Go Out too Hard and Panic….
Every year, on Labor Day Weekend, the country’s strongest endurance mountain bike racers drop in on some of the riding Park City, Utah has to offer. There’s over 400 miles of trail here; it’s ripping fast and incredibly diverse. The course is a true point 2 point. Thanks to the plethora of trails, you will never be on the same trail twice. The race consists of 90% single track, a total distance of 75 miles with around 12,000 of climbing.
Larissa Connors won $2,000 prize money and donated it to the local Utah Summit Bike Club because they are a junior mountain bike program that does a kick ass job of giving kids opportunities! Kudos to Larissa!
“Being part of a community, or having a team makes this bike racing thing so much more fun, and I got to experience this again at the Park City Point to Point this past weekend.
Before I go into the nitty gritty details on the race, I have to say that I was pretty anxious about how this race weekend would play out. I taught my first full week of class for the year, left school and drove straight to the airport Friday, landed at 9:30, asleep by 11pm, and raced at 7am the following day. On paper it looked like a recipe for disaster. My legs were so swollen at the end of each school day that my skin literally hurt, and I thought I felt a sore throat coming on all week.
BUT I am pretty much the luckiest girl, and the Redel family swept in to pick up the pieces and help me out turning what could have been a very stressful weekend into quite possibly the most enjoyable race of my life. I own a lifetime debt of gratitude to Karl, Lori, Sienna and Mila for giving up their weekend to make my race go smoothly and for going WAY above and beyond as hosts and race crew.
The race itself was rad, like 100% pure mountain biking, the kind of ride we would plan out and execute on any given weekend, maximizing singletrack, elevation and views, pretty much everything I love about the sport.
We started with a fruit loop cannon (none landed in my mouth sadly) in a trail network called Round Valley, and twisted through some pretty fun smooth trails for 15 miles before the real suffering started on the way up to Deer Valley (I think). I got a bit of a gap in the first 5 miles, and then worked to extend my lead through the race, kinda scared the whole time that one of the other ladies would come up on me later in the day. I’ve decided my race tactic usually falls into the category of ‘go out too hard, then panic all day that someone else paced themselves better and will catch me as I get tired’. Maybe I shouldn’t be sharing this… but that’s what I do!
The race started in waves, pro men then a 2 minute gap, pro women followed by a 2 minute gap… somewhere around mile 20 some dudes from the group behind me caught and passed me. I was stoked it took them so long to catch me (as I had been passing dudes from group one all during the Round Valley portion of the race). I rode with the dudes for a long time, keeping my power in check because Park City is at high enough elevation to do some damage if you go too hard. The trails were all super dry and loose, which reminded me of SoCal and I had a ton of fun sliding around and getting rad.
As I had gone into the race pretty stressed from work and travel I didn’t really do much research about the course profile, heck I didn’t know it was 75 miles until two days before! As a result every climb was a mystery and the locations of aid stations vague in my mind. Around mile 33 I got a fresh bottle of GQ6 from Karl and was stoked to think we were almost halfway done. The next 30 miles is a blur in my mind or ridiculously fun singletrack and gorgeous Aspen and Fir lined climbs. John’s trail stands out in my mind because it was so crazy rooty and fun. I LOVED twisting and weaving through the super tight Aspen trees, so narrow that I hit my bars over and over. The roots were gnarly and I had to concentrate to keep momentum up.
Following all that goodness was the ‘hardest climb of the day’ which I didn’t realize I was on until after the race when someone asked me how I liked the Shadow Lake climb… I spent much of this part of the race thinking I had missed a turn, which distracted me from the climbing pain, and then before I knew it I was at the second important aid station at the base of the last sustained climb up Armstrong trail.
Somehow I missed Karl and Lori who were yelling my name (and who I was apparently looking right at) and I got the the end of the crowd wondering where they were. My stubborn side said ‘keep going’ so despite being almost out of water and GQ6 I pressed on, and was overcome with joy when Sienna rolled up next to me with a new bottle on her bike. The plan was for the girls to ride the remainder of the race with me, which I thought sounded super fun since Mila and Sienna don’t mind me singing One Direction at the top of my lungs when we ride. Also they shred, and watching teenage girls rip down rad trails with Tahnee Seagrave like body english is pretty dang cool. Anyway, after chatting with the girls and doing a bit of singing (about ice cream) I may have been feeling good enough to turn the power back up to 11 and I accidentally rode away from them without taking new bottles!
Since I knew the last 5 miles were all down hill I just counted down miles to mile 70, not too worried about my increasing state of dehydration. There was one small aid station ‘oasis’ somewhere in there, and here I stopped to see if they knew what kind of a gap I had and to see if the girls would catch me. Somehow my tired brain didn’t process the fact that I could have REFILLED MY BOTTLE so I rode off with no liquid to finish the never ending last 10 miles.
Somewhere in that last 15 mile portion of the race I distinctly remember flying down this one amazing tacky dark trail with all these little jumps that pushed me into the air. The feeling of floating was heaven after all the rough technical rooty stuff, and the forest was cool and dirt so perfect.
And then, after a series of psych out ‘one more steep climb’s I was finally on the last down hill. Following the theme of this race the last down hill was NOT easy. It involved many many tight switchbacks, causing the going to be slow, and lots of sharp rocks, threatening to give you a flat right when the finish is in sight. Needless to say I slowed down a little and choose my lines carefully, but the Kenda Saber Pros were studs and I didn’t really need to worry.
And then almost as fast as 5am came the race was over and I was honestly a little butt hurt that I didn’t get to ride another 25 miles (when you raise the ceiling and then keep it at 100 mile races it’s hard to be satisfied with anything else) until I realized it took me just as long to do this race as Leadville Ha! Then the dehydration took over the euphoria of winning a bike race and I had to hang my head in the shade for a minute to collect my whits haha. This was followed by consuming all the dates I could get my hands on, my first experience with compression boots (holy hell, why didn’t you people tell me how great these things are before?!?) and McDonald’s ice cream thanks to Karl (see, going WAY above and beyond AGAIN!!!!)
And now it’s 9:01pm, one minute past my bedtime. I have many more thoughts about this incredible race and how I just love Utah and all the things, but they will have to wait until another time. Until then, thanks for always reading the race recaps, and for cheering for me and saying all the nice things in the internet. I am so lucky to have so many friends and family and fans (that’s weird to say that but I think by this point it’s true.”
Report by Larissa Conners, Sho-Air Twenty-20 Women’s Pro Cycling Team
Image by Kenny Wehn