The Gunnison Growler is a race I’ve done before, it’s a 32 mile course that you do twice. The Hartman rocks trail network where the race takes place really is a gem for mountain biking, It’s a mix of fast flowing single track and very technical punchy, rocky, trail throughout. They have definitely revamped the course and now is almost all trail for the entire race. The race acts as fundraiser for Gunnison trails and 100% of the race proceeds go to building trails in the Gunnison and Crested Butte area.
64 mile may not sound like a short race but it’s the shortest that I’ll do all year, the thing that brings me back to this race is the riding! It really is that good! The race always draws a strong field and this year was no different. Starting off in downtown Gunnison for a 5 mile roll out to Hartman’s and then up “Kill Hill” probably the worst part of the race because it is a killer. Once we got to the single track a defined lead group had formed, Dave Wiens, Kalan Beisel, Yannick Eckmann (another guy that I didn’t know), and myself.
Before I get into how the race went down I wanted to say how cool it was that Dave Wiens was racing the growler, the race that he had started 12 years ago and has since helped it become a premier endurance event in Colorado. If you know Dave or have ever talked to him, you’ll know how cool and humble of a guy he is, and it was a pure pleasure to race with him. That being said, once you get him on a race course and he’s a cold-blooded killer.
We all stayed together for the first lap jockeying for position the other guys would surge on the climbs and I would catch back up on the decent or in the technical sections, it was super fun rallying with a strong group. when we finished the first lap and came into the transition everyone got handoffs and I was trying to find my drop bag and having trouble doing so, after a couple of minutes I found it and was back out for the second lap. Unfortunately, I had lost a good 3 or 4 minutes in the transition so I had my work cut out for me.
I slowly reeled everyone in except Dave, I passed Kalan and Yannick about halfway through the second lap, but they were both hanging tough about 30 seconds behind. I was definitely hitting it hard trying to stay ahead and see if I could still catch Dave, I knew I was about a minute behind and caught a couple glimpses of him, but I just couldn’t bridge the gap. When I did cross the finish line I was about a minute 30 behind Dave and about the same ahead of a surging Kalan who had passed Yannick at the end for 3rd. I was extremely happy to finish in second behind the legendary Dave Wiens and it was very fitting for Dave to win the race that he started in his home town.
I always want to win but sometimes the best thing you can hope for is to race to your potential, feel strong, not have any mechanical problems, and when that happens it doesn’t really matter what place you come in you’ve already won.