The 13th edition of the acclaimed Whiskey Off Road took place in Prescott, AZ over the weekend of April 29th-May 1st. The tradition for a 13th anniversary is lace and lingerie, which may have been fitting for the start-line on start line on Whiskey Row had it been any year between the late 1800s to the 1950s. It used to be a famous red-light district. But no, this was 2016 and none of that was on hand, unless you counted lycra bib shorts and those nearly-see-through race jerseys. Rather, it was just a small band of cowboys with shotguns, whose blast signaled the start for 1,800 mountain bikers to embark on a testing 50-mile race around the high desert. Amongst those mountain bikers were our very own Kona Endurance Team crew of Barry Wicks, Kris Sneddon, and Spencer Paxson
Many had traveled with bike and flasks in hand to the high desert trail mecca for the first of a 3-race series put on by Epic Rides. The other two races will take place in Grand Junction, CO and Carson City, NV in May and June, respectively. Todd Sadow, President and visionary of Epic Rides, along with his hard-working crew, have organized a distinguished series for 2016 with a whopping $100,000 cash purse for the Pro field. There is nothing else like it in the States, or anywhere else for that matter. Many say the Epic Rides series is the reawakening of American mountain bike racing, bringing the combination of recognizable prestige, festival atmosphere, substantial money, destination riding, and community for pros and amateurs alike, all of which has waned since the early 2000s. Others say that these Epic Rides events are to American mountain bike racing what the “spring classics” are to European road racing. An elastic analogy perhaps, but considering the names who have stood atop the podium over the years – National Champions, Olympians, World Champions – these races are undoubtedly prestigious.
So with that, bottoms up to team rider Spencer Paxson who, fresh off the plane from the World Cup opener in Cairns, Australia, animated the front of the race all day against eventual race winner Howard Grotts and perennial champ Todd Wells. Spencer chugged his way across the line in 5th and into a good chunk of the $30,000 price money. It is very likely that his teammate Barry Wicks,would have been right there, too, with all the fitness from his 600-mile bike packing adventure in early April settled into his legs. But it came to pass that Barry suffered the fateful influence of the 13th year, taken out of contention by a mechanical early in the race and forced to chase the rest of the day. Kris Sneddon, dealing with a case of the “black lung”, may not have been the fastest on the day, but put forth a good example of the dogged persistence he is known for.
Up next for the Endurance Team is the second stop of the Epic Rides Series in Grand Junction, Colorado, where Barry and Kris will brave the rugged sandstone cliffs and canyons in search of a top spot. Meanwhile, Spencer will be headed overseas to Rounds 2 and 3 of the World Cup in Germany and France.
*The boys ran their carbon Hei Hei Race DLs equipped with MRP Loop front suspension, Shimano XTR 1×11 drivetrains and Maxxis tires.