With all my base done in 8 days on the Colorado Trail I spent the next 2.5 weeks sharpening the axe in anticipation for the Pikes Peak Apex MTB Stage Race right in the heart of Colorado Springs!
The race consisted of 4 days a TT start, followed by 2 days of marathon XC on the surrounding dirt roads/trials, and the final stage was a proper XC race.
The TT was in Palmer Park, an in town trail system with more rocks than you can shake a stick at and enough turns to make you dizzy after 3 miles. The 11.3 mile loop didn’t boast much climbing but there were some punchy rocky ups that left you gasses as a lot of the trail took a full body workout to navigate. Smooth was fast on this track and there was a fine line between pushing too hard and not pushing hard enough.
I was excited to open the race with this stage because I felt I had the best chance at a good result. The rest of the stages had a bunch of climbing, which isn’t really my forte, especially stages 2/3 which started with a 90+min climb! The Palmer TT was very CX effort oriented.
I ended up 2nd by 2 seconds! That’s the difference between one blown turn and a dab in a tech section…
I went into stage 2 with an open mind. We started in Garden Of The Gods and immediately climbed from there. It was 12.5 miles to the top of Rampart Range Rd. Dudes that didn’t get the result they wanted at Palmer seemed to be out for redemption because bombs were being dropped immediately and I was blown away with how hard it started considering we had over an hour of climbing ahead of us.
Inevitably guys blew up, groups formed, and more guys blew up. I tried to maintain a pace I knew I could hold for an hour but also keeping in mind that at the top we had 6 miles of rolling dirt road over to the Rampart Reservoir. We did an hour lap around it’s undulating shores then came back that same 6 miles-to-finish.
You guessed it. Some guys who sent the climb didn’t save enough for the demands that the reservoir had in store so I ended up passing a bunch of people there. And man it was beautiful! The Aspens were popping off around the reservoir. Then we rallied in a group to the finish.
I lost a ton of time here but I knew that was going to happen. Overall I was happy with how I road and I paced myself accordingly. I finished stage 2 10th in GC. Another similar climbing day loomed on stage 3.
Every stage we were able to ride to the start to. This stage only took 15min of easy pedaling! It was cool taking home town advantage in a race where I didn’t live. From bear creek park we took some walking paths up to Gold Camp and then stayed on it until it t’d into Old Stage. This was a 3% railroad grade on a pretty soft, sandy, surface. Drafting was definitely at play here but it was still tough because the ground was so soft. The front group got away again but a smaller group formed behind it and I settled in for the long haul.
This climb was going to take damn near 2hrs so I was doing my best to conserve energy. Not only was the length of the climb daunting, 21.5 miles to the top, but we topped out at 103k feet so it only got harder and harder as we got further and further along.
My group split at the top when we finally went from road to single track. Then the fun began. Off the top of Jones Park it was 26min of fully pinned DH all the way to the finish. Man it was a blast rallying my Hei Hei that long. It almost made the climb worth it… almost.
I lost a spot in GC an fell to 11th with 12th 30seconds back. There were some other GC shake ups at the front of the race so the last day was going to be an interesting and painful one.
Same start spot for day 4 but instead of walking path we hit single track sooner so right from the line the pace was higher as everyone was jockeying for position. The single track spit us out on rd right at the base of High Drive, a 15min full gas dirt road climb.
Again I settle in at my own pace. I watched the 12th place guy ride away but also noticed another guy higher up in GC was struggling so I had some motivation to keep moving. We summited high drive and I ripped down captain jacks for the first time, crossed Gold Camp rd and started climbing up Columbine to the upper Gold Camp Parking lot. From there it was one more climb, up Buckhorn. Then we hit captain jack’s again, this time all the way from the top, where there were fireball shots, which I neglected to notice.
The stage took only 90 min but dang it was fast. We were done by 9:30am! I maintained my 11th in GC and came away from the race happy with how I rode. I can’t remember the last time I climbed that hard for that long and to do it at altitude and not blow up was a positive. Obviously, I would have liked a higher placing, which would have meant more prize money but regardless it was good training for the potentially upcoming CX season.