Whisky 50 Race report

Colavita Southwest was well represented this year, with Rob, James R., James S. , Dana, Sheila, Al, Riley, Keith, and Steve all heading down to test our metal against the Whisky 50 Mile XC. Steve and I checked in to the super-nice Prescott Resort and Casino Hotel (race hotel), and after seeing our room and the balcony over looking Precott, I thought “why didn’t I get two nights?”.

We headed downtown to get checked in to the race, and the place was hopping with racers, bike expo, and a downtown criterium. No time to linger, as the sun was going down, and we wanted to pre-ride the start miles. We had been told the start was a crucial part of the race. If you had a bad one, you will be stuck behind hundreds of riders on the narrow singletrack about mile 5 of the race. I was riding singlespeed, so my gear choice was a split between having a high gear for the start, or having a lower gear for all 6000+ of climbing we would be doing on Saturday. We found a steep 1/2 mile at the end of the pavement that should break things up before hitting the quick dirt road and then trail.

James Simmons joined Steve and I for dinner at Rosa’s italian restaurant on Gurney St, just around the block from infamous Whisky Row. It was a great atmosphere with killer food. I had a Ravioli plate that was excellent. All the Stella and wine glasses around the restaurant was making me jones for a drink, but alas we were racing in the morning. There will be plenty of time to party on Whisky Row on Saturday night.

The Whisky 50 amateur race is a open category, mass start, so we decided to be warmed up and a the start line by 7 am, about 30 minutes before the gun (literally) was to go off. At 7, we found hundreds of riders all ready lined up. Almost 600 riders were to start that morning; riders of all categories and fitness. The race director called for the singlespeeders to come to the front, and I tried to get forward, although all the other racers didn’t really want to give up their spots. It was kind of a cluster. They probably could put up some tape before the start line to keep everyone back, and then have a call-up in front of the tape at the line. Its kind hard to tell 600+ riders to scoot back 10 feet!

After the gun went off, the singlespeeders were quickly overcome by the strong geared riders, and it was a sprint up the pavement. The streets were blocked off for the riders, and the front 50 was strung out in packs of 5 or ten, all trying to hammer the hills, or draft on the flats. I bided my time in the front 20, spinning my gear choice of 32X18 as best I could, tucking in behind geared riders to keep momentum. On the final steep paved hill, sure enough, many of the geared lead riders had blown there Nitrous bottles, and I proceeded to pass 10-15 riders before the dirt road downhill to the singletrack. I noted CSWs Steve Koller was right next to me, charging hard over the top. Looked like he was going to have a great day.

I lost a few places to geared riders going into the singletrack, and Steve had come around me. As soon as the true singletrack began, we were suddenly standing still. Seems some riders don’t know how to ride across 2 foot stream crossings. Sheesh. From then on it as on and off the bike, sometimes track-standing, sometimes jumping off the singlespeed to run up a hill, or over a huge log water bar on a steep climb. I was caught in a long train of riders for the next 10 miles. Steve could no longer be seen, and looked like he was successful in passing a few to get up to a faster group.

At mile 15 you get to the top of the infamous Skull Valley road and proceed to decend 10 miles to the turnaround. Here you climb back up that same ten miles, and then climb 4 more to the top of the mountain. The first 5 miles of this climb are pretty gradual, but then it goes to 15% grade for about 2 miles. This section hurt!

Getting to the top of this 14 mile climb on Thumb Butte road was a lesson in mental and physical attrition. I hardly sat down to pedal for those last few miles. It was stand and mash, all the way to the top. There were groups of spectators along the way, and at the top, just before you entered the singletrack, a group was trying to force a whisky shot on the riders. I was not having any of that!

I think the shock of descending and not having to push the pedals so hard caused the legs to decide to cramp up. I had to stop five times on the way down, and let the legs calmed down and avoid a debilitating full fledged charly-horse. I was so glad to get to the final 5 miles of pavement, but with one little paved hill to the finish, the legs cramped again! I had to stand on the pedals and coast almost to a stop, then pedal a little, then coast…it was very frustrating to be so close to the finish and be creeping along. About  quarter mile from the finish line it turned downward again, so I coasted into the finishing staight with some speed, and avoided looking too bad through the mad crowds that were cheering the finishers to the line. It was quite a scene, and even though I didn’t ride as strong as I expected, a sense of fine accomplishment overcame me when I came to a stop.

Our team race results are as follows:

Steve Koller 27th

Al Senft 33rd

Keith Ashmore 26th Singlespeed

Dana Alia 87th

Rob Bergstrom 90th

James SImmons 65th Singlespeed

Riley Frazier, 67th Masters Geared

Sheila Senft 16th 25 Proof Masters

[James Rowan got a bit of food poisoning the day before, no start for him]

Congrats to all the racers! This was a great venue, and a hard race!


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