It’s known enough that Epic Rides‘ Whiskey Off-Road is a very faste and hardening event, it being on a legitimate ATB type course and of a middle distance at 50 miles longish. Taking place at the end of April, it makes for a premier early season target – or spring season escape – for all kinds of bike riders from all kinds of places. Toss the $30,000 or so cash prize split for the PRO’s, and what started out as a top notch pay-for group ride over 10 years ago has become a party so smashing these days, it is a part of the AZPS – Arizona Party Series. The day of the amateur event this year however, things were not party. Things were pretty grim and nobody believed their smartphone weather updates.
The Whiskey is a fond event for me having done well there in the past. In general, this makes it hard to attend racing events and not be competing in them. But this year that situation was a good thing because the party was great and by not racing I totally avoided some sucky times.
Still, as Steve Garro mentioned during the live social broadcast of event happenings: “Ideal conditions make for boring stories”… and so, with that mantra, I will instead attempt to make this hellish story completely boring. The epicenter of pain was atop 260 trail, some 8-10 miles deep into the course. I never saw that place, but I did see all the cyclists coming down from it, and it was obvious that there was no need for me to have been there.
The fact is, for at least 6 hours during the 2014 version, the Whiskey went straight to sub freezing temps, followed by snow, then followed by freezing rain, then more snow. Many recreational sportsmen arrive to reap this without prior knowledge. We call this a Shitfest in the biz. Of the mayhem, we talk about the Single Speeds wherein Kurt Refsnider was fast and fortunate and so avoided the white out conditions and sailed to a top five finish on a one gear. That still doesn’t beat my 2nd overall SS result of 2004, but that is irrelevant because we were on wooden wheels back then. Yea, weather be damned, toot it if you got it.
Anyway, I and others have been paying attention to some of Kurts rides as of late due to the recent AZT experience. So he finished 3rd at the Whiskey after coming off a standing 45 hour 300 mile AZT death ride two or three weeks prior. That is kind of amazing. Kurt is a bonafide bicycle rider and totally nuts. The overall winner of the SS? I don’t recall. I know.
The waiting sucked. It was cold and wet for everyone.
They trudged on. Insane, as they go…
In all, half the 600 riders of amateur did notte finish. Essentially, this was a really good cross race, that nobody knew about until they were in the middle of it. There were reports of many riders huddled together atop the ridge waiting out the storm. Others came off the mountain with lifelessly numb limbs and faces, and warmed their hands with car exhaust, becoming very sleepy in the cold. This was notte unreasonable, but then those riders became more; 50, and then 100, and then more. At a point, a stranger climbed into my then idling full blast heatered recovery vehicle looking for survival and to rekindle his limbs which included some screaming. This was serendipity as that stranger resolved to be Zach… a long lost brotherly friend from the Sedona days of yore. This was no problem. Zack is a nerdowell of my own ilk, and having him muddy the insides of my coche like a greased pig almost felt like an honor. Also, I had a very good chance of free beers forever for the rest of that day, compliments of his awesome Form Cycles Bicycle Racing Crew. Also all nerdowells, the Form Cycles crew pedals some of the classiest Ti and Steel rigs available to all peoplekind. The Form bikes are hecho en Arizona, also. Then, above all, when we look for that grassroots element that is consistently receding, FORM is one of those grass roots entities. Baller bikes, and baller riders, and plenty of refreshments. I need to hang with these peeps more.
Given the meganess of the weather impact, I lost energy for spectating in the harshness even. That lead to the remainder of Saturday chilling about the Form house, recounting and reconnecting like I still lived up in the big red SED. I sure do miss that place.
Zack came in fully hypothermic, and slowly recounted the hell on top of the ridge. It was a little miny Donner Pass, except nobody was eaten. I drank the Bulleit as I listened.
Part Deux – the pro race at the Whiskey Off-Road
Prior to the shit luck of the amateur race, Friday started the shindig off with a PRO level fat Tire Crit. This was loads of fun and a monkey. I had a tuff time checking up on the men’s event because I’m not so “in the loop” any more, but there were plenty of A-list riders such as Wells and all those chaps that seem to have been at the front of US PRO XC racing for the past 10 years. World Champ Christoph Sauser made it too, and a ton of local PROS from all over toed the line for a chance at the dollars. The mix was good, and not so WC (even with Sauser) to not be local. For me, this is a critical element to retain… remember the statement about grassroots? Whatevs.
In the Lady PRO event, it was much easier. Chloe Woodruff would show a clean set of wheels in that one. When she attacked on the last of the laps, the cadence she pulled said she was ready. This is pretty cool because she was on home turf being from Prescott, AZ.
I slipped from the demands of party time on Saturday night in order to G’nap and fade into Sunday, still hanging with the Form Cycles crew. We watched the PRO events go that Sunday morning. I felt like I was home among those guys. They’re a a tight group of working cyclists who reside near the best trails in the AZ world of Sedona, and Flagstaff. They are very faste, and they represent everything I choose to endure in life as well. I am taking note of this.
Sunday was perfectly slow. It was the end of fastivities(sic!) like a closing ceremony of sorts, with the pro event taking off at 8 or 9 that morning. The effort to pedal up to the creek crossing with a cup of coffee and watch them as they came into the finishing miles was the extent of adventure on the day, not considering the creek crossing itself. The crowd at the creek was sizable, and highly likable. Plenty of cheer in the lungs and an excellent way to spend a Sunday before dropping out of sight. The most I have left, is some vids of the kids smashing water and rock with bicycling skills, and a heafty dose of stoke for the Whiskey Off Road’s of the future. Perhaps I can toe the line with cats like these once again, before never happens. Thanks for reading…:
More Whiskey Off Road stuff heres: