First off, let's get one thing perfectly straight, I did NOT do this race, I merely covered it for Cyclingdirt. I have determined that both racing and covering a hundred miler is...fucking stupid. Or, if you want the PG version, not feasible. Several people have said "Aw come on! You gotta race it." None, I say none of those people have ever ridden a hundred miles on their mountain bikes, never mind raced a hundred miles and then had to stay up all night editing "sweet footie." What I did do was hop on a demo Niner Jet 9 furnished by the awesome guys at WebCyclery and chase the leaders on different, generally pretty exciting sections of the course. It was, in a word, rad. This method of coverage left me with plenty of energy left over for post race interviews. (Check out the coverage page on Cyclingdirt for that stuff.)
There are some great stories from the race — Tostado's saddle-breakage and Troy Barry's incident involving a confused recreational rider sitting on his wheel. Not like drafting off him and not pulling through, but literally sitting her butt down on his wheel as she fell over for no apparent reason. There's also a bunch of great helmet-cam footage over there, including ten minutes of me chasing Tostado, feeling very pleased with myself...until I realized he HAD NO FREAKING SADDLE. I was like "damn, this dude rides like a single speeder." Ya, when he has two saddle rails sticking up like the prongs of a broken trident where his saddle should be! Be careful watching the helmet-cam videos, you may end up booking a flight to Oregon before you know it.
I am taking all photos with my iPhone these days...
Jeff (I think...I'm horrible with names) from WebCyclery set up my Jet 9 pro style. (There may be a review of that thing on this site soon. I really liked it.) Jeff, if that is his real name and I'm not a total idiot, was racing the HC100 the next day. He wasn't exactly chilling out, drinking coconut water with his feet up here. I also bought a pair of XT pedals from these guys, they took great care of me.
Friday night before the race I found myself in need of a pub in Bend to do some "internetting" where I wouldn't look like a total knob sitting in the corner with my computer. (As my buddy Aaron said, "It's not the computer...") I found a yuppie hell-hole called 900 Wall. "900 Wall...a great place to not look like a knob while sitting in the corner working on your laptop!" They did have Ninkasi Brewing's Tricerahops on tap, to their credit. After getting my work done, I rolled over to what is definitely my favorite pub-spot in Bend — Deschutes Bend Public House. Had myself a couple Inversion IPAs and an elk burger. I recommend both. They were out of the Brewery Pretzel, but I would recommend that too, based on prior experience.
The 3:30AM wake up call came like a hard slap to the face delivered by a juiced out grizzly bear wearing a chain-mail shark mitt. It was dark, it was cold, and, having left Boston in a sweat-soaked T-shirt on a sickeningly humid 100° day, I had neglected to pack anything like the appropriate clothing. There had been a miscommunication about transportation (my fault, of course) and I was left without a ride to the venue. So I hit the road in my flip flops and shorts (it was in the 30s) and began trying to thumb a ride to the the race start. Of course, by then, the race had already begun and I'd missed my establishing shot of the rollout (so pro). After what seemed like an eternity of having huge pick up trucks blow by me at 70mph with no intention of stopping, I threw my bike shoes and helmet on and began pedaling in the general direction of Wanoga Snow Park. It was only about eight miles but I was wearing shorts and not wearing gloves (another item to be added to the long list of "things that Thom forgot"). "This isn't so bad" I thought as I pedaled along on the relatively flat road toward Mt. Bachelor...then the first hill hit and I went "Your honor, I move to have my previous statement stricken from the record." Between my full Osprey hydration pack, my camera equipment, and other assorted gear, I was easily packin' thirty extra pounds on my back. Did I mention it wasn't warm?
I mean, look...it's late July and this dude is walking over a snowbank. While it may hit 80° during the day, the nights and mornings in Bend are no-joke-cold.
Finally a couple in a Subaru picked me up. "We were pretty sure you weren't an ax murderer...the bike was kind of a give away." They made my morning exponentially less miserable. When I got to the venue, I loaded up on coffee and hardboiled eggs until a lost sweep-rider came along. We headed back up the Tiddlywinks trail going against the race direction with the idea that I would turn around begin filming when the leaders came along. It worked out great.
I'd had some experience riding the Niner Jet 9, but not like 50 miles of experience doing intervals behind some of the best endurance riders in the country. I'll just say this: I did not want to give it back.
The first rider to come through was ski-mountaineer-turned-sick-mountain-biker Cary Smith, last year's winner. I followed him for a bit. His pace was shocking. The way he was just ripping through the corners on his hardtail 29er was impressive. I did feel like the Jet 9 helped level the playing field, but the way this one was set up was not exactly race-style. Anytime pedaling was involved, Cary gapped me good. This would become a theme of the day. The next riders to come through were Josh Tostado and Clint Muhfeld. As "mentioned-afore," Josh was riding saddle-less. He rode like that for 13 miles over 3,000 feet of climbing before the folks from Sagebrush Cycles hooked him up with a new saddle at the start/finish. On a side note, I learned that, although he is now associated with Colorado, Josh is a Mainer by birth. And he's one of the nicest, most down to earth dudes you'll ever meet. On the bike though...alien creature from space sent to suck the souls out of bike-riding humans.
I wasn't racing, but that didn't stop me from taking advantage of some of the best aid stations I've ever seen — PB & J on high-end multi-grain bread, peanut M & Ms, twizzlers, Cokes, chips, string cheese! It was nuts dude.
Here's a video of a stoked rider at this aid station talking about "Sector 16," one of the highlights of the race. And here's 2nd place Alice Pennington chasing winner Amanda Carey down the lower portion of said trail, and footage of Eddie O'dea shredding the upper section. The soundtrack for Eddie's piece was a no-brainer...those were the songs that were in my head while I was chasing him. And, if I have those songs in my head, it means we were ripping the shit. Warning: do not have Kayak.com open in your browser as you watch this video.
Don't tell promoter Mike Ripley, but this is where I got in a fight with a group of recreational riders. I can't help it...I got some Boston in me. Most of the time I can be all "Totally sweet, ya bro!" but, if someone acts like a dick in front of me...the mouth, the mouth can start going and there's not all that much I can do about it. At the spot in the course pictured above, riders still on loop 2, like the guy above, were coming up a hill (South Fork?), gasping for breath, then turning blindly around that snow hut. I was waiting for the leaders on loop3 to come up another trail from the direction I took this photo from so I could chase them down the descent.
As I was standing there, a large group of recreational riders came up from the direction both streams of racer traffic would be going. None of them were wearing helmets and they were on department store bikes. It was weird...they were weird. I have no idea how they got out that far, it was frightening. It's always the people who most need helmets that don't wear them.
I was already on edge because moments before, two dudes had come up, one with a huge board with a map and compass jutting out from his handlebars, like a diving board. When I informed them that the race was coming up South Fork (I think that's what it is called), he said "That's fucking stupid, that's a downhill!" I pointed out that we were at the top of a hill so every trail was, in fact, a downhill. And then I bit my tongue before I went on to point out how douche-baggy it was to sit there whining about what over three-hundred brave souls were out there doing on his trails while he was out on a fifteen mile ride with a navigational diving board attached to his bars.
Then these...what's the politically correct term? — helmet-less fucking freaks on Magnas came up the trail and parked their weird asses all over the place, around a blind corner where two streams of racer traffic were converging...just as race leader Cary Smith came barreling up to the intersection like a runaway crazy train. At first I was polite: "Hey guys, we got the race leader coming up, please move to the side." But they didn't move...at all. Then Cary, confused by the fact that these knuckleheads were obscuring the trail markers and blocking the trail, took a right turn into loop two racer traffic (you following this? Fuck, I'm lost). "No dude! This way!" I yelled. He was over 70 miles in and visibly confused. He began sort of riding off into the bushes, "This way?" he asked. "NO! This way...right through the HUGE GROUP OF HELMETLESS RIDERS BLOCKING HE TRAIL!" He got it that time.
One of the riders (with nothing protecting his chicken brain but an ill-fitting ball cap) took offense at my course directions, "Hey, now cut the crap! I know who you're talking about...helmetless riders, that's us." He astutely observed. And that's when Boston-Tommy emerged, "Dyude, I was just being descriptive, if you don't want to be described as 'helmetless riders blocking the trail, then don't be helmetless riders blocking the trail!'"He babbled something about how I had to "Share the trail with everyone..." as I sprinted through him and his crew with the Parthian shot: "Not with helmetless fucking morons I don't!"
And that's not all! We've got tales of Niner demos, missed flights, and overnight drives to Missoula coming up.