Rage in the Sage: 24 Hours of Sweet Gunnison Slick Rock

Posted by piphunt on August 26, 2011 in Adventures of Pip, Where in the World is Pip? |

1 RV, 4 bikes, 5 people, 24 hours of mountain biking and 274 miles of riding and countless calories later, the 2011 Rage in the Rage in the Sage Mountain Bike Race was a success.  The Rage in the Sage is a classic Gunnison/Crested Butte mountain bike race. It’s the only 24 hour mountain bike race in the valley (not to be confused with the 24-hour Townie Take Over in Crested Butte, where locals ride townies across every bridge in town for 24 hours) and not only sports the usual 26er, 29er, single-speed line-up, but is also home to the Townie World Championships, where riders dress in their most outrageous costumes, and bedeck their townies with streamers and windmills to attack the same single-track as those on fully geared 26ers. It’s competitive, fast, and 100% ridiculous.

We packed up an RV on Friday morning and set off on the road, but it was anything but a smooth ride. After a detour to Ikea to pick up a chair for my mum’s rental condo in Crested Butte, we lumbered towards Provo and some serious road construction. The road was a blur of orange cones, cement blocks and cars. Just enough chaos to make us all jump when we heard a loud crashing sound coming from the back of the RV? Was it a suitcase? A Cooler? Beer?

“Um, Jamon? You’re bike is gone,” Greg said, almost flatly. I mean, really, how do you tell someone that their beloved 29er is no longer on the hitch rack? The RV held its breath waiting for Jamon’s response. He made a move to pull over on the non-existent shoulder, and then took the next exit instead. “I bet we can get back to it, hopefully it will still be there,” someone mumbled. I sat in shocked silence. Bike race? No bike? Interstate? Crap.

After looping around through traffic, cones, and road blocks, we pulled over a little bit before we had lost the bike, running up and down the shoulder, searching for any sign of it. Gary walked a few paces behind the RV, stooped, and picked up a couple shards of red metal; a shattered Look pedal. It was all that remained of the ol’ Wet Cat Geometry 29er.  But we didn’t quit.

I got on Twitter and Facebook immediately, asking all Crested Buttians and Gunni folks if they knew anyone with an extra bike, we called the Pugsley crew out of Glenwood Springs, hell, and we called anyone we could think of! It was a matter of minutes before we found another bike, a 29er Single-speed Titanium Vodoo. Almost a better bike that the one we had lost!

The next day was one of calm anticipation. It’s strange to think about riding your bike in continuous circles for many hours. My usual pre-race jitters dissipated into drowsiness. I dreamt of warm, milky coffee and maybe a sweet snack….. wait, I’m meant to be racing right? I should probably wake up a little bit.

Ali and I at the start

Team Cut Throat, complete with a celiac to share all her beer

Ali volunteered me for the Le Monde start, which was definitely a cluster-f. 100 + people with bikes staggered along the fence line, picnic tables, and trees, in a narrow area scarcely large enough for 10 people to run side by side comfortably, let alone run to their bikes, mount them, and pedal away with crashing into anyone. Some ran, some walked, I got caught in the middle and attempted not to trample anyone’s ankles.

The first lap was fast, easy, and fun. I made myself ride in the middle pack so that I wouldn’t burn out of the first lap, but after the pitch of Jack’s Hill in right of the bat, the rest of Hartman’s is filled with undulating, gradual climb, fast descents, and mini technical zones of slick rock. It’s nothing but a good time that demands that you pedal harder, pedal faster, take each banked corner with a  little more speed and pump hard through all the dips in the terrain. Taking it easy is hard when it wants you to challenge the speed of gravity!

I came into the finish faster than Ali anticipated, and I wandered back to our zone to send her out on the singletrack as I set down to snack. Riding is the easy part of these races, eating is the hard part. I made sure I had plenty of options, including a sweet potato salad, Cauliflower salad, Jamon’s birthday cake, dehydrated zucchini chips, peanut butter, bananas, honey, chicken, dates and salted mixed nuts. You never know what you’re body will be craving 6 hours in, and it’s more important you just get something in your body then fuss about its nutritional profile.

I felt strong on the first lap, but when I came back, I just wasn’t hungry. I snacked a little on a couple figs, and a couple bites of potato salad, drank some water, and sat down to enjoy the next hour while Ali would be riding. 45 minutes later, it hit me. Hunger. Not quite ravenous, but definitely starting to growl. I had 15 minutes till I was expecting Ali, maybe 100 extra calories that my body could digest while I was pedaling, and an appetite for at least 500. So what did I do? I definitely ate more than 100 calories, got back on the bike, and instantly felt my belly blocking my breathing, a stitch formed just below my left ribs, and my blood circulation focused on digestion instead of pedaling. To make matters worse, it was the hottest part of the day and the sun beat down on me across the sandy mesa. I felt faint, slightly chilled, and needed to slow down. Awesome. Let’s get heat exhaustion 26 miles into the race. I slowed down, sipped on my water, and focused on making it back to the KOA for some shade and rehydration. Luckily, coconut water, some shade, and the stormy clouds that rolled in made my next lap MUCH better. O, and the fact that I removed myself and my slightly growling belly from the feeding table before I overate again. Yes, calories are important in these races, but you get them through constant feeding, not intermittent binging.

As the night rolled in and Ali and I rode our laps, we realized that we were the only ladies duo, and that the Krankin’ Karaoke Queens were going to have to live up to their name. My night laps took longer than the day laps, everything looks different, corners disappear into darkness, and the slickrock takes on a menacing challenge. As Ali waited my arrival in the start/finish area, the announcers caught-wind of her stellar singing skills, and persuaded her to belt out “I Will Survive”. Seriously, this girl can sing.  She is definitely a krankin karaoke queen, I’m just here for shits, girls, Salt n Pepa and some back up singing. Thank God I was on course!

Our crew ended up finishing the race a little early, Ali and I were both done at midnight (we raced the 12 hour option) and by 7:55, Jamon was in first place for the single-speed division, with the second place finisher already showered and his street clothes. The third place guy was too far behind in laps to catch him in three hours. On a borrowed bike and a different saddle, Jamon had won his division! With a bottle of Cazadores tequila (first place prize!) and a 6 pack of Abita beer, Jamon sipped on redemption before slipping into the RV to catch up on some zzzz’s.

Post-race, not tired at al

We spent the rest of the weekend in Crested Butte visiting old friends, eating, sleeping, and relaxing. I woke up early on Monday to ride 401 with my old friend Kevin Kruse before heading back to Salt Lake City. 401 is a classic Crested Butte ride, with sweeping, fast single-track through wildflower fields, surrounded by high, rusty colored peaks. It’s breathtaking, it’s fast, and it’s a gigglefest. Just like Crested Butte, townie take-overs, and the townie world championships, guaranteed gigglefest.

The top of 401, not a bad view!

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