Greetings Fellow Rider, both Jork and non-Jork alike. I'm not really sure how exactly to sum up this race in anything less than a War and Peace-esque novel, so maybe I'll start by using this photo taken by the lovely Ms. Ryback - me getting aid from Marshall Lawson - I think it sums up how the "race" went pretty well:
5 seconds after that photo was taken, I euphorically crossed the finish line (line = pile of crushed beer cans) and found myself in a sea of other participants, unable to comprehend what the fuck just happened to me, out there. Up until this race, I did not think that it was really possible to cause that much pain and suffering IN ADDITION TO that much fun and extasy into less than 23 miles. The reports have been around 4000-5000 feet of climbing. All I know is that I walked a lot. Kind of reminded me of that one time I was on death row and was walking towards the chair, but was then exonerated at the last moment - slow steps.
But let's start at the beginning.
We roll out of the hotel on our way over to the start/finish, and I'm literally twitchy with nervous excitement! My legs were feeling about as good as they could feel after 4 straight days of epic riding equating to who-knows-how-many thousand feet of climbing, and approximately 100 miles taking 16 hours total. All between 6000 and 11000 ft, in the previous 4 days. My wrists were as tempered as humanly possible. We had to ride past a kennel on the way to the race, which almost caused Marshall to be a DNS.
Reaching Buckley Park, we were greeted by several thousand other riders, many looking decidely un-pro:
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This couple rocked the fucking tandem! I rode directly behind them for a little while before the dreaded hike-a-bike, and trust me when I say that they can handle that fucking bike *very* well:
There was even a dude on a fucking UNICYCLE.
There is an unending list of strange costumes (Elvis, cheerleaders,
Ray Mysterio, ballerinas, man-kini's, angels, Little Bo-Peep, and more...) and I started to think that we were almost TOO badass looking:
But that soon passed as we lined up (got a call-up from the organizer from the bull-horn, but couldn't hear him) and happened to see several people that we'd met and/or ridden with throughout the week. Offered them all some good luck, and punched 'em in the nuts before taking off.
The line looked a little something like this:
There were about 50 dudes actually taking the race seriously, and somewhere around 2000 who were basically out for a spirited, challenging-as-shit group ride. The neutral roll-out had us pedaling through the streets of Durango that were lined with fans cheering us on all the way up the various road hills that we had to contend with before the trail even started. Bottleneck after bottleneck, a flow eventually started to happen for a mile or so before we found true singletrack, but then even that singletrack started to point further and further up. It came to the point where everyone had to walk, regardless of ability.
This hike-a-bike is hard to comprehend unless you've done it. Imagine carrying your bike up the stairs at Castlewood 3 times in a row, after having already walked for a good half hour uphill. But instead of walking up the steps, just walk the hillside itself that the stairs go up. Nice and steep - the kind of steep that toe spikes were made for. It wasn't all bad, the less-steep part was like being in a long line at an amusement park. It was huge party slowly making it's way up the hill - people were yelling to each other; I was quoting Blazing Saddles back-and-forth at the top of my lungs with this guy who was a good 2-3 switchbacks ahead of me. The thing to yell out was "No Riding!" As it got steeper and steeper, we all shut up and were just sucking in air (or in Marshall's case, dog balls.)
Then, as if Energor himself had come down and reached his large aluminum hand down to me to pull me out of a bottomless 2-liter, I reached the top and was greeted by a huge crowd cheering me on and shoving beer cups into my hand. I didn't think life could get much more euphoric, but then we were deposited onto a ridgeline trail known as "Raider's Ridge." This trail took us over some of the most consistently technical terrain I've ever seen, all overlooking the town of Durango. It was a bit of a spirit boost to be able to ride past a number of d00dz and womens with a less-superior attitude and state of mind. I kind of felt like a Jedi for a minute. But then the jenk wore off. For the most part, people would get out of the way and not jam-job myself and a small handful of other d00dz who were man-training across this 3-4 mile long ridgeline. No real climbing, just lots and lots of tech that wears out your entire body from constant wrenching of the bike up and over a thousand rocks of all sizes and angles, and 100% focus at all times. This was not the time to take in the scenery. I'm pretty sure that I could spend all day going back and forth over this ridge with not so many riders there to stop in front of me. Wouldn't make plenty of stuff, but would have fun trying! Something that is also good to know is that the gold wheels that I built last year did not taco at any point during this section.
Finishing up Raider's Ridge, we dropped into the finish area where we either did or did not make the time cut-off as we went through this awesormly-tight chicane and then back out for more pain on to moar loops. Seen at this point on the course:
Yes, those are speakers:
Mountian Bike Hall of Famer Jackie Phelan:
Chad, the SSWC09 Overlord:
There was another unexpected hike-a-bike, however there was no stopping the Team Seagal Pain Train Express, especially since there was a bacon pit-stop two-thirds of the way up. Bacon, and whiskey. And moar beer. Our Good Doctor helped himself to nearly every watering hole, and found himself coasting upon the astral plane that resides between dehydration and giddy euphoria. Upon reaching the top of this hike-a-bike (which was actually steeper than the first, though not as long) it was mostly downhill, though an un-ending maze of extremely steep, dusty, tight, and rapid-fire switchbacks. It was so much fun that I almost forgot about that last hike-a-bike. But then I remembered it again, and tried punching some locals in the nuts.
Wandering through the arid hills surrounding Durango, we had little idea as to exactly how much trail was left. All I knew was that the my legs had almost nothing left after 5 days of riding, which turned almost anything that pointed uphill into a death-hike, though it never became a chore. As we circled around a small ridge-line, a short-uphill straight-away materialized out of the haze of fatigue and dust, and the sound of a thousand spectators and racers cheering me on pulled me towards the line, but not before Marshall Lawson bestowed upon me a delicious beer, which I carried the final 25 feet.
I was literally without words for several minutes as the chaotic, joyous, and exuberant (I know the word exuberant!) atmosphere was soaked into me. Rejoining with our excellent cheering squad, we watched as Gino, Doctor, Nico, Masson, and T-tocs crossed the line. T-tocs threw up immediately, and Doctor had wrecked several times, and lost his chain about 5 miles back, however it didn't faze him since he'd already contended with a bent wheel, sliced hand, and a lot of angry China-men.
The winner, Ross Schnell, hammering to the finish and getting his tattoo later that night:
Our crew, after finally getting off the D9 Bulldozer:
Later that night, after regaining a sense of normality, we all headed over to Ska Brewing where we hooked up with our good buddy Dan Miller and enjoyed watching the Battle for SSWC 2010 - on the basketball court. Talk about entertainingly bad basketball. New Zealand snapped the wrists of Italy, thus securing a Lord-of-the-Rings-esque Location that is sure to guarantee copious amounts of epicnicity. Like, enough to give you the pee-shivers.
By the way, at the party at Ska Brewing, we were voted "3rd Most Tight Crew" behind some other teams that were tight like Hall and Oates. Gotta represent G-UNIT
Not sure what else to say, other than how it is really hard to catch your breath at 11,000 feet. Also, this will be one of those weeks that will live in infamy in our minds - even more so than Crazy Jim. Now the only thing left to do is start saving some $$$ to make it to New Zealand next year for SSWC10! In the meantime, we'll just plan on saving up a few bucks for Burnin'.
Remember Burnin'? Yeah - MTB isn't over yet bitches!
Here is a local news footage about the race:
some more photos here
-Casey Fucking Ryback
P.S. You should re-visit these two videos in order to prepare for Burnin':
p.p.s. Read BikeSnobNYC's report of SSWC09 here!