Turns Out You Can Ride Every Trail at SolVista in 2 hours :: A Suckerpunch Race Report

So today was the Suckerpunch race at SolVista Bike Park, which I had no intentions of actually racing this year. It’s a first time event, and I know the guys at SolVista but just was into being chill this weekend and getting on the DH bike in a non-competitive setting. The format was intriguing though:

This one-day event will find riders competing to see who can complete all the trails in the bike park the fastest. A mass start event, riders will encounter a check point somewhere on each trail where they will get the respective trail “punched” on their number plate. The first rider to submit a completed punch card to event judges wins.

We showed up to SolVista this morning at the crack of 10:15am, like I said Steph and I were just gonna do some riding and hangout watching the race, not racing the race. In season’s past I’d have ridden SolVista over a dozen times by mid-August, but this year I’ve been up ONCE. This was yet another reason I wasn’t feeling up to racing: hitting some of the gnar for the first time this season at race pace while doing back-to-back hot laps, was not appealing. While chit-chatting with the registration person (a friend of mine) one of the SolVista guys shows up and gives me and Steph the business, and winds up cajoling us both into entering… and holy carp I’m glad I did.

Funnest. Race. Ever.

Mass start down hairball, rutted, loose, gravelly, awful fire-road thing with super wide switchbacks, off-camber turns, terrible uphill corners = the winningest shizbot ever. Was looking like I was mid- to back-of-the-pack at some point in the melee when 4 dudes went careening off sidewards into the giggle weeds… managed to pedal past those guys and wound up getting on the 2nd full chair of guys in our class. Each chair would hold 3 dudes, with your bike on the rack of the chair in front of you, this fact became CRUCIAL to your event startegy very quickly, for as long as you rolled up to the chairlift and there was room on the next chair, you were in. Penalties were assessed if you didn’t properly rack your bike and carried it with you.

On that first ride up I starting planning my strategery, figuring I’d get all the difficult trails out of the way first. It was paying off, I was pacing the top 3 guys for a while, consistently getting to the bottom just as they would load the chair ahead of me. Made the call to start ticking off the green runs, which were by FAR the longest/slowest trails on the mountain. While keeping track of the fellas in my class, I could see me slipping in rank, as far back as 8th at one point I believe.

The strategy MOSTLY paid off, with the shorter blues that I ride ALL THE TIME with Steph left for the end, I knew I could pin those things pretty fast no matter how tired I got. One major slip I made was when I had “caught” one of the top 3 guys, and was riding up the same chair as him. I opted to stick to my plan of ticking off greens at this point, he rocked either a blue or a black and was able to gain a chair or two on me straight away. Like I said, counting chairs and getting ahead of someone was a good advantage, it essentially gained you 30-45 seconds for each chair you were ahead by. This extra time could be used to get after that green run you HAD to do, and still get back to the lift in time to pace the guy(s) ahead of you.

I didn’t hit the wall until the very last trail, run 11 of the day, down my favorite combo: Cheez-it to Ashy Larry. Just battered and worn out, I was running over rocks and taking bad lines like I had blinders on. Bad juju, but once I got through Cheez-it and hit the Larry section it was smooth sailing. Pinned to the bottom, turned in my punch card after a little over 2 hours of straight downhilling in a solid 4th place. My hands were MF’ing killing me, but I was stoked!

That’s me just to the lookers right of the box, throwing horns:

Steph raced as well, she rides plenty of XC and has been DH’ing for a couple years but has never raced a bike. Ever. Not XC, not DH, nothing. She’s a competitive marathon runner though, so she figured what the hell she’d give it a shot. I finally was able to gain a full lap on her about run 9 or 10, so I finished just before she headed up for her last run of the day. She’d saved her favorite for last, Silky Johnson. I grabbed my bike back up and hopped on the lift with her, she was PUMPED on the race. Super happy for her, she rode hard all afternoon and had a big ol’ smile the whole time. She requested that I just let her finish it out on her own, so I waited up top for a couple minutes and then cruised down.

She went 2 out of 2 amateur women, which is a drag but she also held her own, finishing on the same lap as the other gal, an experienced Cat 1 racer. Not bad for her first time! This is her on the 2nd step of the box:

Did I mention the prizes? SolVista is keeping it real(er) with support from their partners SRAM and Fox Racing. I ad seen Facebook posts about what all was in the mix, friggin’ reDONKulous stuff. I walked with a set of Avid Elixer 9’s for my 4th place finish, and Steph got an XO crank for going 2nd place. They went 8 deep in all classes, so there was some prizes left over, which got chucked to the crowd and was kind of a free-for-all grab-it-if-you-can sort of deal, and we nabbed a set of SRAM lock-on grips. This was good, because Steph had just destroyed a grip in a crash the day before. Perfect.

I stole this next bit from Steph’s blog Fear of Bananas, she said it so perfectly I figured why type the same stuff? Keep in mind, this is from a first-time racer amateur woman who just raced down every track at SolVista, including the Pro tracks from both 2009 and 2010 National Championships.

Every single minute of this race was so stinking fun I cannot even explain it. There was not a second that I wanted to quit or had second thoughts it! I cannot thank Matt T, Kim and Evan enough for encouraging me to race, I never would have had this awesome experience without your prodding, I owe you!

Matt, Moga, and Steve from Momentum Trail Concepts, the group that runs the SolVista Bike Park, are extraordinary people. Everything they do is for the love of the sport and to encourage new riders to check it out, intermediate riders to push their limits and advanced riders to keep taking it to the next level. They have done huge things for the sport in Colorado. I have never met three people more psyched to see people excited about riding bikes than to actually be riding bikes themselves. Thank you guys for everything you’ve done to get me (and so many others) out on the trails and improving my skills.

Parents, fans, and spectators, although there weren’t a ton of you, passing through the chute to the lift to thumbs ups, cheers, and encouragement was what kept each and every one of us going! You all are just as important to a race as the participants!

I would also like to thank the lift operators, bike patrol and volunteers. You were all so friendly and encouraging each time I passed by. It kicked-ass. And a special thanks to the man at the bottom of the lift handing out water. You were a life saver!

Can’t wait for next year!

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