple of fresh bottles this kept me motivated to the top. The Open guys rode a good pace for the majority of the climb but with gear I was running, had to grind it out for the second half and ended up leading overall at the top. In my mind I was like “hell yeah my friends are going to be stoked that I’m leading overall at the top” …Not so. Car Traffic from the 30-mile race had stopped them from getting up the road in time to meet me and I was out of water…Sure, I could have stopped and filled up at the aid station on my own time but there was no way. I was leading and feeling good and I was determined to ride it out if I could. Luckily there was a spare water bottle for me later on. Side note-I have been doing a lot of Hot Yoga lately and I think this helped a lot with heat management for the period of time I was completely out of water.
While I would have loved to throw things on cruise control all the way to the finish line, a little after the ½ way point is where the 50- and 30-mile courses merge and it was total chaos. It took all of my mental capacity to stay collected through the traffic and I did eventually end up getting caught by the open leaders dropping me back to 5 th overall where I would eventually finish. The final true challenge this course throws at you nicknamed “cramp hill” is a short but sharp climb sure to fire up the legs late in the race. There was a lovely group of hecklers appropriately waiting at the top with whiskey shots and bacon. I took the whiskey hand up and my body said, “hell nah” and it immediately came right back out. Hard to live that one down.
Shortly after, I crossed the finish line in a total time of 3hrs 44min to take the single speed win by 9 minutes and 5th overall. One of my best bike friends and the most real single speed racer on the earth, Dax Massey, turned on the afterburners for 2nd and Ben Torvik in 3rd to round out a Coloradan top 3 sweep. All of us on titanium bikes as well (Myth, Roca Roja and Eriksen).
I spent the rest of the weekend slinging water bottles for my friends in the pro race and drinking more than a few beers to celebrate. I am stoked with everything right now. I am riding better than ever and just happy as hell to ride my bike. The next event I am headed to is the 12 Hours Of Mesa Verde to take on my first solo 12 hour effort. It is sure to be a doozy.
Sam Vickery is a (the) team racer for Myth Cycles