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Singletrack heaven | A look back at The Growler

I met a good bud of mine, RSteve, on the street in downtown Boulder yesterday. The guy is a human GPS unit having mentally mapped most of the best Colorado has to ride off road and is a walking lung. A wheel that very few can hold.

“Keller! Dude, why aren’t you writing as much any more?”

Cue in the sad trombone music.

The reality is with everything going on, I just don’t have the time to write…let alone ride.

But I miss it so. Telling stories, ranting, laughing…you know me by now. So, just know I’ll keep trying. And so I am posting. Thanks for re-inspiring me, RSteve!

So with that known…especially the lack of riding part…I headed to one of the most beautiful areas in all of Colorado: Gunnison. A true Western town (yes, I saw horses rambling down Gunnison’s Main Street along with the cars) and home to some great folks like Dave Wiens and wife Susan De Mattei…both institutions of our beautiful sport and the single classiest people you could ever possibly meet. We’ll get to those folks in a moment.

I decided to pull up my big girl panties and zip-tied a number on to my Ahrens 29’er for The Growler… 64 mile (2 x 32 mile laps) of some insane singletrack tied together with fantasmic rock gardens and imagedoubletrack. The Boulder Cycle Sport crew of Brandon Dwight, Pete Webber, their families and myself met up at our home base with the Brown family for the weekend. These guys have known each other for a dog’s year or more so it was great to hear old racing stories and shenanigans.

We prepped bikes the night before…a bunch of kids geeked up on tire  pressure, suspension cush and nutrition. “Are you wearing a camelback? I’m not wearing a camel back. Are you wearing one?”

With the bikes dialed we all woke up at Oh-Dark-Thirty for a 7AM shotgun start to the race. 40 degrees out and it was a careful balance of what to wear before you start hotting up. We did a neutral roll out until we came to the race course area (Hartman Rocks BLA managed open space) where the first thing you experience was a MONSTER climb. The 360 or so participants pretty immediately thinned out with me thankfully making the front 3rd.

From here the day would get…harder. The singletrack imagewas absolutely gorgeous. Buffed and flowy with true berms to rail corners sans brakes. Between these sections of singletrack, you’d hit these insane rock garden sections. For those here in Boulder,  imagine constantly taking on rock challenges like those on the front side of Hall Ranch…both climbing AND descending. Lots of carnage but the Growler folks made it UBER clear that this race is not for the inexperienced.

I’ll make a long story short. An hour and a 1/2 into my first 32 mile lap I develop shifting problems. While I am riding, I start playing with the barrel adjuster to fix it. On a small climb it happened: “PING!” The chain tears off. I pull off to the side of the singeltrack while 100’s of riders zoomed past. I start to use my Crank Bros tool to work the chain. The link is broken so I have to take a few out to try and get ‘er back together. I’m fumbling to get it back together and I lose the pin in the sand. ARRGH! A guy yells at me that neutral service is “right over that hill (in front of me).” So I start my trail run. Bike on back, I start my hike/run. 20 minutes later…still no neutral tent. I then start to mess around again at a trail junction when my friend and savior Jorge comes in after fixing his own issues with his bike. He helps me get the pin in and we’re off. 200ft later: “Ping!”. Chain pops again. Done. I limp it to the tent coasting, etc, and I get help from some great folks. They get me squared away and I finish the day after a lap. In at 4 hours. Awesome. But I’ll be back to ride that insane course again.

Travis and Pete had insane days with a 2nd and 4th respectively. Dubba had a great day even with a torn side wall on his tire, while our Boulder brethren Ward Baker, the Torrance bros, Dave Weber, Rob Batey and Mr. Noyes all drilled it with Mellissa Thomas and Sonya Looney kicking ass in the Woman’s group (motoring past most of the men too mind you).


Afterwards the celebration was absolutely rad. Great people, a full spread of food and beer for the racers and podium celebrations galore. We spent the day there recounting war stories of the race sipping on Mighty Arrow and getting silly on the corn bread and jambalaya. Later that evening our crew convened at a great pub. It turned into a true meeting of old friends and the posse of racers that I so admired when I was racing as a sport in the 90’s: Wiens and wife Susan, Daryl Price and wife Dana, Travis and wife Mary (who raced herself and completed the mission even after a NASTY spill), Pete Webber and wife Sally, Brandon and his new family, etc. Amazing conversations between souls who bleed this sport every day. Whether it is putting on amazing races or making the bikes you ride better, their DNA is in this sport permanently. The part that most don't get to see is that this whole culture *is* their family. Racing and the training…that’s probably a small part of it. It’s about the people they surrounded themselves with all these years that seemed to me to be the draw. The reason to keep going.

image  It’s why I keep coming back too, broken chains and trail runs aside. My friends always seem to be there.

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