I have been riding in Grand Junction for many years because of the close proximity to home with the almost year round riding potential of the area. It doesn’t hurt that the terrain in GJ is the type of rocky physical riding that I seek out… Because of that, I knew that the Grand Junction Off Road course was going to be a good one and I can always count on the Epic Rides crew to put on a great event.
As with the Whiskey Off Road, there was be a criterium in downtown Grand Junction on Friday night. This crit course was pancake flat with lots of cornering, so it was a much different affair than the Whisky course. I pretty much sat at the back of the pack trying to hold on. The pace picked up quick, with lots of attacks at the front. I stayed in the lead pack all the way to the end and even sprinted by a couple people in the end for 14th place.
On Saturday we again went on a leisurely ride to keep the legs fresh and relaxed and enjoyed the day. It was perfect weather for this race and we hung out in downtown checking out the bike expo and enjoyed some bluegrass music with lunch.
For the XC race on Sunday, the weather was looking perfect and I was ready for some fun racing. We had about a 3 mile paved start before we hit the dirt, the pace was quite leisurely until we got close to the start of the trail then it was a full on sprint, I was about mid pack by the start of the trail and quickly moved by lots of racers through the technical terrain. I was really surprised at what these pro mountain bikers were having trouble riding and was able to work my way to the top 20 very quickly.
I was a little worried that I was going to be stuck behind some slow downhillers on the butter knife single-track section so I made a hard effort to stay ahead of as many people as possible. I ended up behind Carl Decker who is probably one of the best all around mountain bikers in the country so it was best-case scenario for this section. When we got to the long windmill climb I had Carl to work with and we started trading pulls up the hour long climb back to the road, this lasted for about 15 minutes then Carl had to stop and fix a slow leak. The wind was pretty strong and it was hard work without anyone to work with.
By the time I got to the road I had been battling with a couple other riders and was about 30 seconds ahead and tried to keep it that way. Andy’s trail was great for me at the end because I could widen the gap a bit in the technical terrain. When I crossed the finish I had held on to my position and ended up in 15th place out of about 60 pro racers. I’m very happy with the result and the fitness that I have heading into longer races for the rest of the season. The Grand Junction Off Road was great event, super fun racing and a great weekend overall. I highly recommend this race if you’re into fun, challenging terrain.