The Epic Rides race series wraps up with a bang
Words and photos by Stan Lattin
It’s always a big deal for kids when the carnival comes to a small town. When Epic Rides comes to your town they bring a whole three-ring circus for mountain bikers. If you are fortunate enough to be a racer from the western United States, Epic Rides has a three race endurance series near you. It’s a mountain bike party not to be missed, just ask the racers who follow the series from state to state.
The Carson City Off-Road, held June 16-18 in Nevada’s capital was the final race of the three race series with prior events in Prescott, Arizona and Grand Junction, Colorado. The $100.000 pro purse was on the line on Sunday, and the Four Peaks Brewing downtown music festival gave Saturday’s amateur racers a reason to stay in town and catch a unique and amazing pro race the next morning. Many participants and their families were in town several days ahead of time.
This year’s Carson City Off-Road was unique due to an epic snow pack that facilitated a course change. Instead of the more scenic route up into the High Sierra, a smaller loop of the Carson City area trails was used. Those hoping for lake views were out of luck, but singletrack lovers benefited from the addition of the Ash Canyon trail system.
The party kicked off Friday afternoon with the event expo featuring many bike industry vendors, Four Peaks Brewing beer garden and the Capitol 15 fun ride. The 15 mile “fun” ride was more of a race than the name would lead you to believe. Several younger riders took this as their opportunity to test each other as the climb out of town was the same one the pros would climb on Sunday. The leader went down hard off the infamous Creek Trail drop off, but dusted off and went on. The race start in the heat of the afternoon gave the riders an added challenge. The finish line was full of smiles and a lot of youth from NICA teams. The Epic Rides 15 mile fun rides may just turn into a NICA showcase of young talent. The criterium races were next, then Klunker, Ladies pro and Men’s pro.
The criterium course was marked out over 21 city blocks in downtown Carson City. The Klunker criterium – featuring everybody from Joe Average to local celebrities – went out first for three laps of pure fun. The Penny Farthing was a crowd favorite as was the Stan’s No Tubes tricycle, possibly co-piloted by Disco Stu. Local trail advocate Randy Gea put on a strong, literate performance towing the Carson City Pedal Library bike trailer.
The pro women were next and they were fast. This is dangerous racing with high consequences. A fall on this course would definitely not be helpful for any pro hoping to do well on Sunday. The field quickly splintered as the lead pack contained some of the world’s best talent. Local pros who had never clipped in next to Rose Grant and Katarina Nash were heard saying afterwards, “Damn, those girls are fast.” The final podium was Katarina Nash in 1st, Rose Grant in 2nd and Amy Beisel with a strong performance in 3rd.
The men’s race was double the size of the ladies and once again the lead group was world class. Given the high stakes coming up on Sunday, the pace was scary fast and large gaps developed between the lead group and the chasers. Geoff Kabush finished in the lead chased by Todd Wells and hard charging Keegan Swenson in 3rd. Podium Presentations and a riders meeting for Saturday’s race wrapped up the racing for the day. The night would roll on downtown like the mountain bike party it was, but those racing were most likely thinking of the 90 degree plus temps they would be facing the next day.
Saturday morning was warm and most riders started in minimal gear. Most would be at full heart rate and overheating within the first nine uphill miles. Several would choose to cut the three-lap Capitol 50 off at two laps. Those choosing the capitol 35 had a slightly less daunting task, but the first truly hot day of summer had even my friends from Arizona cursing the conditions. The semi-technical and fast singletrack sections caused a surprising number of crashes throughout the day. The finishing area was a testament to the harsh conditions. Sweat, dirt and blood were everywhere you looked as well as huge smiles. Many racers would be back the next day to watch the Pro Men and Women take on the Carson City trails.
The pro race was moved up an hour due to the early summer heat wave. The three laps would prove to be a challenge even to experienced singletrack pros like Carl Decker and Todd Wells. The pro Women on course at the same time were having an extremely tight race and the last lap would be a decisive one for the eventual winner, Rose Grant. She passed runner up Amy Beisel midway on lap three and never looked back. After the finish, Amy was overcome with emotion as she described the “attack” that Rose put on her. The cycling term “attack” makes a lot of sense to me now. Katarina Nash rounded out the top three in the Women’s race. The three-race series champion was also decided and Katarina Nash took the top spot with Amy Beisel 2nd and Evelyn Dong in 3rd .
The men’s race was spread out well by the second lap and mechanicals were biting several riders. Flats would take out series favorite Geoff Kabush, and a broken chainstay would only delay Nic Beechan. After the race many were amazed by his fix using self-fusing silicone tape. When the dust settled Howard Grotts came home 1st with Keegan Swenson just over two minutes behind. Stephen Ettinger put in a hard ride to come in four minutes later in 3rd. The big payday however was the series podium. After three endurance races in three states, Howard Grotts stood tall on the winner’s spot. Kyle Trudeau’s three-race time was 26 minutes behind Grotts’, good for 2nd place and Payson McElveen grabbed 3rd another four minutes back.
The second annual Carson City Off Road was everything I had hoped for and more as a mountain bike enthusiast. I witnessed earnest race promotion, city planning and volunteer participation working together for the benefit of all involved. As these races and trails grow we will all benefit from more epic rides.