Vapor Trail number 4, and it was a good one.
My prepartion for VT was minimal because I felt as if I had to recover from CTR first. Colorado Trail Race is"money in the bank", so pedaling 15-20 hours is doable, but with speed is something else. I did not really ride much at all for 2 weeks post CTR(except for a downhill race 5 days after:), and then it was mainly short rides or riding lifts prior to vapor. I did two 5 hour rides and felt incredibly bonky, so I really did not know how Vapor # 4 would pan out. At very least I borrowed a carbon dually with 140mm-120mm of travel and I could pin it on the descents. Jumping on a different horse before a 125 mile race is probably not recommended, but I have not gotten around to fixing the blown shock on my hardtail. I was actually going to just pop a rigid fork on, but I went the other direction.
So there I was at 10pm on Saturday in Salida. I was excited just to be going on a big ride through the night.
Eszter decided to skip this year, so she took a few shots with my camera.
Toeing the line of neutral start line. "Chaos", some bearded guy from Seattle, "El Freako", Miguel, and myself.
It starts with a neutral roll out of Salida and then a long dirt road climb to the Colorado trail. The Raspberry Gulch section is a blast as always. My legs ached from building a patio earlier in the week and I started to wander if I would last. I have to say, alpine tunnel sucked for me. My mind was getting to me as I saw lights slowly gaining on me in my rear view mirror.
I hit the hike-a-bike and was so happy to get off the bike. Somehow I blew a turn to Tomichi Pass and had to climb back up a hill and then I ran out of food. You would think I was a first-timer. I bumped in to Jefe and Jon Fulton and bummed 4 gu's, which was enough to get me to snowblind.
Granite peak was the turning point for me. I love the hike up to 12+ k feet under the stars. Then I was on top of a peak with a bike with lots of travel....mmmmm. I took off like a mad man down the mountain in the drak and passed some fellow riders. I felt a little pitched over the bars with the seat up. In the woods I stuffed the front end in a mud bog and went over the bars. I bashed my knee, palm and knocked my light all crooked. I realized that the fork had a travel adjust and it was bumped down to the lowest travel, making the front end pitched down. I fixed my light, cursed the knee pain from the crash, and pinned it to snowblind before sunrise. There was a few lights that I saw on a short climb before the aid station. This motivated me because I had just caught the people that smoked me on the climb. I was happy to see Jarall and Anne at the snowblind aid station and replenished some much needed calories.
Climbing up Old Monarch is always hard for me as well. It is a 9 mile climb with a steady gradient. I usually get passed here. This time I got passed by 3 or 4 people on the climb. I tried to keep my rhythm and once again tried not to let getting passed go to my head.
Hitting Monarch I switched to a lighter bag, downed a coffee, 4 IB profen for the knee, some monster and a PB&J at the aid station. My spirits where lifted because from here out it was all trail. I was descending well on the squishy bike and I knew I could make back some time.
Eszter snapped this shot of me on the Crest. I was charging hard to make back the time I lost on the climb.
On the crest I caught max on a descent and caught Jefe right before Marshall. Tom Purvis took this photo of Jefe and I comming into the Marshall aid station
I got to ride with Jefe which was cool, I have never talked to him really before. He set the new record for CTR this year, a little more than a day faster than me! He his some striking blue eyes that really catch your attention. Maybe it has something to do with why he sleep only 3.5 hours on the Colorado Trail, something special within him. We hit starvation together and I had the big bike. I took off maching down starvation creek, trying to see how much time I could put on Jefe because he is much faster on the climbs. Towards the bottom I caught Craig, who passed me like I was standing still on Alpine Tunnel. I rounded the corner and gave the Poncha climb everything I had. I knew I just had to give it on the 4 mile climb then it was mostly downhill back to Salida.
I was riding strong and I thought maybe I could catch more people so I pinned it down Silver Creek, faster than I have ever ridden it before. In years past I could barley hold on to my mechanical brakes and my back ached from the hardtail. Maybe there is something to the dual-suspension trail bike, I was certainly having more fun than I ever had on the VT. I was hooting and hollering pumping the bike through the chunder and railing the corners. The slogan for Vapor tail states 20000 feet of climbing, but now I say 20,000 feet of descending!
After Silver Creek is the super fun rainbow trail. The Tomac bike that I borrowed was full carbon, and pedaled great out of the saddle. The stinger climbs on rainbow I was able to sprint up, and carve the downhills. I made it back to salida at 1:46 pm putting my time at 15:46, the fastest that I have ever done the Vapor by hours. I believe I was 7th place, which is apparently my lucky number from my 2 races.
I did not have the best ride but I finished strong, which feels great. I usually am so beat that I ride the Crest which is some of the best singletrack in the world, pathetically slow. I talked to Josh Tostado who put a new record in, smoking the closest rider by an hour, with a time under 13 hours. He was running a 120mm fork and a gravity dropper seatpost, amen. So cool to see a top pro XC racer run a dropper seatpost. The descents are pretty nasty on course. While I used to be a fun-hater for years(fully rigid single-speed), my eyes are now open to the full-suspension trail bike. A rock garden that you clatter through on a rigid, you pump and accelerate through with a dually. Now if only I could afford one of these bikes....
Evan and Zach finished 3rd and 4th. It is sweet to see my ski tour buddies tear it up. Evan literally has only done a few races in his life but is a natural.
Vapor Trail is an amazing event put on by the folks in Salida. It is getting faster every year, though the attitude of the organizers is not about the 'race.' I think that keeps the event pure. In the end it is a big ride through the mountains for people who love to ride there mountain bikes. All of the proceeds go to trails, so no one is making money.
This one was my personal best and I felt great afterward, except for extreme nausea after I had a cheeseburger after the race. I am usually shattered to pieces, and today I feel great!
Thanks Tom, Sean, Earl for putting on the show, all of the volunteers, Eszter for driving me home, Jon Fulton and Jefe for gu/company, and Riepe/JC for the fancy bike.