It's been a very long time since I've updated. Since the last event of 2013, the 100-miler in Costa Rica, I have been getting through another winter in the Vail Valley. With nearly 5 feet of snow touching the ground here in Eagle, CO, backcountry xc skiing was the name of the game this winter. In addition to the long ski days, I have been getting in some 1 hr days on the trainer.
With the longer winters here in the CO high country, to motivate for the season, I eyed the True Grit 100 in St. George, UT. The TG100 is the opener of the National Ultra Series and the kick off for most riders. I knew this race would be difficult, as it is very technical from start to finish. In preparation for the event, I did a handful of 3-day training camps in St. George and Moab in Feb and in March. Coming out of both of those camps I felt I was more than ready to take on the TG100.
Going into the race, I felt physically ready to have a good race. Mentally I was excited to race! I knew the course, as I had pre-rode it in Feb. I chose to ride my Canyon Nerve AL 29er full suspension, as it worked well with the course chunk and funk. The only downfall to that bike, was the weight. It was an alumn bike rather than newer carbon, weighing in at about 26 lbs.
The 8 AM start saw over 50 Pro men toe the start line. My plan was to ride my race....never pushing too hard into the red zone. When the gun went off, the group took off up the opening hill. Eventual winner, Drew Edsell, set the pace. For me, I sat in about 15th place as we rolled out to the singletrack. As we covered ground, I moved up into the Top 10 of the field. The lead riders were in sight, but not within chasing distance. I went about my business riding the opening loops and then Zen. On the Zen Trail, I was with one other rider. The leaders in front of me were out of sight....and those behind me were close, but not biting at my heels. As I picked my way through Zen I soon found myself solo. For the rest of my day I would be solo only occasionally seeing riders in front of me.
After Zen I grabbed a fresh bottle and climbed up and over to the Bear Claw Poppy singletrack. After finishing this trail it was time for the Stucki Springs climbs into a brutal headwind. It was a beast of a wind that slowed all the riders. Here is where I caught Justin Lindine....who appeared to be cramping on the side of the trail. I asked if he needed anything. He said "No". I pushed on.
Next up was a lollipop loop on Rim Rambler. It was here where I saw my true placing. Coming into this trail I met the riders that were in 3rd, 4th, and 5th. They were just finishing the section of trail I was starting. GREAT! I knew I was in 6th place currently with about 45 miles to race. I finished this trail and made my way to over to Barrel Roll....the last singletrack loop before the dirt road back to start the final race lap.
On Barrel Roll I only saw 2 riders, the leaders; Edsell and Smith. They had about 20 minutes on me. Barrel Roll is one of my favorite St. George trails. Having ridden this trail a bunch, it didn't take long to complete it. Again, I was solo on this trail....as I was most of the day. Out of Barrel Roll I stopped at the aid station to grab a fresh bottle of GU and a gel flask of GU. All my water was on my back in my Ergon BX1. I left the aid station following the course markings, which now were a mix of orange ribbon and white chalk. After a section of singletrack, we then began a long section of dirt road. This is when everything went to hell for me....and a handful of other riders.
Riding solo down the road I came to race volunteer...or what I though was a volunteer...that was redirecting racers to go a different route other than I had pre-rode in Feb. I had no reason to second guess it, as the white chalk was marking the turn and the volunteer was wearing a True Grit 100 event hat. I made the right turn....instead of what I though was a left....and began pushing down another jeep road followed by a few steep climbs. As I headed north....instead of south....I was second guessing all of this. But, I would always see tire tracks...so I kept racing forward. Eventually, I found myself back at the Barrel Roll trailhead and aid station. WTF!!!! This obviously wasn't right. Knowing where I was I quickly got back on course....the same section of course I rode 20 minutes earlier. I couldn't wait to get back to the course marshal and tell them they are sending riders the wrong way. Once back to that spot, the course marshal was gone and the white powder course markings had been wiped away. WTF!!!!
Mentally, this crushed me. I was so angry. Two things that rarely effect me....especially while competing. Here I was in 6th place....and now back in the 20's. What the hell just happened? Why would someone do this. I continued on in the race stating Lap 2. This whole time I mentally shut down. I was unmotivated to try to chase. Running through my head I questioned why me and what if others? Normally I never do this and just keep pushing on, but for some reason I could not. I finished about 10 miles of Lap 2 before I had enough. I decided enough was enough and called it a day....basically because I was mentally crushed by some jerks decision to alter other riders race experience. It was my decision and my decision only to stop, and I have to live with it. I broke one of my golden race rules.....don't stop racing unless you cross the finish line or are told to stop by the race organizers.
Later in the day, the racers would find out that a racer....who got their race bag and #.....but decided not to race and volunteer instead was mis-informed and was sending riders off course. This happened to a handful of riders there were a head of me and behind me. Was it intentional? Highly unlikely, but know one really knows.
Needless to say, physically I was ready for the TG100, but not mentally. Not an ideal way to start the 2014 season, but it is good to get the bad mojo and funk out of the way. A BIG lesson learned. Funny to think after all these years of pinning on a race number, every race offers a new learning experience.
Next up, more prep and the Whiskey Off-Road....which doubles as a work and race event.
Via the team PR piece.....
Kerkove does battles at Costa Rican 100-mile mountain bike race
August 23, 2013
Liberia, Costa Rica
The Rincon de La Vieja Challenge 100-Mile is the brainchild of Juan Carlos Villa. Making history this past Saturday, the Rincon de La Vieja Challenge 100-mile is the first 100-mile mountain bike event ever in Latin America. With the growing success of the 100-mile format in the USA, the Rincon de La Vieja saw a sold out field in 2013, with nearly 300 athletes toeing the start line.
The course is a single 100-mile loop circumnavigating 2 volcanoes, one of those being still active. Consisting of a mix of dirt roads and single track, the course traversed through 5 microclimates and would prove the ultimate course for the racers to do battle. Jeff Kerkove of Team Topeak-Ergon USA toed the start line of this inaugural event, just 8 days after finishing the Breck-Epic Stage Race.
“Going into this race, I was expecting a La Ruta like experience with jungle riding, mud, hike-a-bike, etc. Even though the course is road heavy, it will be very very tough” stated Jeff prior to start after training on the course the day prior.
The race began with a neutral roll out, prior to the UCI official yelling, “Go!” Once the race was underway, the field spread out quickly. Jeff found himself riding in the Top-20 in the opening miles prior to the short steep climbs. “The climbs here in Costa Rica are the steepest I have ever ridden. I had to ride my own pace and not dig too deep.” said Jeff. Jeff’s pace would prove to be successful, as he would work his way up to 8th place by the end of the event.
Jeff’s only drama would come after Checkpoint 2 early in the race, where he clipped a rock with his left foot racing through tall grass and crashed hard at 20 mph. He sustained a cut up knee and swollen shoulder and knee. While this killed some of his momentum, he continued on and finished strong under pouring rain.
In the end, Jeff would finish 8th overall. “The course was great! Even though a lot of dirt road, the roads were very very hard and rough. My legs feel like I climbed and rode twice as far as my GPS says. I am used to dry and dusty courses at altitude. Costa Rica was wet and slippery, it forced me to find my “jungle legs” for the event”
Jeff Kerkove, 8th
Strava GPS file: http://www.strava.com/activities/77916797
PR piece from the team.....
Topeak-Ergon sweeps the Duo Men category of the Breck-Epic
August 11-17, 2013
Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
In 5 short years, the Breck-Epic has set its self up as one of the toughest backcountry mountain bike stage races in the World. Lasting 6-days, covering 240 miles, and climbing nearly 38,000 feet, the Breck-Epic traverses through the Colorado backcountry around Breckenridge, Colorado
In 2013, Topeak-Ergon athletes, Yuki Ikeda and Jeff Kerkove, entered the Duo Men category. For 6-days, Yuki and Jeff would race side by side against a handful of other teams. This was the first time that Yuki and Jeff have raced together, but it proved to be the perfect combo.
To make the week more interesting, Yuki and Jeff would have to race with Yuki’s lingering fatigue. The day prior to starting the Breck-Epic, Yuki raced the Leadville 100 finishing 20th. Fatigue would not be a limiter, as the team would win Stage 1 by 10 minutes over the 2nd place team. The rest of the week would be very successful. Having good fitness and no mechanicals all week, Yuki and Jeff would take the win on all 6 stages.
Yuki Ikeda after finishing the Leadville 100 and Breck-Epic back-to-back effort, “Breck Epic 6 Day was a big challenge to me because it started the day after racing Leadville Trail 100. I had hard time for the first three days, but surprisingly started feeling better and better in the last three days. I was able to finish strong thanks to my duo team mate, who pushed my limit and encouraged me for the 6 days.”
Jeff following the week of racing, “Yuki and I worked well together, the effort was streamlined. Yuki pushed me as hard as I could go both uphill and down, figured for sure Leadville would have slowed him down a bit, but it didn’t. Feeling fortunate to of had good legs, partner, and equipment to take the win!”
Next up for Yuki is the Grand Junction Off-Road in Colorado prior to heading back to Japan. Jeff has a very short recovery period as he heads to Costa Rica for the Rincon de La Vieja Challenge, Latin America’s first 100-mile mountain bike race.
Jeff Kerkove & Yuki Ikeda, 1st Place, Duo Pro Men
PR piece released from the team....
Topeak-Ergon takes 2 podium spots at the Breckenridge 100
July 14, 2013
Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
You’ve tried the rest. Now take the test! Those are the words spoken by the Breck 100, arguably the hardest single day 100-mile mountain bike race in the USA. Consisting of 3 different loops in a clover lead pattern, racers ride the 3 distinctly different loops to cover 100 miles and climb nearly 13,000 ft. Not only is the course demanding, add in an average course elevation of 10,500 ft and the summer monsoon conditions, and you have all the elements to label this as the toughest mountain bike race in America.
Starting at 6 AM, racer would leave downtown Breckenridge to begin their ascent of Wheeler Pass, the high point of the race. Sonya Looney and Jeff Kerkove would represent the team on the day. This would be Sonya’s second time competing in the 100-mile event, and Jeff’s first. Both riders would have great starts, setting the tone for what would be a 9+ hour day on the bike.
Sonya would hold back her effort early in the race, planning for a strong finish. The effort would pay off, as she would work into 1st place about 40 miles in the race and hold on for the victory and a new female course record.
Sonya after her demanding victory, “I was excited to return this year with the idea that I might be able to set the course record. I had a pacing plan that worked perfectly and despite the pouring rain the last 20 miles, I was able to keep my focus and had good legs to finish strong. Breckenridge is my favorite place in the World to ride!
Jeff, would ride the day in the top part of the Pro Men’s field, having enough strength to finish in 5th place on the day. Jeff following his race, “I am super stoked with my ride, a lot of people struggle here with the Breck course. The course was super hard and the pouring rain late at 11,000 ft made for insane conditions! I found myself laughing late in the race, it was so ridiculous!”
Next up for Sonya is the Mongolia Bike Challenge and Jeff with team up with teammate Yuki Ikeda for the Breck-Epic Stage Race.
Sonya Looney, 1st, Pro Women (New course record)
Jeff Kerkove, 5th, Pro Men
Strava file: http://app.strava.com/activities/67180813
Photos by Eddie Clark Media and Mountain Moon Photography
Team PR release...
Topeak-Ergon celebrates July 4th at the Firecracker 50
July 4th, 2013
Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
Every July 4th, America celebrates its independence. On this very same day every year, thousands of mountain bikers from across the western USA descend on Breckenridge, Colorado for the Firecracker 50. A long-standing and very popular marathon race, the 50-mile Firecracker 50 sends riders up to 11,300 feet above sea level twice as they traverse the two 25-mile loops that make up the Firecracker 50.
Toeing the start line in downtown Breckenridge, CO for Team Topeak-Ergon USA were Dave Wiens and Jeff Kerkove. This marks the return to racing for Dave after taking a small break from racing after the 2009 Leadville 100. With a 9:30 AM start, the Pro Men would lead out the 1,000+ field of racers into the Colorado backcountry. Dave, having a great start, would make the small lead group break. Jeff would follow shortly behind in group 2 as they chased early in the race.
Dave would ride a smart race, catching riders who would struggle with pacing and mechanicals. Finishing in 3rd place overall, Dave had this to say following his race, “My new Canyon 29er was awesome! So fast! My strategy was to go as hard as I could go but to not get in over my head. I fell off of the pace of the leaders but kept it at my red line. Was in the group of 5-7th at half way. I was strongest on the flats and less steep climbs like Boreas. Moved into 4th, then caught Jay….then Jay flatted and I knew if all went well, I rode smart was a little lucky, I could get third. Mission accomplished.”
Jeff would ride his best Firecracker 50 race to date, finishing 12th and riding his fastest time in this Colorado classic. “I felt good all day, and had a good race for me. Was happy to turn my fastest time on this course and achieve my highest placing here at the Firecracker, “ said Jeff upon finishing.
GPS data on Strava: http://app.strava.com/activities/64791182
Dave Wiens, 3rd, Pro Men
Jeff Kerkove, 12th, Pro Men
all photos by Devon Balet Photography