This past weekend I took a whirlwind trip…to Arkansas. I made the trek to compete in the final round of the Epic Ride Series, which also happened to be the largest mountain bike payout ever in North America. Oh, did I mention I missed the other three races due to pneumonia, bronchitis, or the NICA National Conference (two of those were awful, one was fantastic)?! This made the event even more special to me and to top it off I got to spend the weekend with Emma, who was about to complete the entire series! Being an Epic Rides Coin Carrying Badass is a really big deal (the prize you get for finishing the series). I keep mine by my bed and am damn proud of it!
Fun Friday- Fat Tire Crit
I arrived to the South majorly lacking sleep. After a 1 a.m. flight on Friday out of Ontario Airport in California, I landed in Bentonville, Arkansas at 8 a.m. I drank a coffee, put my Pivot Mach 429SL bike together (I also added some slick honey to my KS Suspension seat dropper), and headed to the Pro Rider meeting with Emma, Nic, and Fischer, my Yorkie (he attends many races, including the Whiskey 50). A few hours later, I found myself fumbling at the start of the Fat Tire Crit and missing a pedal for the first 30 seconds. It was embarrassing, but also not surprising after such a long venture to arrive! I found some good wheels to draft and put in some hard efforts in the Crit. Later in the race, I ended up cheering on Emma as she killed it and covered attack after attack with the top women in the race! Excited about our efforts, we cooled down together and went back to our house to cook a delicious Pesto pasta dinner. We caught up in person and went to bed at a decent hour before we turned into pumpkins.
Saturday- A Day to Hang Out at the Venue
After 12 hours of sleep, I awoke feeling much more refreshed. Emma had been up for hours and had a very productive morning. I ate a good breakfast, savored a mug of coffee from Backporch Coffee Roasters (thank you, Emma!), and got ready to go. As soon as we got to the venue we took off our Kenda Flintridge tires and swapped them for the 2.2 Honeybadgers with the KSCT casing. We rode the beginning and end of the 50 mile course and even met up with Jenn Jackson for a bit. Emma knew her from the other Epic Rides. She also met some of her crew at the Quebec Single Track Experience! At the end, we couldn’t help but stop a few times at the awesome features to ride them, film them, and snap a few pictures! Once we finished our ride, Emma and I made sure to hang around the venue to chat with locals, cheer the amateurs finishing, and soak in the vibe. Epic Rides does such an awesome job with the atmosphere, which is one of the reasons that Emma and I keep coming back for more!
Emma snapped this shot of me playing on one of the many features on the All-American trail, which leaves straight from Bentonville’s downtown!
Sunday- 50 Miles of Backcountry Mayhem
On Sunday we woke up at 6 a.m.…. or to be more accurate, we woke up at 4 a.m. our time. Pre-race breakfast included coffee, bagels (gluten-free and gluten-ous), and eggs. We headed to the venue at 7 a.m. so that Nic could begin warming up first. Emma and I warmed up together on the empty, peaceful bike path. This is one of the coolest parts about having teammates at races! Our easy spin was similar and then we did efforts on our own. It is relaxing to wake up the legs together before splitting off to do what is best for ourselves. These rituals have become more and more a part of my routine and I hope they continue for a long time. There is something to be said about warming up with a teammate who has big goals yet remains cool and collected!
The race was epic! After a nice start, attacks started to happen on the dirt road. For the first time ever, I was able to remain with the lead group until the single track. From my point of view, Emma was nicely settled into the middle of the pack and was at a relaxed pace. When I am in races with her I often look at her to see her positioning and place in the pack. I am constantly learning! Once we reached the single track the race split up. I went at a hard but realistic pace. The course required a lot of pedaling which means it also required being mentally “on it” at all times. Sometime into the single track it began to thunder…and then pour…and then pour…and then dump! As the rain lightened I entered a new part of the singletrack that was amazing! I looked around and saw the leaves were a beautiful mix of green, yellow, orange, and red. At one point, I remember thinking, “Holy Crap!!!! This is the coolest thing ever!!!”
I finished with a clean race and a huge smile on my face. I was 22nd and had a race that I was satisfied with! Even better is that Emma finished with a 12th place finish in a sprint finish. We celebrated with Onyx Café lattes and pizza! There is nothing better than having two stoked teammates because they raced their hardest, took chances, and most importantly, enjoyed the ride. As we each finished a pizza on our own, I looked around and realized that as much a racing is about results, it is so much more than that. It is the experiences, knowing that you gave it your all, having flawless equipment, and sharing the stoke with others!