Matt Niswonger

ASJ co-founder / Editor-in-Chief earns his spike

By Matt Niswonger

Carson City Off-Road 2018

Riders race the iconic Flume Trail high above Lake Tahoe. Photo: Brenda Ernst

I WAS EXCITED TO SPEND FATHER’S DAY at the third annual Epic Rides Carson City Off-Road mountain bike festival. In past years, I worked the event to represent Adventure Sports Journal and cheer on all the racers, but this year was different. This year I chose to step up and attempt to complete the burly race myself and earn a coveted silver railroad spike — a personalized Nevada themed trophy that goes to all finishers.

The weather was perfect as we left downtown Carson City to begin our initial climb. I put my bike into granny gear and settled in for the long haul. Personally there were no illusions of grandeur. Even though some pretty impressive athletes surrounded me, my goal was simply to finish the race, and to do that I would need to beat the cutoff time of three hours to Spooner Lake.

To be clear, the Capital 35 is the easiest way to earn a spike. The flagship race of the event is the Capital 50, a much harder endeavor I am told. Still, the Capital 35 requires over 5,000 feet of climbing at altitudes of 8,500 feet in some places. To earn a spike you must basically race from Carson City to Lake Tahoe’s iconic Flume Trail and back … on dirt. That’s an incredibly robust undertaking, to put it lightly.

At either end of the amateur race spectrum there exists a kind of highly competitive bike athlete. At the front of the race you have serious competitors who are jockeying for a possible position on the podium. At the back of the race you have people like me who are just trying to make the cutoff times and avoid the dreaded “DNF.”

I applaud the stalwarts in the first group who can finish an epic journey like the Carson City Off-Road in about four hours, but the real fun is at the back of the race. For this group it’s all about digging deep into the pain cave and riding from Carson City to Tahoe and back in under eight hours. Of course, eight hours is just an arbitrary number. The real official cutoff location is near Spooner Lake where racers must pass the aid station in less than three hours, but if you are working hard to make the Spooner cutoff (as I was), you will most likely complete the Capital 35 in seven to eight hours and be very saddle sore (as I was).

There is about 5,000 feet of climbing in the Capital 35 and it is closer to 40 miles in length. If you are an occasional mountain biker like me (coming from sea level and just hoping to finish the race), the climbing will be your biggest obstacle hands down. Overall your best strategy is to ride 95% of the hills and just walk the rest. There are some uphill sections that get so steep it’s almost as fast to walk your bike and this strategy of walking your bike up the very worst climbing sections saves energy overall. My advice is try to climb everything in the saddle but don’t be disappointed when you must walk your bike.

There is one very short sketchy section on the Flume Trail where you could fall off a cliff if you weren’t paying attention, but it is clearly marked and everyone just walks his or her bike on this part. The rest of the descending is fairly tame, but grabbing extra brake when you are tired is a good policy for those of us in the “just trying to finish” category.

The last ten miles were pretty much all downhill. Avoid the mistake of going too fast on the endless powdery dirt road towards the end. I heard stories of racers going from tenth place to fourth place on this section, but the road is rutted, slippery, and very fast so be warned.

Crossing the finish line at the CCOR was a proud moment. The crowds were cheering supportively even though I came in hours behind the leaders. It was one of the hardest days I have ever spent on a bike and also one of the most beautiful. My coveted silver spike is in a special place on my dresser, something to be proud of. In a word, the whole experience was epic.

Hanging out in the Adventure Sports Journal booth after the race was fun. I had earned my beer and now it was time to just hang out and relax. I get to go to many inspiring races and events as part of the ASJ Roadshow, but rarely do I get to participate and experience the actual race.

During the after party I was actually too exhausted to dance very much, but the band sounded terrific. By nine o’clock my eyelids started feeling heavy and it was time to stumble off to bed with a smile on my face. The last thing I did before I fell asleep was hold my silver spike and read the words, “Capital 35 finisher.” Was I strong enough to finish the Capital 50? Not this year but maybe next. If I can just beat the cutoff time anything is possible …

Carson City Off-Road Race Report

ASJ booth photo by Matt Niswonger. Huge thanks to the ASJ Road Show 2018 sponsors: Wenzel, ENO, HydraPak, Crazy Creek and Mountain House.

Carson City Off-Road 2018 fun facts, results, and official event photos by Brenda Ernst

The 3rd Annual Carson City Off-Road was Round 3 of the popular Epic Rides Off-Road Series. The event took place in Carson City, NV June 15-17, 2018 and raised funds for Muscle Powered, Nevada Interscholastic Cycling League, Boys and Girls Club of Western Nevada, Tahoe Rim Trail Association, Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association.

By the numbers

906: registered riders
9: age of the youngest registered Capital 15 rider (Charles Thomas of Reno, NV)
13: age of the youngest registered Capital 35 rider (Kit Kuhns of Reno, NV)
14: age of the youngest registered Capital 50 rider (Christian Yergler of Cool, CA)
78: age of the oldest registered Capital 15 rider (John Coulombe of Little River, CA)
68: age of the oldest Capital 35 rider (Steve Becker of Prescott, AZ)
66: age of the oldest Capital 50 rider (Richard Latorraca of Capitola, CA)
10: countries represented (Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Scotland, Spain, United Kingdom, United States)
22: United States represented

First Place Pro Results

El Yucateco Pro Fat Tire Crit First Place

Pro Men: Tristan Uhl – Giant Co-Factory – #12
Pro Women: Chloe Woodruff – Stan’s NoTubes, Pivot Cycles, Maxxis Tires, ASSOS, Shimano, Natural Delights – #15

Backcountry Pro Podium

Pro Men
1st Benjamin Sonntag – CLIF Bar, Niner Bikes, Stan’s NoTubes, Maxxis Tires – #6 – 03:34:35
2nd Keegan Swenson – Stan’s NoTubes, Maxxis Tires, Pivot Cycles – #14 – 03:34:36
3rd Howard Grotts – Specialized Racing – #1 – 03:34:52
4th Russell Finsterwald – Team CLIF, Groove Subaru, ODI Grips, Union Sport – #2 – 03:34:52
5th Ryan Standish – Merida Bikes Australia – #4 – 03:37:10

Pro Women
1st Chloe Woodruff – Stan’s NoTubes, Pivot Cycles, Maxxis Tires, ASSOS, Shimano, Natural Delights – #15 – 04:15:11
2nd Katerina Nash – Clif Pro Team – #38 – 04:16:07
3rd Evelyn Dong – Spry Cycles, Stan’s NoTubes, POC, Maxxis Tires, SR Suntour, Carbo Rocket – #2 – 04:19:37
4th Larissa Connors – Sho-Air – #4 – 04:23:37
5th Crystal Anthony – Liv Cycling – #3 – 04:26:29

First Place Amateur Results

Amateur Capital 35

Capital 35 Single Speed Male: Christian Mannsfeld – #1076 – 04:34:02
Capital 35 Junior Male: Ried Indart – #1040 – 03:48:08
Capital 35 Junior Female: Kate Indart – #1042 – 04:30:40
Capital 35 Women’s Open: Julie Baker – #1068 – 04:00:21
Capital 35 Men’s Open: Ciro Zarate – #1242 -03:32:09
Capital 35 Men’s Masters: Sean Hahn – #1252 – 03:42:05
Capital 35 Women’s Masters: Paige Galeoto – #1035 – 04:40:03
Capital 35 Men’s Distinguished: Jordon Swenson – #1227 – 04:11:24
Capital 35 Women’s Distinguished: Debbie Hakansson – #1077 – 04:36:06

Amateur Capital 50

Capitol 50 Single Speed Male: Chris Heinrich – #158 – 04:41:51
Capital 50 Single Speed Female: Julie Young – #205 – 04:55:49
Capital 50 Junior Male: Truman Glasgow – #371 – 04:13:28
Capital 50 Women’s Open: Mari Chandler – #374 – 05:13:28
Capital 50 Men’s Open: Spencer Powlison – #222 – 04:06:02
Capital 50 Men’s Masters: Mike Donahue – #170 – 04:08:36
Capital 50 Women’s Masters: Kathy Cervantez – #300 – 05:35:11
Capital 50 Men’s Distinguished: Joseph Brubaker – #359 – 04:53:15

For a complete list of participants, results, series standings and other information, please visit