13th Annual Whiskey Off-Road

Epic Rides Whiskey 50 weekend is over. Just like that the races continue to fly by, but not without uncontrollable emotion, horrifyingly close calls, lessons learned, and the fulfillment from another job completed to the best of my ability.

I found it harder to leave home, feeling like I had just barely gotten home after Sea Otter, and leaving Layla again so soon was a bit more difficult. I prepared her in advance that I was leaving again. I’m so proud of her, she is such a trooper! And many thanks to my mom for filling in the gaps while away on this trip.

I had Thursday to pre-ride with TJ and shake out the travel. This was my first weekend with my sweet new Fox 32 Step-Cast fork on my Pivot Les 29. It had a little different feel, it’s amazing how well it performs it’s job….awesome….stiff, yet smooth! I’m realizing that my bike handling is improving with these advances in equipment!

It is really special to have many of our team sponsors, support the Epic Rides events as well, and to have these people in town for the event – Stan’s NoTubes, Pivot Cycles, Maxxis, Shimano, and Bike Flights. Team Stan’s – Pivot also had an addition for the weekend, Tiziana DeHorney. Tiziana is a young rider from New Mexico who’s personality is sweet, her smile is radiant, and she is brave and strong. Whiskey 2016 was Tiziana’s first pro race.

The racing started on Friday evening with Fat Tire Crit which looped through downtown Prescott. The air was cool, but it stayed dry for the fast paced 30 minute sprint. Chloe and I went out hard. Not long into the race, I attacked the short steep climb, which created separation that left Chloe a couple bike lengths back, and Evelyn on my wheel. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do at that point, except that I hoped Evelyn needed some recovery as much as I did, which she didn’t. She attacked hard again on the same hill on the next lap and created significant separation between the two of us. I was feeling gassed and sat up to join with Chloe so we could work together to catch Evelyn.

Chloe and I experienced a horrifyingly close call during this part of the race. As we turned a corner descending at a fast pace, a pedestrian appeared from nowhere right in front of us. He responded when Chloe yelled at him, by turning back into my line of traffic. I screamed, and locked up my brakes. I think Chloe ended up going around him on one side and me on the other; one way or another we were protected by angles wings at that moment. We were both pretty shaken and it took a few moments to find a rhythm again. Evelyn road an amazing race and kept her lead while Chloe and I rolled in 2nd and 3rd.

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Toward the beginning of the Fat Tire Crit. Photo: Les Stukenberg

Saturday was a day of rest. Coffee with friends, cheering on Kenny (who landed on the podium in 2nd) and the participants of Saturday’s races, a little spin, and a big spaghetti dinner homemade by Andrea Matter (Thanks Andrea!).

Up early on race morning, to make sure I eat my hearty breakfast of eggs, cheese, and avocado on toast with enough time to digest before our 8:40am start. Chloe and I knew today would be a good opportunity to work together to our advantage. We were able to control the race from the start. The two of us, along with Maghalie Rochette, Luna Pro Team, formed the lead group as we completed the first section of single track. It was really helpful to have Chloe lead for realistic pace setting and to have her to follow on the descents.

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Nearing the top of Copper Basin Road, Photo: Dave McElwaine

We were steady, and the race was playing out smoothly. We started the Skull Valley climb (a 12 mile dirt road climb) with a comfortable gap of over 2 minutes from chasing Larissa Connors and Evelyn Dong. We were working well together staying within as Chloe continued to set the pace, that is, until Evelyn closed the gap; then the three of us turned into four. It wasn’t long before Evelyn turned it up again, and shook-up our well-controlled race. She put a 30 second gap on us as we chased, and soon we were all spread out with Evelyn leading, me chasing hard, and gaps forming behind me as we neared the top of the long road climb.

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Focused effort chasing after Evelyn near the top of the Skull Valley Rd climb,                   Photo: Kathy Thomas
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Photo: Bill Freeman

As we entered the final, fast, long, single track descent, Evelyn was still nowhere to be seen; but I went into my best descending mode and soon felt my rhythm with the trail and the bike as I pushed hard. I caught Evelyn and passed with a solid portion of descending left, as well as Cramp Hill (which again my inner thighs seized badly). I never let up or looked back. Once on the pavement that descended back into town and the finish, I followed the police escort and spinned as fast and as hard as I was able.

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Creek crossing so close to the end. Photo: Les Stukenberg

That last 45 minutes of racing became very exciting and emotional. For the first time, I was without a doubt racing with true passion, and it was Divinely incredible.

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Giving thanks, Photo: Kenny Wehn

I have to give huge credit to Chloe! For Chloe, Whiskey 2016 fell at the end of a 5 weekend back-to-back race block, where she traveled internationally on two separate occasions. Chloe arrived back in Prescott on the Wednesday before Whiskey from Australia (where she finished 13th at World Cup #1!) with a head cold. She is strong beyond words and still pulled off 3rd.

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That bike deserved to be on the podium as much as I did. My favorite bike of all time!

TJ also raced on Sunday after hours on his feet on Saturday building and tuning bikes, and supporting the Arizona Development Team. Impressive work to TJ!

The journey continues to challenge, to pull me down, to push me forward, and to rise above. The faithfulness of the little daily tasks is adding up, and to feel the reward is abundantly fulfilling.

I have been honored to have the army behind me who makes possible days like last Sunday. The details involved in putting together successful race weekends are great, and I have many to thank for the support.

First to my husband, Nelson! Then to my mom for all her support and help with Layla.

The Stan’s NoTubes – Pivot Team: Chloe and TJ Woodruff, Stan’s NoTubes (Kenny), Pivot Cycles (Awesome to have Lisa in town for Whiskey!), Maxxis, Shimano, Fox, Castelli, Clif Bar, Pearl Izumi, MRP.

A big shout out to Lee and Lou Reeves for hosting me over the weekend!

Finally, the Epic Rides series are really incredible events, offering epic backcountry mountain biking, deep fields, and big prize cash purses! Thanks to all for an unforgettable weekend!

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