Road tripping to the races.

My most recent races on the calendar were in Midway, Utah and Grand Junction, Colorado. Since they were relatively close to home, it was a good opportunity to skip the hassle of flying and road trip to the races. I’m a big fan of road tripping and mapped out a good route to Utah that allowed me to see some new Colorado backroads and check out Dinosaur National Monument. 

Pronghorn in the plains.

Pronghorn in the plains.

Where the Yampa River and the Green River meet.

Where the Yampa River and the Green River meet.

Sunset views from Harper's Corner. 

Sunset views from Harper's Corner. 

After a quick overnight stop in Dinosaur National Monument, it was off to Utah. It’s been awhile since I have been anywhere in Utah besides Moab. As I rolled into Heber City, I was surprised how beautiful the area was. The surrounding peaks were incredible. The course also did not disappoint. It had a mix of both natural and man-made technical features plenty of fun single-track and climbs that were a challenge, but not total buzz kills. I thought it was a pretty awesome course. The race there went well for me; I finished 2nd to Keegan. I haven’t had the best early season, so it was good to see some indications that my form was coming around.

Chasing Keegan

Chasing Keegan

I left Utah that night and picked up Sofia in Grand Junction. She had just finished racing Tour of California and flew in to hang out for the week. We camped for a few nights on BLM land around the Colorado National Monument. I had also never visited the Colorado National Monument. It’s a pretty spectacular place.

After our camping trip, we headed back into Grand Junction to settle in for the weekend of racing. I have never raced the Grand Junction Off-road (or ridden in GJ!) so I was excited to racing a new course. The course was a true mountain bikers course as it had plenty of technical single track that you needed to ride fast, smooth and efficiently. 

The weather was great early in the week, but it is still spring time in Colorado. Rain in Grand Junction meant snow in the Monument.

The weather was great early in the week, but it is still spring time in Colorado. Rain in Grand Junction meant snow in the Monument.

Race day went well for me. At the Whiskey 50, I think I went a little too far in the red off the line. For GJ, my plan was to start conservatively but still hard enough to be able to go into the long descent, Butterknife, in good positon. Howard took off early and quickly got over a minute on the group. Despite the start not feeling terribly hard, the group whittled down quick to about 6 or 7 guys. I went into the singletrack descent behind Kabush and we were able to bring Howie back by the bottom. It was a short-lived glimpse of him, as he attacked less than 5 minutes later and checked out for good. Kabush and I chased hard the remainder of the course, knowing that the race isn’t over until you cross the line. I ended up 3rd on the day which I was happy with. 

Surviving the chaos of the Fat Tire Crit.

Surviving the chaos of the Fat Tire Crit.

Painface.

Painface.

My Scott Spark was the perfect weapon for the GJ course. I ran the 2.25 Maxxis Aspen tires.

My Scott Spark was the perfect weapon for the GJ course. I ran the 2.25 Maxxis Aspen tires.

Howie, Sofia and I caravanned to the Black Canyon through some quiet Colorado farm roads and ate dinner perched on the edge of the canyon. That night we camped on some BLM land just outside the park and fell asleep to the sound of rain on the roofs of our cars. It was a great way to end the day, and a great way to conclude a road trip to the races. 

An above average picnic.

An above average picnic.

The Gunnison River is currently flowing at 7,000 cfs and is expected to hit 11,000 cfs later this week. The roar of the river can easily be heard 3,000 feet higher from this overlook.

The Gunnison River is currently flowing at 7,000 cfs and is expected to hit 11,000 cfs later this week. The roar of the river can easily be heard 3,000 feet higher from this overlook.

Needle Rock.

Needle Rock.

Sofia and the San Juan's 

Sofia and the San Juan's 

Exploring the Andes. Part 4: Bikepacking my way to fitness.

Exploring the Andes. Part 4: Bikepacking my way to fitness.

I had a couple of long base mile days, so I mapped out a ride, loaded up my Ortlieb packs and set out. Bikepacking with a power meter and making sure I ride in my base power zone may go against the fundamental rules of bikepacking, but to fit in these types of trips into my training  routine that’s how it had to be. 

My loaded up Scott Spark and Ortlieb bags.

My loaded up Scott Spark and Ortlieb bags.

My introduction to bike packing came last fall when I set out to ride the Colorado Trail. Doing so made me realize that it can become a means to link big rides together that typically wouldn’t be possible in a day. It meant that when the coach gave me multiple days of big hour rides back to back, those could become both training and adventure rides. 

The open road.

The open road.

After 3 hours of pedaling I reached Pampa Linda, the place I would later meet DJ and set up camp for the night. I still had some riding to get in, so I continued up the road to the Ventisquero Glacier. Saying we have glaciers in Colorado is like Texans saying they have mountains. I’ve been to some of the tiny glaciers we have in Colorado. It is a stark contrast to those I have seen in Patagonia. My first glacier experience came at the Perito Moreno glacier near El Calafate further south during my first trip to Patagonia just a month earlier. The size and scale of it was truly mind blowing. We sat for hours listening to the glacier rumble as chunks broke off and just enjoying the site. The Ventisquero Glacier had the same effect on me. It took 4 hours of riding just to reach the glacier. Had I not discovered bike packing, this is a site I mostly likely would not have been able to enjoy.

Views of the Tronador from Pampa Linda, Argentina.

Views of the Tronador from Pampa Linda, Argentina.

Ventisquero Glacier.

Ventisquero Glacier.

I headed back down to Pampa Linda, found DJ and took him to the camp site I had found right next to the river. We both cooled off in the river, set up camp and relaxed knowing we had another big day of pedaling ahead. 

Camp.

Camp.

Last light on the Tronador.

Last light on the Tronador.

Pampa Linda lit by a full moon.

Pampa Linda lit by a full moon.

As I laid in my sleeping bag that night, I was quickly put to sleep by the sound of the river and the rumbling of the Ventisquero Glacier above us. Life is good and nature is awesome!

The next morning, it was time to pack up and head back to the home base. Bikepacking is a great way to see new places, link together big rides and a good excuse to sleep in the dirt. I’m excited to implement it into my training more this summer back home in Colorado.

Coffee with a view!

Coffee with a view!

Exploring the Andes. Part 3: "Do one thing every day that scares you."

Exploring the Andes. Part 3: "Do one thing every day that scares you."

I have a love hate relationship with rest days. After a hard training block, nothing sounds better than sitting on the couch all day drinking coffee and binge watching a TV series. But in reality, by noon on a rest day, I feel anxious to do something whether that is house work, bike work or in some cases, climb a mountain. Morale of the story, I’m not very good at rest days.

On one rest block in Bariloche, DJ and I took the gondola to the top of the local ski mountain, traversed a ridge across the top of the mountain and then dropped into a valley where we would find a Refugio to camp at for the night. Typically, I like to self-power myself into the wilderness, but to satisfy coaches resting orders, this was the best solution to get out and into nature. 

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Refugio Frey sits at the end of a lake, surrounded by jagged granite peaks and spires. The endless opportunities for climbing in the area make it a climber’s paradise and that is the primary crowd hanging around the Refugio. We strolled in just before sunset to a lake smooth as glass and the smell of pizza being cooked in the Refugio. We set up camp under the light of a full moon and soon after headed to bed. I woke up just before sunrise and caught one of the most amazing sunrises I have ever seen. Just as the sun crested the horizon, the sun light the granite spires turning them a vibrant red. I sat at the edge of the lake, soaking up the views with the whole area to myself. Just the type of rest and “reset” I needed before kicking off another hard block of training.

DJ enjoying the scramble to Refugio Frey.

DJ enjoying the scramble to Refugio Frey.

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Refugio Frey. Note the climbers rappelling with headlamps on the left rock face.

Refugio Frey. Note the climbers rappelling with headlamps on the left rock face.

A few solid weeks of training ticked by and I found myself with another three days of rest. The plan was to take the gondola up again, rogue camp on top of the mountain, hike to a nearby Refugio, spend the night and then hike out the next day.

Already at our rogue campsite, a friend down in town texted me and said we should climb Torre Principal starting the next day. We’d talked about it casually, but all the sudden the idea became a reality. DJ and I parted ways on day 2; he continued with the original plan and I headed back to Refugio Frey where I would be meeting Lucas, my climbing partner.

By Big Agnes tent under a typical star filled Patagonia sky

By Big Agnes tent under a typical star filled Patagonia sky

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I’ve climbed a fair number of peaks in Colorado. Some requiring some borderline sketchy scrambling that others may opt to rope in for. I, however, had never climbed with a rope and harness. Torre Principal is a 4 pitch climb ranging from 5.7 to 5.10. I had a lot to learn if I was going to make it to the top the next day. We spent the afternoon climbing around Refugio Frey so that I could learn as much as possible about climbing before attempting the Principal the next day. Lucas is a very skilled mountaineer and an excellent teacher. By the end of the day, I felt comfortable belaying, removing gear, crack climbing and rappelling; all skills I’d need to put to use again the next day.

Looking down the route up my first climb.

Looking down the route up my first climb.

Go time. As the sun was rising and the surrounding peaks were covered by alpenglow, we set out towards Torre Principal. The first three pitches went by with relative ease. I felt confident on the mountain and comfortable climbing the cracks. It was a challenge, but I didn’t feel in over my head, yet. The fourth and final pitch is quite a bit different than the first three. It’s airy, exposed face climbing, and it’s the crux of the route. I watched a group of 4 go up it before us. Some struggled and some made it look easy. Lucas zipped right up also making it look easy. I made it up the first half of the pitch slowly but methodically. The final bit of the pitch involves traversing across the face to a crack that you climb to the top. Here’s where I really began to struggle. My fingers were sweaty and I felt as if I could slip off the mountain at any moment, one of my legs started shaking uncontrollably. I felt as if I was holding onto a glass wall and began to feel a surge of adrenaline pumping through my body. I tried not to think of the fact that I was hanging onto the side of a rock a thousand feet off the ground.

The legend himself, Lucas, on our approach.

The legend himself, Lucas, on our approach.

Lucas and the route up pitch 1. This one wasn't too bad.. a good warm up for what lays ahead.

Lucas and the route up pitch 1. This one wasn't too bad.. a good warm up for what lays ahead.

I reached the final crack and couldn’t have been more excited to latch onto something that felt like a large hold, relative to what I had just climbed. I reached the summit and was treated to amazing 360 degree views. You could see three volcanoes, several lakes, Bariloche below and Refugio Frey was down the valley. I’d estimate the summit was only 20 square feet and a sheer drop off from every side of the Torre. I’m not a fan of heights, but I enjoy the rush you get from doing something that pushes the comfort zone. 

Summit Selfie!

Summit Selfie!

The summit.

The summit.

A look at Torre Principal. The two dots on top are Lucas and I.

A look at Torre Principal. The two dots on top are Lucas and I.

We safely rappelled our way down the mountain; also, a new experience for me. I found it hard to truly trust the rope and belay station up top at first, but I felt more comfortable as we worked our way down. Climbing Torre Principal pushed my comfort levels and scared me a couple times, but it was an incredibly rewarding experience and a solid introduction to climbing. It’s safe to say I am hooked and look forward to doing some more climbing in the future. Sometimes rest days are best spent on the couch, but sometimes you also need to rest your mind. The next few days of intervals were some of my best yet, most likely because I was still running off the adrenaline from conquering Torre Principal.

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Exploring the Andes. Part 2: Training Camp.

Exploring the Andes. Part 2: Training Camp.

I’ve ventured to Tucson, Arizona 6 of the last 7 winters to get in some warm base miles, but this year I decided to mix things up. After racing the Trans Andes Stage Race, I ventured to Bariloche, Argentina where I would be basing for the next 6 weeks. I travelled with my friend DJ, another fellow cyclist, but while in Bariloche we both had slightly different objectives. For him, it was an opportunity to vacation in a new place and get in some good rides and adventures. For me, the trip was a bit more focused as I needed to continue training and preparing for the upcoming race season. 

Our small and quite village a bit outside Bariloche proper.

Our small and quite village a bit outside Bariloche proper.

It was a bit of gamble to head down to an area with little beta regarding the quality of riding. I reviewed several maps and it seemed like there were plenty of options for dirt road rides and a fair amount of singletrack. Strava’s heatmap tool is a great source for seeing common areas to ride in an area and was an incredible resource, but nothing is better than trail information from the locals, assuming they are willing to share their secrets. Over the course of 6 weeks, I hardly had to repeat a ride and left with still several rides I wanted to do. 

My early season consists of primarily long rides mixed with some intervals throughout the week. I like doing big road rides typically this time of year and having SRAM Eagle down there was a huge benefit as it allowed me to bust out the miles on the road, but also climb steep climbs on dirt the next day.

One of the few "bad" weather days. Notice the snow?

One of the few "bad" weather days. Notice the snow?

We had good weather for almost the entire duration of our stay, met great people and formed new friendships, ate plenty of carne and empanadas, and had a good time exploring a small part of the world on two wheels. Below are a collection of some of my favorite images from training and exploring around Bariloche.

Exploring the Andes. Part 1: Trans Andes Challenge.

Exploring the Andes. Part 1: Trans Andes Challenge.

After countless years of dreaming of a trip to Patagonia, my girlfriend and I pulled the trigger on tickets and headed down in late November of 2016. We spent 3 weeks travelling around the southern region of Patagonia in our rental van exploring as much as possible by bike and foot. Patagonia was everything I hoped it to me and more. The sparse population, incredible sights, endless opportunities for adventure and delicious empanadas only confirmed one thing; I needed to come back.

A few of my favorite photos from the initial trip.


Trans Andes Challenge.

The Trans Andes Mountain Bike Race has always been on my radar as one of those bucket list races to attend. While down in Patagonia, I spoke with my friend DJ Brooks about the upcoming race and we both decided we should give it a go, even though it was less than a month out. After a short 3 weeks back home in Colorado, I boarded a plane bound for Patagonia. Upon arrival in Neltume, Chile (host city of the race) I was shocked at the contrast of the area when compared to the area I had previously visited. The southern region was primarily arid landscape, jagged peaks and notoriously windy days. The race was in the lake district of Patagonia, so the environment was quite lush and filled with waterfalls and lakes.

I arrived a few days early to check out some of the riding and get settled in before taking on the 5-day stage race. Neltume is a small town of only 2,500 people, but the area around is filled with endless dirt roads for exploration and some pretty awesome single-track if you know where to look.

Salto Huilo Huilo, Neltume, Chile.

Salto Huilo Huilo, Neltume, Chile.

There was no easing into the racing as day 1 was a loop of 50 miles and just under 8,000 feet of climbing. Being that it was late January, I didn’t have any intensity in the legs yet; just a few weeks of base miles. My plan for the day was to sit it in and just follow wheels to get a feel for where I am at fitness wise and try to get an idea of how my competitors were riding, assuming I wasn’t shot out the back.

On day one, we kicked things off with a start loop before heading into the meat of the day. I somehow managed to tag a rock wrong and began losing air in my front tire. We hit the first climb and I decided to attack, try to establish a gap then change my tire when it went completely flat. 20 miles in, I reached the top of the second major climb with a gap and air in my tire. It was a stressful day knowing my tire was compromised, but as I popped out of the trees on a descent I was treated to a vista above the river valleys and volcanoes across the way. It was one of the best views I’ve had while racing and one of the most memorable pieces of the race to me. It also reminded me why I was racing Trans Andes. It wasn’t a race I needed to win; it was meant to be a race to show me a new part of the world, meet new people and get in some good early season riding. Realizing this calmed me down and I continued pushing to the finish line with a different mentality. If I held onto the lead, great! If not, oh well.

I grabbed the leader’s jersey on Day 1 and was able to hold onto it until the end. We climbed almost 35,000 feet in those 5 days and believe me, they were not gradual climbs. I became very familiar with the 50t on my Eagle cassette. Trans Andes was an incredible way to see the area and one of the most fun races I have done. I’ll never forget the views on day 1 as I popped out of the trees or descending the Mocho Volcano on a misty day. I highly recommend putting the Trans Andes Stage Race on your to-do list. If the endurance racing thing isn’t for you, they also introduced an Enduro race this year which others spoke highly of.

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Trans Andes was just the start to this journey in Patagonia. After the race, DJ and I left Chile and headed over to Bariloche, Argentina where we would be stationed for a 6 week training camp. Stay tuned for Part 2!