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EPIC RIDES TRIED TO KILL ME AND LEAVE ME IN THE DESERT

Alex Gauthier Alex Gauthier
Stories

Subaru Adventure Team Rides the Grand Junction Off-Road 30 Grand Race

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little bit but there were moments this last Saturday when I felt this way during the Grand Junction Off-Road, a mountain bike race organized by Epic Rides of Tuscon, Arizona.

The four-year-old Grand Junction Off-Road is a mountain bike race set in Grand Junction, Colorado. The race is organized into several events including 15, 30 and 40 mile distances open to riders of all abilities (this explains why I was even allowed to enter!). Additionally, they have professional level racers that compete in a 40 mile distance and multi-lap criterium races. Epic Rides works with the city of Grand Junction to gate off its downtown area to house a variety of non-race activities including live music and a host of sponsor booths.

We found ourselves up early and eager to join the fray in Grand Junction. The weather was on the overcast side with a pleasant temperature. While mountain biking may not be my main sport, I do throughly enjoy riding, especially on my beloved Pivot Mach 4 which has already brought me loads of enjoyment on the shorter rides I’ve done with it. It’s easily the nicest bike I’ve ever owned or maybe will own and I definitely owe Pivot some thanks for building a machine so good that it got a novice like me through one of the most technical mountain bike courses out there.

This year, my fellow Subaru Adventure Team compadre, Bernie Braynard and I decided to try our hand at the 30 mile race. Now, Bernie does a lot of riding. You could easily say it’s his main sport he’s also done lots of races. I, on the other hand am more of a climber. I do a lot of hiking but I don’t do a lot of riding. Prior to this weekend, I’d never been in a race and I’d never been more than 25 miles on a bike. You can definitely see how I thought entering what many would call the most technical mountain bike race in Colorado would be a good life choice. Or maybe you can’t. Okay, even I can’t explain this thought process.

Getting ready to start the GJOR
loading the bike
Colorado National Monument

The first couple miles were on pavement. Our spirits rose as we fell into the rhythm of spinning towards the craggy canyon lands that awaited us. It seemed like there were a lot of spectators along the course near town as we rode out into the Colorado National Monument where the 15, 30 and 40 miles races were staged. The pack was thick at first and the main challenge was maintaining enough speed to surmount the rocky uphill sections amongst all the other riders trying to do the same. This proved impossible for me and I ended up hiking repeatedly. I was unfazed by this since I planned to do plenty of hiking anyway.

After a while the string of riders grew more spread out and I was able to focus more on technique and the rhythm of the course kind of took over in my mind. Climb a section of trail, upshift, downshift, preload the front, unweight the rear, sit down and climb, lean back, ride the drops. It went like this for around 13 miles before the first leg cramps took hold in my thighs. First my left leg, then both. I focused on maintaining fluid intake, eating gels and trying to stand or sit and work the cramps out best I could from the saddle.

lying by sign
After my wreck and during the longest hill ascent of the race. Yeah. Feels GREAT.

At the aid station, I caught up with Bernie who had been a few minutes ahead of me. We recorded a quick video for social media and began to refuel. I spent several minutes trying to massage out my cramps. The scrapes and abrasions all over my body still didn’t hurt, thankfully and I put away about a liter of pickle juice in a desperate measure to banish my cramps. This proved fruitless. As I rolled away from the aid station, Bernie had to stop to address a flat tire. I was moving so slow that we agreed I should go on and let him catch me after the repair. I began a long climb up rocky double track and almost immediately my cramps returned. For the next hour, I would stop every quarter or half mile to massage them but they would plague me all the way to the finish line.

hanging out in Grand Junction
The whole crew hanging out downtown after the race.
Aire couch
We picked up this awesome couch for people to hang out at in our booth.
Andy Suter
The incomparable marketing and sponsorship guy, Andy Suter chills in our booth.
inner tube bursting
Kalen finds his center while Andy Suter tries to burst that tube.

My GJOR Highlights

  • Wrecking spectacularly and walking away mostly fine
  • Getting a shot of honey whiskey from the Drunk Cyclist guys from a giant flask before heading into Andy’s Loop
  • A really long fast downhill section on pavement when I badly needed the rest
  • Completing my first mountain bike race ever with no training!
  • Racing alongside our sponsored riders with The Hub Bike Shop team out of Colorado Springs

Five Questions I Asked Andy Suter

600 total registrants plus an estimated 5,000 or more concert attendees. The event’s participation has grown by 20% two years in a row.

20 staff and 155 volunteers (THANKS VOLUNTEERS -alex)

While the Grand Junction Off-Road course has been called one of the “most technically challenging XC courses in the country” each Epic Rides Off-Road Series course can be, and is enjoyed by riders of hardtails and squishy bikes alike.

Postscript

Overall, it may sound like I really suffered. I certainly did. But one thing you’ll definitely agree with if you’re in my tribe is that suffering is somehow inexplicably a part of what drives us all in this crazy adventure sport lifestyle. Perhaps, it’s proving to ourselves that we can operate outside of our perceived limits. I may never understand why I put myself through this kind of thing but I intend to have a blast while I attempt to figure it out.

See you next year, Grand Junction.

Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier is the head adventure junky for Subaru Adventure Team and part time outdoor adventure photographer. His first love is climbing of any kind but can also be spotted on mountain bike trails or working on building sea kayaks which he may or may not ever get to paddle.
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