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A Different Kind of Whiskey Tasting :: Whiskey Off Road by Alex Boone

After a two year hiatus, I decided to return to Prescott, AZ for the 2011 Whiskey Off Road marathon. A proper 50 mile beat down in the beautiful pine forest North of Phoenix, the Whiskey is a throwback to ‘old skool’ mountain bike racing; long climbs, technical descents and breathtaking mountain vistas along the entire course. This year promised to be especially exciting, as race promoter extraordinaire Todd Saddow promised a $20,000 cash purse for the professional category—with equal payout to men and women.

I arrived in Prescott—along with my partner in crime, Tonya Bray—on Friday afternoon. In addition to Sunday’s main event, pros were tasked with racing a downtown criterium on Friday evening; acting as a prologue to show off riders in front of the fans and media. The crit course was surprisingly tough, with two blocks of climbing  at a 14% grade, and a 40mph descent back towards the historic Whiskey Row start/finish area. After a few lung-searing laps (Prescott is at ~6000ft… Los Angeles is not)—enough to open up my legs and lungs—I decided to call it a day and head to the cabin for a hot meal and some recovery.

Sunday morning brought clear skies and a cool breeze that rustled the pine trees—perfect weather for a 50 mile romp in the forest. I rode to the start line on Whiskey Row with Tonya, where all 70-some pro men were anxiously awaiting the adventure ahead. That familiar humbling feeling washed over me as the front row was called up: Chris Sheppard, Tinker Juarez, Barry Wicks, Dave Wiens, “Jungle” Jay Henry. There would be no settling in to a comfortable pace today—it was sure to be fast from the gun.

From the word “Go” we roared away from Whiskey Row at a blistering pace, winding our way through the foothill neighborhoods in a 75 man strong peloton. Within a few miles the pavement gave way to dirt fire roads, and eventually we hit the first leg of singletrack. The field was blown to shreds at this point, and the familiar sound of clanking chains, humming disc brakes and heavy breathing—lost amidst the pine trees—was all that reassured me I was not alone.

After several miles of technical singletrack climbing, I began the first descent—a steep, switchback laden blast from pine forest into the yucca and bramble of Skull Valley’s upper reaches. Groups of riders were coming back together at this point, favoring those who could let go of their brakes longest and keep their tires filled with air. Thankfully, my decision to run Bontrager 29-3 TLR rear tires proved effective. The robust TLR sidewalls meant I could ride wide-full-open through the rough stuff, and the ability to run 25psi kept me right side up in the loosest of corners. One final (and steep!) switchback turn put me back onto a rolling jeep road climb en route to aid station #1.

Aid station #1 came and went without so much as a passing glance at the tables of fruit, chips, gels and bottles—I was gunning for a solid ride, and time spent grazing was out of the question. Instead, I opted to top off the tank on the 10 mile descent to the bottom of skull valley. The bottom of the seemingly endless fire road descent was the home of aid station #2, where I again hastily rolled through, taking only a fresh bottle in the process.

And then came the climb… A real sonofabitch that would make even a season pro say, “it’s how long?!” 12 miles, to be exact. From the bottom of the desert floor to the 7200’ peak of an alpine forest. Sure, I’ve ridden longer climbs—but never in a race. In the age of 5k cross country laps whose climbs can be counted in crank revolutions, an hour-plus grind to the top of a mountain is downright shocking. Luckily for me, going uphill for extended periods is my forte, complemented nicely by my feathery Superfly hardtail. So off I went, with a fresh bottle in my cage and a belly full of Trader Joe’s gummy penguins (top secret endurance fuel…) The rest is what one might expect for such an effort: mental drift, burning legs, sore back and anticipation of the summit.

Many miles and gummy penguins later, I reached the summit and began my descent towards downtown Prescott. A technical, shale-strewn singletrack was a bittersweet reward for my efforts; on one hand it’s a world-class bit of singletrack, but after a mind numbingly long climb into the thin air I was hardly in the mood for such a taxing descent. Down I went, playing the “no brakes game”, trying my darndest to keep it rubber side down on the few remaining technical bits. Eventually the trail gave way to pavement and I time trialed into town. I crossed the line, depleted from the inside out and barely able to gulp down a full breath of air, but satisfied with my effort.

My 50 mile adventure in the wilds of Prescott took a respectable 3:49 to complete; good enough for 44th place. (Side note: all mountain hard-man, Mark Weir, finished in 43rd) Granted, it’s not the sub-3:30 I had hoped for… but there’s always next year.

The Whiskey Off Road is undoubtedly the best mountain bike race I’ve yet to participate in. Between the warm welcome by Prescott’s residents and the spectacular race course, it was everything a mountain bike race should be: fun. I’ll be sure to make the voyage to Arizona every April.

Happy Trails,

Alex Boone

Alex Boone is a Professional mountain bike racer for Trek 29er Crew by night and a product manager in aerospace by day. He joins us as our resident sommelier, brewmaster, pairing expert and language police. When he’s not tasting coffee, chocolate, beer, wine, Bourbon and cheese, he’s riding. Alex made his debut as a sommelier with his Belgian beer tasting for Peloton Magazine.We hope you enjoy his style.

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2011 Whiskey Off Road :: Start List

Mountain bike racing is back. And it’s back big time in Arizona.

The 2011 Whiskey Off Road produced by Epic Rides will likely go down as the largest cash purse for a mountain bike race in the US. A total of $20,000 in cash will be awarded to the Pros, with $10,000 on the line for both Pro Men and Pro Women.

On Sunday, May 8th, the 50 mile Pro race will wrap up an entire weekend of racing, live music and food in Prescott, Arizona. Amateurs race the same course in 15, 25 and 50 miles versions on Saturday.

Pros will start the weekend with a Dirt Crit circling Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott. Pro Men’s and Women’s fields are stacked with the top talent in mountain bike racing in the US, and a few of the toughest legs in Canada as well.

In the women’s field, veteran women Dara Marks-Marino (Magura), Jennifer Smith, Shannon Gibson (Stan’s No Tubes), Zephanie Blasi (Stan’s No Tubes) and 2010 winner Gretchen Reeves will be joined by ranks of new and up and coming talent including first time Pro Stephanie Gadreau McCormack (Crossfit Endurance). Luna Pro and current Canadian National Champion Cathatrine Pendrel will toe the line along with current Masters World Champion Rebecca Rusch (Specialized), Monique Pua Mata (SHO-Air) ad Kelli Emmett. The field is stacked and with so much diverse talent, it’s anyone’s race.

Stay tuned for more from Whiskey.

 

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The Women of Mountain Biking :: Bonelli Pro XCT / US Cup Triple Crown

Story: Tonya R. Bray
Photos: Corey J. Keizer

The US Cup Triple Crown and USA Cycling Pro XCT Tour mountain bike races kicked off at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California last Saturday and for most of the Pro women of mountain biking, it was the first race of the season. The southern migration delivered the peloton into a subtly warm day perfect for first hard efforts of the year.

With a start list of only 20 Pro women, the chances of getting on the podium for up and comers were good. And a few of these ladies were here to take advantage and bask in the Southern California sun.

 

A quiet moment before the race (Stan's No Tubes Elite team). Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

Several new teams have popped up on the circuit for 2011 including  Stan’s No Tubes Elite Women’s Team headed up by long-time Pro Shannon Gibson and supported by Kricket Lewis. Seasoned Pros Zephanie Blasi, Kathy Sherwin and Nina Baum are joined by newcomer Kaila Hart– who raced her first Pro race at Bonelli.

 

Focus for Kaila Hart's (Stan's No Tubes) Pro debut. Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

The favorites on the day were naturally current US National Champion Georgia Gould (Luna), Emily Batty (Subaru/Trek) and Heather Irmiger (Subaru/Trek). Noticeably absent from the start list were local Pro Allison Mann (Rock n Road) who is out on injury and Willow Koerber (Trek). After a stellar Bronze Medal performance at World Championships in 2010, Willow was transferred to the Trek World Cup team, meaning she won’t be racing as many domestic races but will race major UCI (Union Cyclistse Internationale, the international governing body of cycling) races in an effort to gain points and placing for her Olympic bid.

 

"First to the buffet," Judy Freeman (Kenda) is anxious to get this show on the dirt. Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

Former California resident Carolyn Popovic was on hand to represent yet another new team to the Pro women’s peloton, Team CF (Cystic Fibrosis). The team’s mission “is to use cycling as a platform to promote fitness for those with CF, to increase awareness of CF, and to raise money for CF research” according to the web site. The team is comprised of amateur and professional cyclists of all disciplines, including individuals suffering from Cystic Fibrosis. Popovic made this her second appearance in Southern California in 6 months. Her last visit was for the SoCal Cross Krosstoberfest UCI races in San Dimas last October where she placed 4th in the back to back races. And while she has been focusing on cyclocross, this year Popovic makes the commitment to get back on the mountain bike scene.

 

Judy Freeman (Kenda) knows fast. Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

The third major newcomer team to the women’s elite peloton is Team BMC developmental mountain bike team. Erika Zaveta, last year’s collegiate champion, is joined by mountain bike star Chloe Forsman. Forsman provides leadership with her International experience, and at 24 years old she is the oldest on the team. Chloe, originally from Boulder where she began her mountain bike career, lives and trains in Tucson, Arizona now, trading snow for sand and Aspens for Saguaro. Chloe raced the 24 hours in the old pueblo for the first time and plans to throw the Whiskey Offroad 50 into her Pro XCT calendar. “I’m excited to win something this year,” says Chloe aglow from her 5th place podium finish. And Chloe loves her new bike the BMC Team Elite One. “It’s 3 pounds lighter than any other race bike I’ve been on, a real treat!”

“I thought it was fun” Forsman said of the short course format. “More like a European World Cup course, that type of racing suits me well, I loved it!”

Lea Davidson made the jump from Trek to Specialized in 2011. The young rider spent 2010 in rehab from a hip injury sustained in the gym and proved that even with a full season off the bike, determination, dedication and spirit are all it takes to succeed. Lea found herself in second place to Gould at the end of the day- an incredible finish for such a hiatus from racing.

 

Lea Davidson (Specialized) gets some face time with an iPhone camera. Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

Georgia was victorious in the end running away from the field with a solo time trial for the entire race. It only took Georgia a matter of minutes to establish her dominance, and she rode the entire race off the front with no challengers.  Emily Batty (Subaru/Trek) had tire troubles taking her out of contention for the top 3, but finished easily in fourth ahead of BMC’s Chloe Forsman.

Krista Park (Incycle/Cannondale) had a great race ending up in 3rd place. “I don’t know where that came from!” she exclaimed. Krista is on form after spending the early season racing in Cyprus, and she exuded the energy she gained from being in Europe. Although Krista is focusing on Europe this season, she decided to make the quick trip back to the States to test her early season fitness against her American counterparts.

 

Current US National Champion Georgia Gould animates the race for a young admirer. Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com
A little chat after the race for BMC Developmental riders Erika Zaveta (l) and Chloe Forsman (r). Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

At the end of cross country, the ladies of mountain biking were relaxed and seemingly relieved the finish line was left behind. Heather Irmiger (Subaru/Trek) was especially happy as she suffered from a stomach bug during the race due to her travels– which took her out of contention. But Irmiger always peaks late in the year, and we’re excited to see if she can best her amazing 6th place 2010 World Championship finish.

Next stop on the Pro XCT Tour is Fontana, which is a UCI 1 event, and the field is expected to be one of the largest Fontana has seen.

Stay tuned for our photo gallery by Corey Keizer and more stories about the women of mountain biking.

Women’s XC Results

1. Georgia Gould (Luna) at 1:40:44.80
2. Lea Davison (Specialized) at 1:42:57.71
3. Krista Park (Incycle/Cannondale), at 1:47:58.77
4. Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek) at 1:48:32.88
5. Chloe Forsman (BMC Development Team) at 1:49:06.89
6. Judy Freeman (Kenda/Felt) at 1:51:34.69
7. Daniela Campuzano Chavez (Mexico National Team) at 1:54:53.04
8. Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) at 1:55:53.03
9. Zephanie Blasi (Stan’s No Tubes Elite Women), at 1:59:10.96
10. Lydia Tanner (Tokyo Joes) at 1:59:17.46
11. Sarah Kaufmann (Elete Electrolytes) at 1:59:46.15
12. Carolyn Popovic (Team CF) at 2:00:03.52
13. Kelsy Bingham
14. Erica Zaveta, BMC Development
15. Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek)
16. Deyanira Guerrero (World Cycles)
17. Kaila Hart (Stan’s No Tubes Elite Women)
18. Shannon Gibson (Stan’s No Tubes Elite Women)

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Bonelli Travel Guide :: Pro XCT, Triple Crown, Kenda Cup and Team Big Bear race Travel Guide 1

Over the past several years, we have seen the National mountain bike scene move from beautiful mountain

The latte art on this macchiato lasts past the first sip at Intelligentsia Pasadena.

resorts to small and possibly obscure towns. What used to be held in Big Bear at Snow Summit resort in Southern California– the first race of the NORBA National Mountain Bike Race Series– is now at Bonelli Park in San Dimas and is the Pro season opener. And to add a healthy amount of confusion to the idea of National mountain bike race series, this particular race at Bonelli Park is a part of the Pro XCT Tour from USA Cycling, the US Cup Pro Triple Crown series (ad isn’t the US Cup it’s own mountain bike race series?), Team Big Bear Series and the Kenda Cup West. There may be another series, however we’re unaware at this time. For the most part, the Pros race for the Pro XCT Tour and the Triple Crown, and everyone else can participate in the California series and the Kenda Cup West.

Welcome to San Dimas, California! You may know of San Dimas from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Beyond that, a cyclist needs to know where to find food. And perhaps where to go for fun, but really, where to find good food.
Click for San Dimas, California Forecast

One important ting beyond food is of course a bike shop that can provide those last minute items such as CO2 cartridges, race nutrition, the gloves you left behind, and a derailleur hanger to replace the one bent from the plane ride to ONT. The best bike shop in town, and right next door is Incycle Bicycles. Incycle San Dimas (there are 4 locations) is right next to Bonelli Park on Arrow Highway and Bonita. Refer to the map below.

San Dimas is also a Route 66 town. Motels and googie signs still sprinkle the landscape, although you’re more likely to see a Starbucks or McDonald’s than an old diner– The Golden Spur excepted (it’s technically in Glendora, though).

You’ll be traveling to the San Gabriel Valley, and therein can find amazing food, great rides and a few fun landmarks along the way.

The church from The Graduate's final scene.

Frank G. Bonelli Park offers myriad activities for the family. From horseback riding to fishing, if your support staff needs to do something while you are pre riding the course, they can even hit a few holes on the Mountain Meadows Golf Course. Need to relax after the race, or settle the legs after a hard pre-ride? hit the Hot Tubs at at Puddingstone Resort!

A fun stop for movie buffs is the modernist church from the final scene of The Graduate. Remember Dustin Hoffman pressing his face against the glass screaming “Elaine!”– the original Wedding Crasher!

A stroll down Bonita Avenue at San Dimas Avenue will present you with gift shops, small cafes and antique stores. The street is reminiscent of the original cowboy days of San Dimas, with brick walkways and old style building facades. This is also the scene of the criterium of the San Dimas Stage Race, which attracts the top talent from across the Nation.

Stay tuned all week for more information about where to eat, shop and relax during your stay in Southern California.


View mtbchick.com’s US MTB Cup Bonelli Park Triple Crown, Pro XCT and Kenda Cup Travel Guide in a larger map

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