Pete's AND Article-
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  1. #1

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    Jul 2006

    Pete's AND Article

    Pondering a pro future
    Peter Basinger has to decide whether to go for the glory

    [email protected]
    Published: October 21, 2007
    Last Modified: October 21, 2007 at 04:17 AM

    Low clouds shroud the dying spruce trees on the Anchorage Hillside and the rain falls lightly as Peter Basinger heads out for a Sunday evening ride on his single-speed mountain bike. Alaska has barely turned from August to September, and already the chill of fall is in the air.

    Most cyclists would find the conditions unappealing. The trails criss-crossing the steep mountainsides around the home Basinger has agreed to house-sit are less than ideal for riding a simple single-speed, and on this evening the rain has left a skim of wet sand atop the gravel roads. It coats the 26-year-old rider's face and clothes when he rides, and flies into his eyes, nose and mouth.

    Even Basinger concedes the riding conditions aren't the best in North America, but he doesn't have much choice. Between a job and his university studies, he has only a small window of time in which to train, and this is that window. Welcome to the world of Alaska's top mountain-bike racer.

    The course record holder for the frozen, 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational up and over the Alaska Range in February, Basinger is fresh off a second-place finish in the single-speed competition at the broiling 24 Hours of Adrenaline World Solo Championship in Monterey, Calif., in Sept. 1-2.

    Temperatures there stalked 100 degrees while Basinger was doing loops around a 13.74-mile course that climbed 2,500 feet per lap. By the end, he'd done 17 laps -- same as the winner -- but got nudged out at the finish line.

    Still, his showing was impressive. He did 233 miles in 24 hours while climbing 42,500 feet. The latter is about the equivalent of trudging to the 20,320-foot summit of Mount McKinley from the Kahiltna Glacier base camp three times.

    About a week earlier, he'd tackled another difficult uphill race with an even gnarlier downhill -- the Up and Over Powerline Pass race through the Chugach Mountains behind Anchorage. Riding his single-speed hardtail, Basinger dusted a field of riders on multi-speed, full-suspension bikes designed to smooth and speed a rough and steep descent to Indian.

    "I just thought I was going to ride and have fun,'' Basinger said afterward. "But then I found myself passing the leader 6 miles in, going up the Powerline trail and I figured I should go hard."

    Going and going and going hard in the style of the Energizer Bunny is what has made Basinger the best Alaska athlete most people have never heard of. Other serious cyclists know the name, but outside of that small fraternity, Basinger remains unknown.

    Lead the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race over the Alaska Range to McGrath and you will get your name known worldwide, even if you don't finish the race. Win the Iditarod Invitational by riding a bike to McGrath faster than a speeding husky, you will get a few lines on some cycling Web sites and a passing mention in the Alaska press.

    There might be even less recognition for winning the 24-Hours of Kincaid, the Fireweed 400 or any of the other Alaska races Basinger has won in the last few years, and it isn't much better Outside. Once a high-profile, industry-backed competitive sport, the professional mountain bike circuit has been on the skids for years.

    Basinger knows mountain bike racers Outside who've attracted sponsors. He's talked to them. He knows none are getting rich. This is not the Tour de France, where the best support riders earn more than $100,000 a year.

    A mountain biker who gets $10,000 from a sponsor is doing good. "I just think what I could do if I got $10,000,'' Basinger said. Then he thinks about what he has said and almost has to laugh. Is it really worth it?

    Wouldn't it be smarter to simply finish at the university, get that teaching certificate, start teaching and spend some time in the summer racing bikes?

    But then, of course, there would be that lingering question: How good could I have been if I'd moved Outside, gotten ultra serious about the training and taken that next step? Maybe, Basinger concedes, it wouldn't change anything. Maybe, like some other top endurance athletes, he'd just end up trying so hard he'd end up overtraining and start down that slippery slope of steadily declining performance.

    Maybe being constrained by a job as a bike mechanic and school is something of a hidden blessing. Maybe it keeps him fit enough to compete at a high level, but leaves his legs fresh enough to keep up with his lungs. Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

    On the cusp of being forced to make a decision between living the avocation or embracing a vocation and starting to settle down, Basinger has a lot of maybes to contemplate. "You can be a pro cyclist,'' said Pat Irwin, who tried that route, "but it ain't much of a profession. "(But) I'd say, 'Do it while you can. Alaska will always be here."

    Those who know cycling all seem to believe that despite Basinger's success, he hasn't tapped his full potential. "He's got a tremendous amount of talent,'' said Janice Tower, one of the top female cyclists in Anchorage. "He could probably do anything on the bike.'' Tower first met Basinger seven years ago when she was part of a team preparing to do the grueling Race Across America. "He was interested in being our team mechanic,'' she said, "of being on the support group. He was a budding bike mechanic at the time.'' Cycling was then still relatively new to Basinger.

    An Anchorage resident since moving north with his family from Maryland when he was 10, Basinger didn't get serious about riding until he was in high school. He credits his dad's best friend, David Peach, with the introduction to mountain biking and the fun to be had exploring the trails on the outskirts of Alaska's largest city. Basinger soon had the cycling bug.

    He started riding his bike to school at Polaris K-12 and almost everywhere else. He rode it one winter from Nenana along the frozen rivers of the Interior to the Bering Sea Coast and then along the frozen seashore north to Nome. He rode it down the Alaska Highway to Oregon. He rode it from Knik to McGrath along the Iditarod Trail faster than anyone has ever ridden before.

    Bill Merchant -- organizer of the mountain bike, ski and foot race along the Iditarod Trail -- now talks about Basinger in terms once reserved for John Stamstad of Washington state, a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and a legend for his dominance of the old Iditasport race along the Iditarod Trail.

    "In my book,'' Merchant said, "Pete's damn close if not there already.'' "He's 10 times the cyclist I was, even if he's not pretty,'' added Irwin, another past winner of the Iditarod bike race. "He's just strong." "With Pete, it's all physical,'' Merchant said. "I don't know that Pete strategizes at all. I think Pete just goes out there and does it.''

    On that Sunday ride in September, Basinger illustrates this exactly by muscling his single-speed up a steep grade that stalls an average mountain biker on a fancy 27-speed bike. Once atop a ridge overlooking Anchorage, Basinger follows up by setting off so fast down a gnarly descent on his hardtail that the rider behind on a 5-inch-travel, full-suspension bike has to work hard to keep up.

    "He's so tenacious,'' Tower said. "I think he's always done crazy things, (but) his interest in bike riding has really picked up in recent years. He's not afraid to be alone.'' Tower, a very good road racer, thinks Basinger could do almost anything on a bike, even follow the likes of Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis, a former professional mountain-bike racer, toward European success. "That's where the money is,'' she notes.

    The only problem might be that road racing, with its emphasis on high-tech gear, carefully orchestrated events and a cult of personality among the riders, runs counter to Basinger's nature. He's far more comfortable with the laid-back world of mountain-bike racing, and especially the extra laid-back world of 24-hour or multi-day endurance events.

    "He's built up a great amount of endurance over the years,'' Tower said. "He knows his body well, and he gets out there and just rides hard.'' "What's he's been able to accomplish is absolutely amazing,'' Merchant said. "Last year, when he set the (Iditarod Invitational) record it was on a course 35 miles longer because of the detour, and the year before, he only slowed down to stay with Rocky (Reifenstuhl) all the way to the finish.''

    Basinger sacrified an easy win in the 2006 Iditarod Invitational because he thought a faltering Reifenstuhl might end up in trouble if left alone on a wilderness trail in extreme cold. It makes some question whether he has that killer drive to win, even though he has clearly proven his focus and determination.

    "The time (for Peter) to do something is now,'' Tower said. Basinger understands this. Worse, he knows that to even try he will need to leave the place he loves, at least temporarily.

    "It's hard to do it anywhere,'' Irwin noted. "It's almost impossible to do it from Alaska.''
    Sponsors might line up to attach themselves to the winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, but they really don't care who comes out top dog in the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Basinger could complain, but he doesn't. He doesn't get on his bike for the money or the glory; he gets on it for the enjoyment.

    There's a reason he rides, he said; it's because he likes to ride.

    Recent Basinger feats

    • Second place, 24 Hours of Adrenaline World Solo Championship, singlespeed
    • Winner, Up and Over Powerline Pass
    • Second place, Chitina to McCarthy race
    • Second place, Hilltop Mangler race
    • Eighth place, 24-hours-of-Adrenaline at Laguna Seca
    • Winner, Iditarod Trail Invitational 350-mile race in February
    • Winner, Susitna 100 in February

    • Winner, Soggy Bottom 100
    • Winner, 24 hours of Kincaid
    • Winner, Iditarod Trail Invitational 350-mile race
    • Second place, 24-hour Round the Clock State and Regional Championships

    • Second place, Great Divide Race, a self-supported, solo competition following a 2,490-mile route traversing Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico with 200,000 feet of climbing

  2. #2
    Reputation: thirstywork's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    no question for me

    I enjoyed the story of Pete and Rocky coming to light in the article-but I disagree with the questioning of Pete's "killer" instincts. There are many different paths to the finish line. Pete has found a way that works for him. In that particular case, leaving someone behind with death a possibility or sticking beside a fellow competitor, it is clear Pete made the right choice. The wrong choice was for Rocky to do what he did at the finish. Everyone who knows that story knows Pete really won the race, but the record books don't show the unsportsmanlike conduct of Rocky after Pete's escort. I also know this won't happen again. Right on Pete. Nice to see you getting a little ink even if your Mom thinks you looked like W. Personally, I don't see the resemblance.
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    Last edited by thirstywork; 10-21-2007 at 01:04 PM.
    Speedway Cycles owner

  3. #3
    Reputation: Big Karma's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by thirstywork
    I enjoyed the story of Pete and Rocky coming to light in the article-but I disagree with the questioning of Pete's "killer" instincts.
    The questioning of his "killer instinct" in that regard bothered me as well.

    I'm not qualified to testify on Pete's killer instinct because the only time I've been anywhere near him in a race was when he blew by me on his singlespeed while he was on his way to winning the solo division in the 24 Hours of Kincaid and I was puking out one of my five feeble laps in the 4-man team division. But if you're going to question a good racer's killer instinct, do it because he chokes in a race, not because he voluntarily slows down to protect another competitor in a life-threatening situation far from help.

    That's not weakness. It's compassion and sportsmanship.

    All in all, though, I thought it was a nice article. And by the way, Thirsty, nice Photoshop work!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    I've got to say I've only met Pete a few times but it's obvious he's an honorable man and competitor, and that's what competition is all about. Any jerk can win by taking advantage when he finds it... a sportsman wins by simply being best AND he raises everyone else's bar in the process.

    Well done Pete!

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Quote Originally Posted by thirstywork
    Nice to see you getting a little ink even if your Mom thinks you looked like W. Personally, I don't see the resemblance.
    you should blow that picture up to poster size and give away prints to anyone who purchases a Fatback. if that doesn't push someone over the edge who's thinking about a new bike, nothing's gonna.

    seriously though, it's nice to see pete getting some of the attention we all know he deserves. I like that the article focused on the tough decision Pete's working through about whether to dive further into cycling with full focus or to focus more on the other things and keep cycling as a complement to that. It just sucks that living in alaska makes it pretty much impossible to have it both ways because there just aren't enough high level events in state, and living here and traveling to other states for most of your races just isn't financially feasable.

  6. #6
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Nice article Pete, congrats man!
    fun to read Bill, Pat and Janice's lines in there too!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    "He's 10 times the cyclist I was, even if he's not pretty,'' added Irwin.

    Oooh burn hehehe!

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Pete for as mellow and modest as you are. You are a true Bad Ass and one heck of a nice guy! Oh you are pretty good on the bike thingy as well..................Congrats and nice article.

  9. #9
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Good article. And very much deserved.

    Where ever you end up racing Pete, we're gonna be rooting for you.

  10. #10
    I'm from Utah
    Reputation: Jilleo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by daveIT
    "He's 10 times the cyclist I was, even if he's not pretty,'' added Irwin.
    Judging by the chatter over on that FATBACK thread, I'd say most of the people on this forum would disagree.

  11. #11

    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Quote Originally Posted by aka bubba
    Pondering a pro future
    [Tower, a very good road racer, thinks Basinger could do almost anything on a bike, even follow the likes of Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis, a former professional mountain-bike racer, toward European success. "That's where the money is,'' she notes.

    I can just imagine Pete as a Euro-Pro roadie. HAHAHA thanks coach tower for that one.

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