Kona Endurance Team Racer Barry Wicks and the Party-to-Race-Ratio at Grinduro

Words by Barry Wicks, photos courtesy of Colin Meagher and Dain Zaffke.

Only in its second year on the docket, the Grinduro event has generated heaps of hype. And for good reason. A throw-back type of event that captures the stoke and excitement of the mid-’90s MTB scene, updated with all the current hashtag worthy disciplines of enduro and gravel racing, Grinduro still manages to not take itself too seriously and deliver in spades.

dz1_2097-3Dain Zaffke

After stressing out for the past year on bike/bar/tire/whatpressureyourunning? decisions, I went for broke and slapped a flat bar and modified 1x MTB drivetrain on my Jake frame, stuffed as big of rubber as I could in it and headed for the hills.

Grinduro 2016Colin Meagher

As the defending champion, I felt compelled to put in a good showing, but at the same time to remain true to the spirit of the event and its Party-to-Race-Ratio creed. Since the consensus around camp was that I failed on the party front last year, I doubled down and brought my hip hop dancing phenom and life partner Sarah “Dr. J” Robinson along this year for good measure.

Our Sprinter van clattered into the Plumas County fairgrounds late Friday afternoon, and after slapping various high fives and tolerating many podium-related heckles, I tossed a tall boy in my bottle cage and headed out for a dusk lap of the first and last stages on the course with my friend Carl Decker.

grinduro_2016_044Grinduro

Race morning was cold as balls. I decided to wear a long sleeve skinsuit, partly in an ironic tribute to my CX roots and partially because I feel like a super hero in one. It was the right choice. As the group climbed the steep pitches of Mt. Hough towards the first hill climb stage, informal pacts were made amongst the riders, and tactics were sorted out.

My plan was to ride with three close friends who also happen to be total badasses, and hope our collective efforts would separate us from the rest of the pack. We figured the hill climb and final singletrack stage would more than separate our small band of compatriots, and that we had more to gain than lose by working together in the middle two stages.

grinduro_2016_094Grinduro

Everything cruised along swimmingly, and stage two ended up being the most fun of the day. Blasting down a gravel road descent in full attack mode with three of your good friends is arguably how mountain biking started in the first place, and for good reason. Attacking out of each gravel corner, trying to out-brake your opponents and come inside them while not flying off the road and/or crashing, and laughing the whole way down was a recipe for success. Our time on stage two was the fastest of the day, and with an inconsequential stage three pace line with 30 other people, things where looking up and we ground up the final hour long suffer fest to the top of the final stage.

Grinduro 2016Colin Meagher

The fourth and final stage of Grinduro is a 12-minute singletrack shredathon, perfect crafted for getting very rowdy on a cyclocross bike. I anticipated having a slight advantage with my flat bars and big rubber, but Carl had one upped me and choose to ride a rigid 29” MTB with even bigger tires. I sent it down the track with everything I had, but I would end up coming up a few seconds short.

Grinduro 2016Colin Meagher

With the time gained on the first stage, Geoff Kabush was able to nab second place, eeking four seconds out of Carl in third, while I sat another twelve seconds behind that in fourth. We all got made a fool of by Duncan Riffle though, who crushed the course and put a solid 30 seconds into us, riding the final stage faster than anyone else all day, all on a CX bike with narrow rubber. Very impressive.

dz1_3742-163Dain Zaffke

Determined to rally for the dance party and music show that evening, I hopped in the shower, ate a ton of food, and promptly fell asleep. When my eyes finally flickered open the sun was setting, and the party was just getting started. I headed out with Dr. J to tear up the dance floor into the wee hours of the morning. Even though I didn’t win the event like last year, I’m pretty sure my #partytoraceratio was on point and I had an awesome time. I can’t wait for when we get to do it all over again. I wonder what bike setup I will come up with for next year?