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.