Boasting 500 miles of purpose built single track and the only IMBA Gold level town in America, Park City, UT, has earned the reputation as one of the mountain bike mecca's in the country. With team rider Josh Whitney recently relocating to the Salt Lake City valley, there seemed no better way to sample the goods than with the summer-ending epic that is the Park City Point-to-Point, a marathon race featuring 12,000 feet of climbing over 75 miles of Park City's best single track, never repeating an inch of dirt while traversing its 3 world-class resorts (Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons).
Its been a mixed season for Josh, who's had a lot going on off the bike while also managing a few injuries. "I think I've done the least amount of racing & riding this season than in any years past, so on hand I'm definitely feeling recharged and hungry, but on the other I wasn't sure of my fitness, especially for this kind of distance." With top 10 times in the 7 hour mark, the event prides itself on being harder than Leadville and way more fun, and would be the longest race, let alone mountain bike ride, Josh would have completed.
The race starts with a few minutes of paved bike path to cool the jitters and let riders find their place in the pack of 50 plus for the men's open. First up was the fast and flowy sage brush trails of Round Valley, the lowest elevation portion of the race, that feature perfectly bermed trails that were near dust free thanks to some light evening rain the day before. A front group quickly emerged featuring 5-time winner Alex Grant, legend Tinker Jaurez and a handful of locals. Josh tagged himself onto this group keeping contact. "I just wanted to stay with the front group for as long as I could, while maintaining a high cadence to protect my recovering knee. The sun was just rising over the eastern Uinta's and we were having so much fun ripping through the sage, just a great way to start the day."
As the pace increased, the day became a blur of golden aspens, wildflowers, ribbons of 6" wide single track and handle bar high grass. The climbs were varied, from 20% loose shale hairpin kickers to aspen tree lined highways of black gold dirt. Truly dreamy. Aid stations were well manned and supported, with all the fixings for a long day beyond your standard energy bar (yes there were bacon hand ups). After the second big climb up to Shadow Lake, reaching a high point of just over 9,000 feet 45+ miles in, riders enjoyed a nearly 25 minute descent back to the base of PCMR on the gloriously fast CMG trail, which finished at the second aid station. But the climbing quickly returns with the grunt back up the ski hill north towards a gorgeous piece of trail, Armstrong, a one-direction climb that takes riders up Thaynes Canyon and to Iron Mountain, bridging between PCMR and The Canyons. From the top, its a series of ups and downs along the Mid-Mountain trail to where you have a final descent, short kick in the gut climb and descent along the sufficiently challenging Holly's DH trail to the base of The Canyons, where cokes, PBRs and relief await.
"As we hit the final Armstrong climb, the weather started to turn bringing low cloud and some light rain, which was a relief for me. It kept things cool and added another level of challenge to the day." The trails absorbed most of the moisture making for perfectly tacky conditions and by the final descent, the sun returned setting the trees and rock a golden blaze. "By the final grunt up Ambush, I knew I'd made it and could final start to smile and really enjoy the day. I was concerned about my body not making it but things felt great. My nutrition was dialed with Breeze Bars wrappers lining my jersey pockets and Skratch Hyper Hydration in my bottles, I never once went into the bonk zone to my surprise, and even had some kick at the end to hold off another rider. This one would definitely not had been possible without some serious support from our team's massage & acupuncture hero, Todd Plymale-Mallory with local support from Peak Acupuncture to get me healthy, and chamois creme & embro extraordinaire Mad Alchemy to keep legs charged and toosh happy over all those miles."
Josh finished a respectable 16th with a time of 7 hrs 18 minutes and burned enough calories to eat 8 EVOL Big Burrito's at once, which he nearly did the next day. Alex Grant repeated for his 6th win (in a row) and Coloradan Gretchen Reeves took the women's title.
Check out the great summary video here, for more info on the race!