Let me start by saying this: Yum. An absolutely delectable Sunday up in the mountains with the family and Colorado cross community up in Estes Park, one of Colorado’s most scenic regions. You realize you are nowhere else but the Rocky Mountains when you simply pan around and take it all in…Long’s Peak providing a backdrop that you simply can’t get anywhere else in the world next to a cross course. Aspen Lodge CX was the second stop of the Colorado Cup and it was an epic affair leaving an amazingly good taste in my mouth. We raced at 9,100 feet above sea level and on a course that I will assuredly have dreams about for months to come. It was a good old fashioned ‘cross deigned to be straight up hard. Event Organizer Chris Grealish of DBC Events and course designer Joe DePaemelaere (of Primus Mootry) put together what in my opinion was something special and fun.
First things first: The course. Joe D used the land surrounding the Aspen Lodge very interestingly. I heard so much bitching and complaining when I got there, I had to see it for myself so I set off the pre-ride with my 8 year old. Yes, it was hard. Yes, it was bumpy. Get over it. I am not saying ‘be happy with what you’re given’. What I am saying is that it was epically challenging and had you absolutely staying on your toes every meter. It had everything from steep hard pitches to technical features like loose gravel turns taken at speed to beach sand, railroad tie run ups and rock gardens that you needed to ensure you nailed lines through. Yes a kid on a 29’er won the Men’s Open race. So perhaps feature-izing the course a bit more to prevent ride-ability could have been implemented, but…
Oh wait. That’s what they said about Sven Nijs in 1998 when he started KILLING all the Elites with his bunny hopping antics. And what did they do: Removed barriers and made many of the courses grass crits to ‘equalize’ the racing.
Aspen Lodge was a FRIGGING RAD course and I am sorry many racers had tire issues (flats, burps, etc) through the day. That is all part of the challenge and as a new course, we’ve learned and I’ll be back. The last thing I’ll say and end my diatribe: It was Colorado Cross Cup worthy. The course is one dimension in my opinion to getting a Cross Cup label. The course, combined with facilities, registration process, accessibility, were all professional. Parking was an issue but if people realized there was a big lot 200m up the road, that would have been a good improvement (note to DBC: Ensure parking up the road is well marked next year).
And by the way, my 8 year old said his race was ‘super fun!’…and I think these munchkins had it INFINITELY harder than any of us.
Let me get to the action.
My son and I pre-rode Joe’s course together. I tried Dugast Typhoons at low PSI, but switched to Rhinos immediately. It was a course that needed lots of ‘cush’ and tread. I let air out of Aiden’s little tires too! I pointed out all the gotchas to him and when it came to race time, he remembered it ALL. Impressive.
Aiden and Dad pre-riding. Photo by Neal Rogers
Aiden’s Race was SICK! Probably (no embellishment) the best race of the day. His race started by getting taken out from behind and having to jump on and drill it from DFL through the pack of juniors. He pushed all the way past the group of 8/9’s (and some 10/12’s!) with his teammate Vin Hludzinski from Boulder Cycle Sport to catch a strong Oliver Hart, pass him and made a push to win the race! Oliver CLAWED his way back to nip Aiden in a sprint! Amazing race and I am so impressed with these kids.
On to the big boys. The 35 A’s had a great field. It was a Cup race so all the fellas came out to play of course. My goal was to not pull a ‘Frisco’ and get blown out in the first lap (‘show up and blow up as Hogan says…) due to altitude. I lined up 2nd row and this would ensure I just chilled for the first lap or two and watched. From the gun, Ward was off the front driving the pace hard. As you can see in this video below from Rod Yoder’s ‘gun turret’ camera, we all almost got flattened by the Finish line ‘inflatable!’ (OK, Chris, maybe fix that next year, ha!). The inflatable was gone by the second lap. Watch Rod’s account of the first lap…and note when the split happens in the first lap due to a crash on the beach. I picked up the bike and just ran to stay connected to the lead group who I KNEW would be drilling it when they heard the commotion behind. Shit, I would have! Ha!
More vantages of our race by Dale Riley (visit his site Crossin’ Colorado!) of the first lap and Ward pushing the pace hard from the gun. This is seconds after coming underneath the falling inflatable.
Dale’s video shows off some of the course features here. The hay bales below should have been replaced by a proper set of boards…but this was a last minute need by the ACA officials so I think they literally grabbed these from the horse stables! Boards next year…
The race was one of attrition. Just stay focused the whole time on what you are doing within YOUR race. I pushed hard and stayed with my buddy Rob Batey in the 2nd chase group for the WHOLE race. The first 5 guys including Ward, Michael Robson, my team mates Timmy Faia and Mark Wisner and Moot’s Glen Light were gone literally after that gap appeared in Lap 1. There was a lot of commotion going on with crashes but Robson and Ward were aggressive and pushing themselves super hard. No one was going to grab them.
Epic scenery with Long’s Peak in the background.
Batey and I traded turns lap after lap but we couldn’t get anyone back. He and I pushed it in the last lap, drilling it super hard. I could not claw back his 20 meters as he was staying super smooth (nice work Rob!). I was satisfied on the day with 7th, holding smooth myself the whole race. Never ONCE did my Rhinos un-hook and I stayed composed, did not worry too much about the gap in front and kept it together to make it hard for anyone behind to claw back. I simply drove my bike and flowed the course…and I was satisfied.
We have a double header coming this weekend I am REALLY looking forward to. Blue Sky’s Xilinx race and Brian’s ‘Bowl of Death’ at the Louisville Rec Center.
We just need some weather.