becky gardner

Kona at EWS Ainsa Spain

Last weekend members of Kona’s enduro team hit the Spanish countryside for a weekend of heated (literally) enduro racing. With temperatures topping out near 9oF/32C, racers were battling the intense sun, extreme heat, and a whole lot of challenging terrain.

Swede Alexander Kangas finished up the two days of racing with a 46th place.

American Ryan Gardner raced in his first EWS of the season and was amazed by the speed of the pack. Gardner finished in 87th place on the weekend and is looking forward to testing his mettle in the final round in Finale, Italy this weekend.

Becky Gardner, also racing in her first EWS of the season pushed through the heat to end up 28th.

 

Under 21 racer Leah Maunsell of Ireland is fresh out of high school and ready to put the pedals down hard. She finished the weekend with a 2nd place in the U21 class.

 

Next up: Finale Ligure- perhaps the most beloved course on the EWS circuit. Riders are looking forward to the tracks and race. Practice starts tomorrow!

 

 

 

Becky Gardner Scores Two Podiums in Colorado

Becky Gardner had a a great weekend of racing in the high altitude events of the Vail Mountain Games and the FIBARK cross country race. She landed in third in the enduro and scored a victory in the XC event. Congrats Becky!

“For the past few years, the first two weeks in June I have taken a break from DH laps and gravity enduro competitions to compete in two endurance oriented races, The Vail Mountain Games Enduro, and the FIBARK cross country race. I skip the full spandex kit but try and give it my best to compete against some very fit ladies.

 

First up is always The Vail Mountain Games. This event is really cool for me because it is the only race that combines my love of bikes and whitewater sports. My day job is running marketing for a Colorado rafting company, Dvorak Expeditions. So, when I am not on a bike I am on the river rafting, whitewater SUPing or exploring new and amazing rivers and canyons. The Vail Mountain Games brings both these worlds together with tons of whitewater events, bikes, and all sorts of outdoors inspiration. It’s awesome to see such diverse athletes at a single weekend event.

 

Although the atmosphere of the Vail Mountain Games is spot on, the enduro course has always put me out of my comfort zone. The Enduro is located just outside Vail in Eagle Co. The courses are buff, fast, dry, loose, and pedally. Not really the forte of an east coast downhiller, and to top it off the big prize purse brings in a lot of heavy hitters- especially in the cross country world.  But over the years of living in Colorado and training hard on my endurance, the Vail Mountain Games Enduro has become a race I can succeed in.

This year I opted out of practice because of work commitments and showed up the night before the race. I quickly got ready the next morning, picked up my plate, timing chip, ate some food and got on my way to start the race. The first climb takes about an hour to reach the top of stage one which was one of the faster trails of the day. This stage has a few steep pitches, fast and flowy turns, and one major hill in the middle of the track to really make your lungs burn. I finished stage one seamlessly and was sitting in second place which felt awesome since most times my first run of the day is always a little slower than the rest of my stages. We immediately started our transfer to stage two which is a hot, long climb with little shade. Once reaching the top we quickly went onto stage 2 to try and finish our laps before the hottest part of the day arrived. Stage two had the most pedaling of all the stages but I felt strong and tried to really let go in the fast areas trying to gain as many seconds as I could. I pedaled as hard as I could and felt happy with the effort given and went on the repeat the same climb to get to the last two stages of the day. Stage 3 was another awesome lap and I felt confident going into the shortest, easiest, and last stage of the day. Unfortunately for me, I took a corner a little too hard and a rock flew up breaking a spoke into my cassette. I quickly stopped, wrapped the spoke up, and got on my way to finish the run. Luckily I didn’t lose too much time and I ended up sitting in 3rd place at the end of the day. This was my best finish at the Vail Mountain Games Enduro and I can’t wait to keep working hard and get faster.

 

Next up is a race I would never have thought I would enjoy competing in, the FIBARK Cross Country race. This race is held on my local trails in Salida, Co. It’s also held during the busiest weekend of the year in my town which for me means working long days and nights. I showed up to the race a few minutes beforehand after catching up on some much-needed sleep and went straight into the start gate. Before I knew it the race started and we were on our way! I thought I had a great start and was feeling confident in my fitness but then I noticed a lady pulling way ahead of me up the fire road start. She looked strong and I knew I couldn’t pedal that hard or I would be spent in a few miles. So I let her go and I kept a solid pace for the first 20 minutes. Once we reached the trail I felt on fire, I was riding fast, taking clean lines and felt like I could go forever. Finally, I reached the woman that seemed impossible to catch. I passed her in a rock section and kept pedaling as hard as I could. I wanted to get as far ahead as possible because I knew on lap 2 she could catch me on the uphill. I charged my way through lap 1 and went on the lap 2 with no one in sight. I finished the race in first place and minutes faster than last year. Although the downhiller in me is laughing I am really stoked how far my fitness has come and I’m excited to see the benefits of it in my DH and Enduro racing!”

 

Becky Gardner Finishes Salida 720 12 Hour Solo!

Kona Rider Becky Gardner recently completed her first 12-hour solo race aboard her Process in Salida, Colorado at the Salida 720. She was the only female solo finisher! Congrats Becky! Check out her race report below.

 

After a few weeks of racing, riding, and traveling around Northern California I finally made the trip back to Salida, Colorado where I call home for the majority of the year. Although Salida is home to countless amazing biking trails, we rarely see many races taking place on the amazing terrain. Except for this year, thanks to my friend Keith Darner of Chocolate Bunny Productions, Salida was to host its first 12-hour race on Cinco De Mayo called the Salida 720. The race uses Salida’s S Mountain trails system which is jammed packed of technical, rocky, and loose terrain, making it far more technical than most other 12 hour races. Being primarily a downhill racer most my life, the thought of doing a 12-hour race was terrifying to me, but I put fear aside and decided I was going to participate in the local event anyways. To really top off my 12-hour experience I decided to push my limits and to do the race solo!

Getting hooked into a last minute surf/bike trip to Santa Barbara, I showed up from my month-long California trip the day before the race started which didn’t give me much time to prepare. I had just enough time to quickly get my bike tuned as well as I could and try to get a good night’s sleep before the long event started. My mechanic and beastly single speed endurance racer friend, Andrea gave me some advice saying to just ride slow and take my time.

The morning of the race 130 plus racers lined up on Salida’s F Street Bridge ready for a good old fashion Le Mans start. As the whistle blew and we ran to our bikes at 7 am, I remember Andrea’s words and tried to get in the back of the pack. This was almost more mentally harder than riding for 12 hours straight. Being a competitive person I had to let people pass me as I watched them charge up the hill into the trails. I had to tame my inner competitive nature and let it go as I took my time up the hill. In a 12 hour race, a majority of the people are on teams of 2,3, or 4. These people will be doing only a couple laps as they relay with their partner while the solo riders will be riding all day alone. Throughout the long tiring day, you’re passed by fresh riders doing their first lap of the day.

 

The start of the race did not go ideally as a few minutes into the race as I started climbing I realized that the cassette on my bike was not working like it should. I had two working gears and was forced to ride the 15-mile course as a single speed. Luckily my awesome boyfriend who was filming at the race got someone to bring a spare wheel to the bike to the shop, and after my second lap of single speeding I was able to swap out wheels and was dialed for the rest of the race.

 

I was feeling good on the bike and was having way more fun than I thought I would. Usually only participating in races that you’re sprinting the entire time it is nice to do a race that allows you to pedal at a reasonable pace. That is until I got into lap 4. This was around mile 50 when Colorado’s intense afternoon sun decided to beat down on us. I slowly finished my lap and was 100% convinced I was done for the day. I sat down at my pit, tired and beat from the day, my friends and other participants tried to convince me that I should be super proud of how much I had ridden. I wasn’t satisfied and I knew I wanted to do another lap and finish the race strong but I just wasn’t sure I could make it happen. And just in the nick of time, some local Salida shredding galpals showed up and gave me a little pep talk and I knew I could get it done. So I headed out at 5 pm for my 5th and last lap of the day. To my surprise, this lap was the easiest of the day! Turns out after a while your body stops trying to convince you to stop, and I finished the day with ease.

After riding from 7 am to 7 pm I finished the day up being the only woman to do the race solo and completed 5 laps which is about 75 miles of technical single track- definitely the most techy trail I have ever ridden in a day. Three years ago I was strictly racing downhill and now I am competing in 12 hour races as a solo athlete…. Times sure have changed!

All photos by Curtis Gillen.

Ryan Gardner reports from Mexico’s Trans Puerto Vallarta

With the major portion of the enduro race season still a few months away but a month or two of training already on the books, Becky and I decided to head south for a few days and check out the Trans Puerto Vallarta. The Trans PV was new this year and included some awesome trails we had already ridden in the little mountain town of Mascota Mexico. We were also treated to some new trails in San Sabastian and mountains surrounding Puerta Vallarta. The whole race took four days with travel to Mascota and included 15 special stages. It was the perfect opportunity to test new bikes, dial in suspension, and shake off the cobwebs from a few months away from racing. Plus, it’s hard to say no to warm temps, tacos, and those chill Mexican vibes.

After flying into PV we built up bikes including my brand new Process 153 29”. I only had one day on this monster before I crammed its big wheels into my Evoc bag, but I had already set a few PR’s on my home trails. This bike breathes fire.

 

After a bike building session, 5-6 tacos, and a margarita (It’s ok to go full gringo) we were off to bed and excited to travel to San Sabastian the next day.

 

The trails of San Sabastian (and neighboring Mascota) are old. Really old. Most of the trails we raced are leftover mining trails and roads from the 1700’s. Even the estate where we camped for the first two nights was built sometime around 1750 and was the center of gold and other mineral mining for the surrounding areas. From here, mules carried the valuable metals down to the Puerto Vallarta so they could be exported. From these ancient paths, the riders of Mexico have reclaimed (sometimes very) narrow single tracks. This, coupled with the dry season, made for some exiting blind racing as riders struggled to find speed, traction, and flow throughout the day. Ryan had a solid day placing second behind good friend and training partner Cory Sullivan by just one second, and ahead of the rest of the field by over 30 seconds. Becky crushed the first four stages before taking a big crash, splitting her knee open, and taking a stem to the sternum. Even with the crash, she finished the day in first place.

Once back to camp, riders were treated to cervecas and a mountain of carnitas. This particular combination results in near instantaneous sleep. Not even the snoring of racers and barking of extremely photogenic Mexican dogs could keep us awake.

Day two of racing saw us move to the steep and fast trails of Mascota. The tracks here are varied and include some wide open sections, some incredibly tight switchbacks, and some pretty gnarly rock gardens. It was in the latter that I made a critical error. My Process 153 had been egging me on all day, seemingly frustrated by my pace. The whole bike comes alive at speed and it’s a constant battle to keep things under control on a trail you have never ridden. I got just a little too excited in one gnarly rock garden and instead of rolling a 4ft boulder, I pulled up and hucked out towards a side hill hoping to keep some speed. Unfortunately, I landed juuuuust a bit to the right and clipped a knife-edged rock which put a 2.5-inch slice in my tough casing WTB vigilante. It was an immediate flat for me and a 30-minute time loss as I finagled a fix to get me back to town. After some Mexican ingenuity and the incredible durability of my Vigilante, I was able to get it patched up and win 3 of the 4 remaining stages including a super tight trail on which my “dinosaur bike” was supposed to be slow.

 

Becky, denouncing stitches which would have taken her out of the race, soldiered on to the amazement of everyone in the field. Rocking last season’s Process 134 and fueled by ice cream stops and adorable Mexican puppies, she rallied through the day only losing one spot on the timesheet by day’s end.


That night we set up camp at a beautiful ranch outside Mascota. There was only one cold shower, but the home-cooked food and late night pizza delivery made up for it. Talking that evening with friend and event promoter Alvaro Gutierrez Leal, he confided that the next morning’s transfer to the stages was what he was most worried about. It was a three-hour drive through 4×4 roads, in two-wheel drive Toyota vans. Turns out he was right. After a few sketchy river crossings and putting some serious wear on the clutch plate, we arrived in the coastal mountains above Puerto Vallarta.
Where the first two days were loose, these trails were on another level of negative traction. No front breaking here. Every stage of the day was wide open with almost no traction, some sand, and scary off-camber corners. We were also given some “Mexican surprises,” like a trail that enters a backyard, loops around a house, and then exits through the front gate. A flock of chickens presented a few opportunities for nose-bawks.

After finishing on a steep and sandy track known as El Scorpion we gathered together for a chill ride back to the ocean, buckets of beers, more tacos, and a bit of Raicilla (the traditional liquor Mascota made from wild agave and brewed in backyard stills). Due to the tire fiasco, Ryan finished off the podium. Becky finished the race in second place, injury and all!

 

 

Photos by Nico Switalski

Words by Ryan Gardner

 

 

5 Girls That Shred – Featuring Kona Super Grassroots Rider Becky Gardner

OutThere Colorado has recently started a five-part series focusing on women in the outdoor industry, one of which being Kona Super Grassroots rider Becky Gardner.

“Over the course of five weeks, OutThere Colorado’s ‘Girls that Shred’ series will profile five women with roots in Colorado who have made a lifestyle out of outdoor adventure. From climbing to mountaineering, snowboarding to mountain biking, these five women are out there kicking butt on a daily basis. OutThere Colorado is so excited to showcase women who make strong beautiful everyday and who are beautiful in their strength.”

Head over to OutThere Colorado to read up on the project.

Third times a charm. Becky Gardner’s Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals report.

Last weekend I traveled with Fort Lewis College to Snowshoe Mountain located in West Virginia. It took three flights and a three hour drive but the twenty-something of us made it to the mountain late Wednesday night.  Growing up on the east coast and enjoying the rowdy and rocky nature of the courses which play to my strengths, left me in anticipation for the weekends race.

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All Photos: Max Thilen

The next day we walked the course and to my surprise we were given a relatively smooth track with a massive pedal section that appeared to be much faster and less technical than most east coast courses I’ve encountered. Although at first glance the course seemed easy, Fridays practice showed us just how tricky the fast paced track was once you were up to speed.

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Quick turns and fast straightaways had everyone feeling pretty awkward and slow. I told myself to take it easy in seeding later that day and just see where my time would put me. My seeding run went smooth and as planned with a couple encounters from other racers, but still put me in the top spot going into race day. 

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Saturday’s downhill race was late in the day and the gloomy sky showed signs of rain. However the trails stayed dry and my run went as planned as I came down in 1st landing my third National Downhill title. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to race and attend Fort Lewis College and I’m stoked on being the National DH Champion for three years in a row. However my achievement wasn’t the only highlight of the weekend, the rest of the team crushed it in their events as well giving us the overall team win and crowning Fort Lewis College as the Division I National Champions. 

You can follow Becky on her Blog here.