Monday, September 8, 2014

Park City Point-to-Point: no better way to close out the summer

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!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The 2014 C*R*U*S*H, and it was

Start line pleasantries.
It was all going so well, until it wasn't. Having just moved to Utah, Josh figured the one of a kind dirt + road race The Crusher in the Tushar was the perfect mid-summer test piece to fly the Evol colors. What makes the Crusher unique is the ability to choice your own weapon. Riders can use road bikes, cyclocross bikes or mountain bikes, but as racer organizer and former pro roadie Burke Swindlehurst says, "you can choose your own bike, but at some point, your guaranteed to be wrong." This speaks to the variety of the terrain covered the the challenging course conditions: 15 miles of road climbing to start followed with 10 miles of packed dirt to the first summit, are followed by a screaming 6-8 miles descent down nearly 5,000 feet of loose, chunky and dusty gravel roads. Then your only halfway! More pavement, then sand! if its been too dry and more gravel climbing and descending before you finally make it to the Eagle Point ski area, with a painfully steep, straight and paved ascent to finish things off at over 10,000 feet.

With a solid showing of cyclocrossers from across the country, along with some top tier road and mountain bikers, the race started well for Josh as the pack made its way quite socially to the first climb at mile 11. Then the fireworks kicked off and a lead group of 6 emerged with Levi Leipheimer (last year's winner), Tyler Wren (multiple year winner) and Jamie Driscoll pushing the pace. Josh dug in and found the wheels of Colorado crosser's Jake Wells and Greg Krause for the first few hairpin turns and then settled into a nice rhythm just off the back of the lead group, taking on the traditional dangling off the back of the front duties. 

By the first summit, some 27 miles (of 70) and 5,000 feet later, he was feeling strong and ready to make up some time on the descent and potentially latch on to the lead group of ~10 before the long slog of pavement hit. "I was really feeling great, climbing well in my limits and ready for what was to come. I'd just finished a bottle and grabbed an extra at the second aid station, downed my favorite nut-free sunflower Breeze Bar and was flying down the gravel at 35+ mph. Then pop, bam, boom, my day was over. I guess I gambled on choosing tubulars today, and sometimes when you go all in, you loose." 
The descent that ended his day early.
At 35mph when a tubular blows out, it can be quite a nasty thing. One the one hand, Josh was able to successfully slow down and steer the bike without crashing, a lucky feet given the 2-4 inch deep gravel road, on the other unfortunately, the speed and time it took to stop resulted in 3 cracks and dents in his carbon rim, effectively ending the day just as things were getting interesting.  

"I was really disappointed, no question about that, as this was my first big time race here in Utah and things were going so well. But I managed to ride really well (at least for the first 2 hours) and did't get hurt, and while carbon is pricey, its cheaper than a broken bone!" Fortunately, another rider, a local Bryson Perry who runs the Intermountain Cup Mountain Bike Series, also flatted just a few yards down the road from Josh and after commiserating together, road back up the course to the aid station and hitched a ride back to the finish area.  Grateful for a new friend and one with 4 wheels, Josh is currently licking his wounds and gearing up for a handful of cross-country mountain bike races to finish off the summer and get the engine ready for 'cross. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Swim. BIKE. Run. Rinse. EVOL. Repeat.

Vail Time Trial Start @ GoPro Games
We emphasized the “Bike” portion of multisport in this title because it’s clearly the best part of triathlon (but shhhh....we didn’t say that) It’s been a busy and big year for Aubrey. There has been a lot of travel, a lot of triathlons and a lot of progress. Crossing off earning her professional triathlon license in early April took a chunk of pressure off the season and left plenty of time for quality training. Since that Miami event, her pink and black EVOL kit have been logging some serious miles as biking, biking and more biking continue to be a primary focus in getting prepared to compete in this next chapter.

This summer there has been a few scattered cycling races, with Aubrey’s first being the Stazio crit here in Boulder early this spring. Initially thinking that this would be easier since there was no swim before, and no run afterwards.....was a serious mistake! “It was a short and serious race, with a short and serious racing is seriously painful!” Aubrey’s coach, Grant Holicky told her to get out and stay in the front, and she listened. After finishing the race, Aubrey spent the rest of the day researching her latest and greatest racing. 

In early June after a 3rd place finish at the Dallas Triathlon, Aubrey was back in CO to race the local Boulder Sunrise event where she finished 1st female.  From the reservoir Aubrey ventured directly to compete in the next days GoPro Mountain Games Time Trial event in Vail, Colorado. A race up Vail pass seemed like the perfect way to dive into the world of time trialing. Literally shrieking with excitement on the start ramp caused a bit of a scene, as anyone who knows Aubrey knows her laugh is anything but quiet or subtle. A stellar performance it was not, but a solid effort on a tired body paired with the majestic views of the descent were enough to warrant some serious satisfaction.  

So what’s next for Aubrey? “Well, I’ve really been wanting to ride Mt Evans ever since I moved out to Colorado two years ago so I finally went ahead and registered for the Hill Climb event on July 26th. I love the mountains and don’t get out on them enough during tri season. It’ll be a nicely timed long hard effort on the bike with Nationals being two weeks later in Milwaukee. Life is good.”
1st Place at the Boulder Peak Triathlon Elite Division