Back to Costa Rica! Last year I was very fortunate to meet Juan Carlos and have him extend me an invite to come down and race Latin America's first and only 100-mile mtb event, the Rincon de la Vieja Challenge MTB 100. This year he did the same and I brought with me Karen and Sonya. Last year I went into the race a mere 6 days after finishing the Breck-Epic Stage Race. My only goal in 2013 was to take the lingering fatigue and ride as fast as possible, hope for the best. I finished 8th in a time of about 7.5 hours.
This year, I was fresh, knew the course, and had different goals. For the 2014 RVC100 I wanted to finish closer to 7 hours and place better in the standings. I equipped myself with the Canyon Lux CF full-suspension with a XX1 32T chain ring. Last year I had a hard tail and a 30T ring. The hard tail about killed me as the course is super rough from start to finish.
Off the plane, Costa Rica was a lot cooler than in 2013. For the 2 days leading up to the race, conditions were dry and cool. About as perfect as this Gringo could ask for.
I got in a series of rides to check out the first 20 miles of the course. My decision to bring the fully and the XX1 32T chain ring proved ideal. Thumbs up from this guy!
Race day come super early, a grueling 5:30 AM start time. I was up at 3:50 AM, breakfast a 4 AM, then an auto transfer to the start line to line up with 259 other racers. I felt good and confident. Goal #1 was to survive the start, a 30 min DH neutral roll out, that last year was super sketchy. It was anything but neutral in 2013. This year, the roll-out was controlled. I position myself on the outer edge of rows 2 and 3 as the field rolled down the road.
As with all 100-milers I do, I start slow and pick up speed. Once the neutral roll-out was over, the field surged forward. It was chaos in motion. Riders that would take 12 hours to finish were mixing up with the front of the field. At times, it was super sketchy. I was in a defensive-mode riding my speed. It didn't take long and I was up in the Top-10 and in the lead group. The group would surge on the steep 20%+ grades and I would drift off the back. I was keeping my same speed and would eventually get back on.
It wasn't until about mile 30 that I came unattached from the lead group. One of the Specialized Costa Rica rider pushed the pace hard on one of the steeper longer climbs and I fell off. I now found myself riding either solo or with a smaller group of 2 or 4 riders. I was fine with this, as there was a ton of racing left. Conditions which were jungle-like, greasy, misty, and cool.....this would change at about mile 60 to dry and warm. Key word here being warm :)
My nutrition was solid. Tons of water, GU, and ELETE products. The 5 or so American's that were there racing had aid bags dropped at all the aid stations, so we could grab and go. The first 2 aid stations were slow to get me my bags, as I was the first American into each check point. I lost time here, but it was not a huge issue, although it seemed like it at the time.
The 2nd half of the race would prove to be the crux of the race for everyone. As the 100-mile loop circumnavigates an active volcano, it passed through 4-5 climate zones. The last half of the race passes through a section of high-desert....similar to Fruita, CO. The terrain is white limestone and the temps are typically warmer than the first 50-miles. This year, temps were extreme, with the temps maxing out above 110F. There was now no humidity, shade or wind. Personally for me, this is where the wheels fell off the bus. Regardless how much I drank, I stopped sweating and had goosebumps. My pace slowed and I was going backwards.
It was like being in a blast furnace. Not only was the sun beating down from above, but the it was also reflecting off the white sandstone roads. I moved forward as fast as I could without overheating. Occasionally, I would stop in some shade to expedite the cooling. Some Tico's were doing the same, so you knew it was HOT!
The remaining 12 miles, I was in damage control mode. I was asking locals along the route for any liquid to either drink or pour on me. It wasn't until the last 5 miles that I was given a soda hand-up and the a host resort employee was spraying finishing riders with a hose of water. A gracious effort that was a little too late.
I finally crossed the finish line about 8.5 hours after I started. I immediately went to the catered food and drink for the post-race and started slamming cold beverages. It was all I wanted....liquid and cold. It was by far the hottest conditions I have ever ridden in. I sat there for a good hour in my Primal team kit....thankful to be out of the sun and on my way to an overall cooler body temp.
Race file on Strava | http://www.strava.com/activities/185736192
In the end, over 100 riders would NOT finish due to the course and conditions. The course was a beast this year....eating away at everything the riders had. Me, I was lucky to finish and I look forward to the next edition of the RVC100.
If you are looking at racing outside of the USA, the RVC100 is about as logistically easy as they get. Fly into Liberia, Costa Rica......then it is about a 40 minute car transfer to the race venue and the host resort of Hacienda Guachipelin. The event itself is on par with any well run 100-miler in the USA. While little singletrack exists, the course is still worth the trip down! Various terrain keeps you on your toes for 100-miles. Bring a sense of adventure and your eye wide open! Stay a few days after and make the 1 hr drive to the home of the Endless Summer.....Tamarindo, Costa Rica....for a little sun and surf!
Personally, one of the best rides in Colorado exists just to the south of Winter Park, CO. Most riders, me included at times, are head down and full steam to get over Berthoud Pass to get that day started at Trestle Bike Park. Don't get me wrong, Trestle Bike Park is amazing! But sometimes, the sense of adventure outweighs the lift lines, berms, jumps, and park features. Not many are aware that just off of Hwy 40 to the west while en route to Winter Park sits Jones Pass. This route was new to me until about 4 years ago. Now, I try to make room in my schedule to hit this out-n-back ride at least once a year. I didn't need to be in Winter Park until 4 PM to set up the Ergon Bike booth in the expo, so I pinged Kyle Taylor from 92Fifty Cyclery, who had the day off, to meet me at the trail head to get in a few hours on this route.
The route starts with a 45-60 minute jeep road climb right from the parking lot. Steep in spots, but manageable with the Pivot and Canyon bikes we were on. The time spent pedaling this road, puts you right on the divide, just over 12,000 ft. Winter in Colorado was long and rough in 2013/14. Signs on the hard winter are still towering in the high mountains of Colorado. The cornice still exists and blocks the jeep road access to the top of the pass, in most cases 20 feet or higher. Bikes soon became crampons and ice axes as we scaled up the wall of snow.
After making our way up and over the cornice without any carnage, we were well on our way southward on the CDT. Well defined, this trail snakes along towards I-70. For the most part, this trail in 90% rideable with a few steep punches and scree to get over.
No matter how many times or how high in elevation I ride in Colorado, I am visually blown away by the massiveness of the Rocky Mountains. Kyle, pedals across one of the many saddles in the route....not sure if he is key'd in on the trail in front of him or if he is looking at what I am seeing through the camera to his left.
Weather is always a factor when riding this high in elevation. We had eyes and ears to the sky all morning. Dark clouds began their early afternoon dance as we rode on.
Traversing around 12,500 ft, we were just a few moments from turning around as our personal weather consciences began to send up red flags.
With a sense of urgency, Kyle makes his way back to Jones Pass to begin the 10 minute jeep road descent back to the cars.
We timed it just right. We had to make our way back down the 20 foot high cornice as the black clouds built up and moved easterly. With the sun still shining, we scaled down the cornice and dropped back down to the cars. 45 minutes later, the skies would open up with rain and hail.
No doubt, this is a great way to open up the 4 day weekend at the Colorado Freeride Festival and Enduro World Series!
July 18, 2014Telluride, Colorado
Loop 1 was the toughest loop of the day and also the shortest at about 33 miles. Starting from town at 6 AM, the racer would climb up the numerous switchbacks of Black Bear Pass to over 13,000 ft before descending down the backside to then climb up to nearly 13,000 ft again going up and over Ophir Pass. From the start, Yuki Ikeda of Topeak-Ergon, would take to the front with a small group of riders in tow, including teammate Jeff Kerkove.
Yuki would get a gap of 3 minutes on the opening climb up Black Bear Pass. Jeff, who was pacing off the back of the 7 person lead group would work his way up to 2nd place by the top of the pass, followed closely by Travis Brown and Richie Trent.
Yuki would maintain his lead through Loop 1 into Loop 2. Jeff, riding in 2nd, would take a wrong turn due to a course marking issue and have to backtrack a few minutes. This would result in Jeff and 3 other riders coming back together for the beginning of Loop 2. Leading the charge on Loop 2, Yuki would ride solo off the front.
The start of the 65 mile Loop 2 would prove to be the separation point for the chase group. The steep climbing from the town of Telluride to mid-mountain on Telluride Ski resort would let eventual 2nd place finisher Stig Somme get away on a solo mission to try to catch Yuki. Jeff and Ricky Willis would ride together until late in Loop 2. Not far behind was Travis Brown of Trek. The final 65 miles would take the riders over 2 more high mountain passes as well as add 4-5 hours of racing time. In the end, Yuki Ikeda would stay solo off the front to win the inaugural Telluride 100. Jeff Kerkove, who was battling for 3rd would drop to 5th by the finish line after working through a nutritional miscalculation in the last 20 miles.Yuki Ikeda following his victory, "My legs felt very good from the beginning, but I had some stomach issue towards the end. Sport drink and food didn't sit well in my stomach. I could only take was plain water. However my legs still worked and Stig Somme who finished second kept pushing me. I was super happy, honored and proud to take the win for the first year, and it was my first 100-miler win! However, it was not only about racing, I enjoyed the whole experience that Telluride offers!"Jeff Kerkove, coming in 5th, had this to say after finishing, "I am destroyed! The course was brutal but also visually jaw dropping. I rode a smart pace, but made a crucial mistake in nutrition planning late in the race and ran out of liquids. Now that I know the course and the timing of the aid stations, I'm looking to come back to better the result. This event has everything to make it an iconic Colorado 100-mile race."
Podium (L to R): Travis Brown, Ricky Willis, Yuki Ikeda, Stig Somme, Jeff Kerkove
Yuki Ikeda, Pro Men, 1st
Jeff Kerkove, Pro Men, 5th
Strava file: http://www.strava.com/activities/168148413
A re-post of a post I wrote up for PinkBike and MTBR.com.....
With one of our Ergon Bike USA offices located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado I am lucky to drive through some mind-blowing terrain. I often pass through Leadville en route to events, to visit Ergon retailers, and weekend rides. The Mosquito Range sits to the east of Leadville. It's peaks are high (topping out over 14,000 ft), but less aggressive than it's brother range to the west, the Sawatch Range. From a distance they look smooth and relatively flat in comparison to some of the jagged and aggressive peaks in any other direction. For the past few months, I have been eyeballing this range that shoots across the sky from south to north as I would pass through Leadville. I was curious, if it could be ridden. I knew it was accessible, but just how accessible would it be with a bike in hand?
Over the past few months I looked at maps and did some web research. Folks had hiked the range, but nothing on anyone taking a bike across the ridge line. After putting a route on digital paper, I pinged the guys a 92Fifty Cyclery, a small shop near Black Hawk, CO. As personal friends, an Ergon retailer, and knowing they are all up for any bike adventure, I asked them if they would like to try to traverse the Mosquito Range by bike with me. I was straight up with them. I told them I had no idea how much of the route was be riding vs hike-a-bike. At 35 miles round trip with about 6,000 feet of vert, I planned on a 5-7 hour day taking into consideration we likely would be pushing and/or carrying our bikes.
From 92Fifty was Jon, Kyle, and Richie. The four of us set out from downtown Leadville at 10 AM on a Sunday. We had 18 miles of pavement and jeep road to cover before we could even begin to gain the ridge line. We pedaled for 2 hours before we reached the top of Weston Pass to the southeast of Leadville. From here, the hardest part of the day towered over us. We had a hike-a-bike that was 1 mile long, gained 1400+ ft, and was an average gradient of 30%. On top of that, there was no trail.
JD pushes up from Weston Pass, which sits at an elevation of 11,900 ft.
Kyle and Richie led the charge through the high-alpine flora being chased by a very thick crop of mosquitoes.
With no trail, we all alternated from making our own switchbacks and pushing the bike to putting the bike on our backs and hiking straight up. There was a sense of urgency. We wanted to know what exactly was at the top and what our proposed route really looked like.
At an elevation of 13,300 ft, we reached the ridge line and stared onto the beauty of mother nature. There wasn't much talking. Just silence and the occasional sound of a picture being taken. The wind, not existent. I couldn't think of a better adventure to break in a brand new Canyon Spectral AL 29, received just a few days prior.
We began the northward push on terrain that was very bike friendly. So far, so good. The route demanded the pedal friendly larger travel bikes. Most of us were on 140-150mm travel 27.5 and 29ers.
Not long and we found ourselves in pretty typical Colorado high mountain terrain; a blown out boulder field. Each step careful, as the rocks would slide and move. Each rider careful as to not roll and ankle or slice open some skin on the sharp rocks. Bikes became hiking poles on wheels.
We made plenty of stops during the day on the ridge, mostly for sightseeing. Early in the ride we had to stop so JD could attend to some heel carnage sustained from the Weston Pass hike-a-bike. Both heels had pretty good size blisters on them. The fix was quick, but as we all know, blister hurt like hell until you can get out of your shoes.
We truly are very small in this World.
A quick break in the saddle just below Horseshoe Mountain.
Kyle makes his way to the summit of Horseshoe Mountain at our high point of the day, 13,800 ft. A cabin still stands telling the story of the mining times long ago.
The top of Horseshoe Mountain is unlike any other terrain on the Mosquito Range. It's flat and smooth....and littered with the occasional mining hole.
The flat smooth conditions didn't last long. Moments later we were back on the terrain that was expected....loose moving scree. JD had no problem pushing his Nukeproof down the "trail"
Room for error? Not much. Ride or walk, it didn't matter. It came down to making smart riding decisions.
Signs of the long hard winter still exist below the summit of Mt Sheridan. Kyle watches his step as to not loose bike or footing.
The saddle between Mt. Sheridan and Mt. Sherman would be our exit point. Mt Sherman is a popular 14er hike. The trail here is very well established, but it's very dry and loose. The camera doesn't do the steepness justice as JD drops towards Leadville.
Kyle comes into one of the many switchbacks on the Mt. Sherman trail.
The lower sections of the Mt Sherman trail are the burliest of the route. JD made most of this descent. The rest of us, had a hard time keeping the bike moving forward and upright.
7 hours after we left, we were back in Leadville. Pizza and beer was in order and the infamous High Mountain Pies!
After seeing the path less traveled east of Leadville, I think we'll being doing a little bit more. If the sense of adventure is there, the path will always be there waiting to be traveled.
Richie Trent, aka MTB Jesus
Enjoy!! Cut-n-paste from the team post-race press release.......
July 8, 2014
Durango and Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
Over the past two weekends, Topeak-Ergon USA rider Jeff Kerkove, has been putting in some lengthy efforts on the Canyon race bikes. The last weekend of June, Jeff competed in the Durango Dirty Century (DDC), a 100-mile self-supported and self-navigated backcountry mountain bike race. The following weekend he celebrated the USA Independence day by toeing the start line of the fastest mountain bike marathon race in the USA, the Firecracker 50. While looking for solid results, both events would serve as preparation for the new Colorado event in 2 weeks, the Telluride 100 which he and teammate Yuki Ikeda with both compete in.
Roughly 70 riders lined up to complete the Durango Dirty Centruy in late June. As a self-supported and self-navigated event, all riders had to carry most supplies to finish the 100-miles....which could take 10-15 hours to complete. Perfect weather hovered over the riders all day, which was welcomed as a majority of the course traverses above 10,000 feet and treeline.
Jeff Kerkove had a great start to his DDC. He hit the singletrack in 4th place as riders began to settle into their efforts for the day. "I felt great and was keeping the effort light. I knew I would be in the saddle for over 10+ hours and the course would only get tougher" said Jeff. With the course consisting of 95% pure singletrack, riders would need every ounce of energy they had.
At about the 50-mile mark Jeff started to slow. "It was a lack of fueling on my part. I had all the proper nutrition, but I simply got so caught up in the course and riding I fell behind on taking on calories," stated Jeff. Still moving forward, Jeff would be caught by chasing riders dropping back to around 10th place. Hoping to finish around 11 hours, Jeff rolled to the finish line in Durango after 12.5 hours on the bike.
"It was slow going, but I had no option but to keep pushing on. The amazing course and beauty of the high terrain makes for enjoyable suffering," said a smirking Jeff at the finish line.
Below is a video from about mile 70-80 of the DDC, filmed by Jeff with his Epic Camera....
The following weekend was the Firecracker 50, an iconic 50-mile mountain bike marathon event held in Breckenridge, CO. Finishing off a 2-week hard training and racing block, Jeff lined up with 55 other Pro Men to complete two 25-mile laps around Breckenridge, CO.
Out of the gate, Jeff hung to back of the lead group on Lap 1 of 2. The group charged up Boreas Pass Rd towards the opening singletrack. "I had no pacing limits today. It was ride hard from start to finish," said Jeff. Looping around Breckenridge at an average elevation of 10,500 ft. Jeff would turn his fast lap ever on the Firecracker course. After Lap 1 he was 6 minutes down to the leader of the event.
Loop 2 was a different story. Still riding at a good pace, Jeff did slow from his Lap 1 effort. "The gas ran out! I had a hard time getting up the steep climbs." Jeff would drop his position on the race, but still finish strong. "The last 2 weeks caught up with me. I knew I would fade, but just didn't know when. Overall I am happy, as I was only 5 minutes slower than my previous fastest race time here in Breckenridge. Super fast Pro field today!" said a dust covered Jeff.
Jeff will now settle into a 2 week rest block in preparation for the Telluride 100, a new 100-mile event to hit Colorado.
Jeff Kerkove, Durango Dirty Century, 8th place
Jeff Kerkove, Firecracker 50, 25th place