Grand Loop Starts!
7 fellas left on the start of the 07 Grand Loop this evening. Beautiful, clear, sunny, and calm evening laid out before them, made me just a *wee* bit wistful that I wasn't joining them on what's sure to be a big adventure.
And the 4-day forecast looks darn good too.
Leaving Loma at 7:45pm were:
And Fred Wilkinson:
A few random mental musings from the start:
*Lotsa FS bikes, one ti softtail, and one hardtail with a sus post. Could this "comfy trend" have anything to do with the difficulty of the route, or is it just an mtb trend in general?
*No singlespeeds, no fixed gears, and no rigid forks. Hmmm.
*I saw GPS on all but one rider's bars (and he may have had one in his bar bag). Another trend? The times they are a changin'...
*BIG stinkin' packs on all but one back. In a word, my thoughts as I watched them climb Mary's: "Ow". Not a judgement--just an observation. The route is so remote and resupply opportunities so sketchy that most looked like they had enough food/gear to get through without picking up more grub.
*Everyone seemed relaxed and comfortable. A few nervous laughs and comments for sure, but less than you'd get at the start of a standard XC lap event. Maybe the GL is too easy for this new crop of talent? Guess it's time to start brainstorming something a bit harder and more remote for these guys to chew on...
I sashayed off the front just before they started, so that I could get a good vantage point for a photo of each of them.
DH motored by first. Dave seemed calm, dare I say *almost* overconfident:
Next was Plesko, with a mile wide grin like a kid in a candy store. I think he was happy that the prep was over and he was finally on his way:
Then came Stefan, pointing at his home-brew light and calling it his 'secret weapon'. Stefan will be following the new Paradox reroute, so it's unlikely that we'll hear anything from him until he finishes.
Fred came by next, looking confident and spinning smoothly up the first of many climbs:
Kevin came by next, looking focused and a bit serious:
Eric came next, with a semi-fixed rear rack and a crisp, hours old pair of Sidis on his feet:
Last guy up the hill, but with the biggest smile and possibly enjoying the night the most was Dave Kirk. Dave seemed confident and relaxed, and had a well-thought out gear setup to ensure a finish. He didn't seem too worried about speed (he didn't seem worried about anything!), he just seemed happy to be out there and ready for whatever came his way:
Next we'll hear from them is as they roll into Bedrock sometime tomorrow afternoon/evening. I get the idea that DH's plan is to be at the store by ~5pm, so there may be an update by dinner time tomorrow.
Thanks for the photos and coverage Mike!
Plesko definitely takes the minimalist award.
Dave Kirk takes the innovation award for what looks to be some sort of onboard hydration system.
Dave Harris takes the fluid capacity award.
Fred takes the casual award for rockin the button up. Always a good look with lycra shorts.
Stefan takes the award for "being the guy with a setup most similar to Donkey's". Not a very prestigious award...but an award nonetheless.
Looking forward to some updates tomorrow.
So, Fred's "secret" is a steam iron and a can of starch? Interesting...
Good fortune, gents.
Good Travels, Guys!
Thanks Mike for that excellent report.
Chris Plesko was a Trans Iowa finisher this year on a single speed. He was grinning then too. Maybe it's a permanent grin?
It will be interesting to see and read about how these differing takes on a long, back country mountain bike ride work out for each of these guys.
Here's hoping the travels are safe for all!
I see Dave Kirk is wearing one of my Fat Cyclist jerseys.
This may be the coolest surprise I have ever had in my life.
Sheesh, and I just got back from a measly three hour tour
Originally Posted by mikesee
Good luck gentlemen, may the wind always be at your back and a cool stream present itself when needed.
Hmmm, indeed. Another note Mike, no women again. Maybe they are the sane ones
I'm tuned in!
Last edited by edemtbs; 06-02-2007 at 06:42 PM.
Add: Big wheel to small wheel ratio seems reversed compared to most Endurance events I've followed.
Originally Posted by mikesee
Originally Posted by buddhak
Smokin' no Jokin'
I'm taking over for Mike on the updates, since he decided that riding swoopy singletrack and banked turns all day is more important than keeping us informed. Sheesh... some people...
(I'm just jealous)
So you'll have to settle with a few updates from me.
I had just settled down for a post-ride nap when the phone rang. Unknown number -- it can't be! Sure enough, Dave Harris made it into Bedrock at 2:18pm, leaving nothing but scorch marks on the trail.
For reference, I rolled into Bedrock at 8:45pm last year, and ended up finishing within ten minutes of Mike's course record. So Dave is over six hours ahead of record pace, and the ride is not even 24 hours old! That's pretty incredible.
He sounded great. Not tired at all. Some of that might have been due to the ~1 hour nap he had just taken inside the store. He described the store like it was the perfect oasis: full of ice cream, swamp cooled and featuring a nice comfy chair.
Dave is 150 miles into the ~340 mile course. He said he plans on making it to Tab Creek (~180 miles) by tonight. He should be able to get high on the Uncompahgre Plateau before the heat sets in tomorrow (maybe before dawn?!). He said it hasn't been unbearably hot, but still plenty warm up in the La Sals for a "mountain dweller." The thermometer at Bedrock read 92 degrees when he was talking to me.
He's off to an amazing start, and my money is on him breaking the course record, but he still has a lot of doin' to git done. The last half of the route is much more taxing than the first half, and much harder to follow. Fatigue and sleep dep are likely to start taking their toll, even on a superman like Dave. Then there's the snow, which shut him down two weeks ago and will at least slow him down this time. After that it's new, unridden country for Dave. In short, it's going to be interesting to see how it plays out for him.
He said that Chris Plesko was riding near him at the beginning -- a few minutes back at Salt Creek. Then he could see 4 lights below him as he climbed above Bitter Creek, but never saw any riders again, even after detouring to Westwater and taking a break at Hideout Canyon. Hopefully I'll hear from another rider or three sometime this evening.
Watch this space...
Last edited by Krein; 06-04-2007 at 04:18 PM.
I'm how far behind?
That is fast
Pretty soon Mike is going to have to come out of "retirement" or is it "taking a year off"? He won't have any records the way these things are going. Looking forward to hearing about the where abouts of Stefan, but I know it will be a couple of more days before we know that info. My bets are Dave Harris followed by Kevin then with Stefan around 24 hours back, Fred may be in the mix as well. Too early to predict, but Bedrock is the only phone until the finish so..
I anxiously await more updates. I will be more anciously waiting results as I hang out in Philly for the next few days.
Wish I was out there (wait 92 degrees? Us highlanders don't do well that hot)
Chris Plesko at Bedrock at 6:23pm
Just got a call from Chris Plesko. First words out of his mouth were "that was the hardest ride of my life." He's still made some really good time (6:23pm at Bedrock), which he seemed surprised by -- he said he spent quite a bit of time walking his bike.
I know how that goes. Pretty ridiculous how many not that steep hills I ended up walking last year. Combine camping gear+3 days food+heat+riding all night and what you can and cannot ride changes drastically.
He reports that Stefan was about an hour ahead of him when he turned off the official Grand Loop Route to do the more challenging "new" Paradox trail. The official route follows the traditional Paradox trail, which is a mix of county (gravel) and paved roads. Stefan's route instead follows steep, rough, 4x4 roads through higher country. It completely bypasses the Bedrock store where our riders are calling in from, so we won't hear from Stefan until he's done. The new Paradox route also features the 'Koski' traverse, named after Paul Koski, who is known for hike-a-bike.
Not to say that the traditional Paradox route is "easy." Far from it, as Chris can attest to right now. He was obviously quite tired after more than 24 hours on the bike (including the untimed 20 mile prologue the everyone rode with Mike). But he was showing no signs of giving up. He planned to sleep somewhere nearby and hopefully hit the trail with renewed energy in the wee hours.
It should be plenty cold tonight in the Dolores River valley, which makes getting up and getting moving a little easier. I found the cold to be refreshing and reassuring last year. Though it might not be as mind-bendingly hot as last year, the heat is still a major factor in this ride. It tends to shut everything in your body down, making forward progress difficult. Chris said his first priority there at Bedrock was to eat. He hasn't been able to eat much, so far. Note that he missed the store closing by 23 minutes, but said he thought he had plenty to finish the loop.
All too soon, the sun will come up tomorrow morning and warm things up. I was shocked at how quickly the mercury rose last year, even at ~8000 feet and above. It's really hard to escape from the heat on this route. Both Dave and Chris seemed very concerned about getting up in the mountains as quickly as possible tomorrow. Resting is important, too, though.
Chris was with Fred Wilkinson at Fisher Creek. I'm not sure if they rode through the night together or not. They tried napping there, with Fred successful and Chris not so much. So Chris pushed on to Bedrock, not wanting to waste anymore time there.
No word yet on the whereabouts of our other three riders: Kevin, Eric and Dave K.
Last edited by Krein; 06-04-2007 at 04:26 PM.
Eric and Kevin are out
Got a message from Eric Lashinsky. He and Kevin Gillest are in Moab and have dropped out.
Eric said he was "frickin' dead meat."
No other explanation than that. These guys rode in my AZT 300 event, with Kevin finishing and Eric dropping out near the end due to mechanical woes. So I'm surprised to hear them dropping.
That said, the urge to drop out by the time you reach the La Sals is pretty irresistible. I felt it. It's downhill (more or less) into Moab from there, where air conditioning, ice cream and burgers await. Or you can continue to push on, looking forward only to the coolness of the night and the unappealing food waiting for you in your bag.
Of course there's much more to look forward to than that, but sometimes it's hard to see the good through all the suffering.
It's worth noting that half of last year's field had dropped out by this point last year.
Eric ended his call with "I'm still gonna frickin' kill you for that Tucson thing [the AZT 300]." I guess he's one to hold a grudge.
Last edited by Krein; 06-04-2007 at 04:21 PM.
Fred Wilkinson, 8:00pm
Fred rolled up to Bedrock around 8pm.
"I explored some of the new Paradox route for you..."
"Intentionally, or on accident?!"
[big laugh]... "on accident!"
Other than that he said things have been going well. He's feeling good, except that he needs some "serious food." Like Chris he's struggling to get many calories down.
He said he didn't think it was "all that hot", except when they got to North Beaver Mesa, where "things started falling apart." He napped for about an hour at Fisher Creek, which is not far from there.
Chris was still there at Bedrock. They're both going to try to eat, then start planning for an early start tomorrow.
Will they be able to resist the call of real food, ~10 miles off route in Nucla??
awesome! thanks for the play- by- play
Allez Fred!! Allez Chris!!!!! Allez Dave!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks for keeping us "in the loop" Scott, fantastic stuff. (Now where's the brownie cake I made last night..........)
Who else is getting up early for a big ride (or run, in my case)?
Good stuff Scott. Thanks for the most excellent updates!
And of course our thoughts are out there with the intrepid cyclists - Allez! indeed.
Originally Posted by Krein
As I drove across scenic KS today I kept imagining where each rider was. Sopped about 4:30pm and rode for 2 hrs on the very nice ST at Wilson Lake. Whole time riding I was thinking about where the GLR riders were by now and also about the climb from Dewey to Beaver Mesa and how incredibly hard it can be in the heat.
Good luck to all still in it and Go Fred!!!!!!!!!
me have blog
forever lost in the desert, except when in the mountains
DH is a man possessed.
Keep it up Fred, Chris, Stefan, Dave and Dave!
Kevin and Eric, way to give it the old college try. Even lining up for the GL takes some serious guts.
This is great! I'm gonna be glued to this till the end!! Good luck to all riders, but Go Stefan!!
awesome updates. DH sure seems to be dialed in. Can't wait to see if he can keep it up. Even Chris, Stefan, and Fred seem to be around record pace... for whatever that's worth this early in the race. best of luck to the 5 left out there. seems like they're all doing some serious badass riding.
Roughly 50% 2-Epic
Dave Kirk, 1 pm Sunday
Dave K. just called from Bedrock, 1pm. He called himself the "official sweeper" and "tourist", but his pace is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, he's still riding and making good time.
He regretted starting the ride in a sleep deprived state (long drive from Yakima Washington), but was otherwise feeling good and sounded like he was enjoying his time out there. He remarked about the good weather, though he took a nap during the afternoon yesterday. The length/difficulty of the trail surprised him. He said it took him longer than he expected to make it to Bedrock.
He knew that some of the crew had dropped out, noticing a decrease in the number of tire tracks he was following.
Looks like it's going to be a bit warmer today than yesterday, but still in the low 90's. That's plenty hot when you are dragging your bike up a steep, dusty, shadeless hill. The Paradox Trail has more than its share of those.
I bet we hear from at least one rider today in Nucla, but that's just a hunch. Otherwise we've got some time to kill before hearing from firepants Dave H. He has until ~10 pm Monday night to reach the Tabeguache Trailhead (Lunch Loops) in Grand Junction in order to best Mike's course record of 3 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes.
I'll try to post some pictures of the terrain these guys are covering later today. It's really hard to imagine what they are going through out there. I've been there, yet the memories and pain have largely faded now. One thing is for sure: this is a brutal ride.
Chris asked me, "You're probably not sad you're missing out on all this brutality..."
Last edited by Krein; 06-04-2007 at 04:26 PM.
Originally Posted by Krein
Awesome! This is just plain ol' good reading. Thanks Scott for the updates. I find myself thinking often of these guys out there. It is inspiring.
Thanks for the photos, Lynda. Cool to see everyone at the bridge. It was after sunrise when Jefe and I made it there last year. Ugh.
Here are a few from today's riding, beyond Bedrock store:
Sunrise on Spring Creek Mesa. Dave H was likely beyond here by last night, but Chris and Fred probably experienced a similar sunrise, in roughly the same spot.
Remember what I said about pushing your bike up steep, eroded "trail"? The Paradox is filled with ups and downs like this one. Stefan is likely experiencing even more of this on the "real" Paradox route.
One thing I forgot to mention was that Chris said Stefan was not carrying a sleeping bag. He planned to sleep during the day (!?) and ride every night.
Classic Paradox "triple-track." The typical trail user here is the bovine.
Up on the Glencoe Bench section, where Chris and Fred might be pedaling as I write, the trail lets up on the steep climbing. Cows don't roam back here, meaning the trail is less defined, but still quite bumpy. It's a beautiful stretch of trail, but not very fast.
The first real shade, again on the Glencoe Bench. Getting closer to cresting the Plateau here.
Finally, after climbing a few thousand feet on well graded Houser road, you reach the real alpine, where thick trees and the beginning of the Tabeguache trail await. This is the high point of the route, at nearly 10,000 feet. Not far from this picture the Tab trail begins as singletrack, in the dark trees, and possibly snow covered. Dave H. has likely been dealing with the snow/mud there this afternoon. He may be through, or he may still be post-holing.
In '06 I didn't even take a picture of any snow drifts. I remember there being one or two, but they were so insignificant they didn't warrant a picture, or anything more than a quick dismount. There was also very little mud.
May or may not be a different story this year...
Last edited by Krein; 06-04-2007 at 04:24 PM.
Ride On!, men.
Thanks for the updates - fun to follow.