I’ve been coming to Sedona for over a decade, the place has changed a lot in the time that I’ve been coming here. When I first started coming to Sedona I was riding a 3-inch XC bike with tubes and really skinny tires… I got away with a lot because of youth and athleticism but definitely took my lumps. Early on I was introduced to some of the locals who were already riding bigger suspension bikes with aggressive tires and it really opened my eyes to what was possible on a mountain bike.
Like all places that are special and beautiful it can get loved to death, it can get very crowded. In Sedona but the riding is incredible and the saturation of trail riding in a relatively small area is unmatched in my opinion. The area can be intimidating to a beginner or intermediate rider because of the nature of trails here, everything is really technical and even the “intermediate” trails are much more advanced than most riding destinations you will go to. The thing that draws so many people to this place is the dramatic landscape, just around every corner is another breathtaking view and I always like to say it’s so incredible it looks fake, too good to be true!
I’ve known about the SBFL for quite some time and have always wanted to do this race and for some reason or another have never been able to make it happen. At 53 miles it’s my shortest race of the season but what it lacks in mileage it makes up for in hard trail riding, the first section of the race goes over high line trail, one of the more technical trails in Sedona. This year in AZ it has been a very wet winter and the major river crossing on the course was to high to safely cross so the promoters decided to divert the course to a bridge that would add a good amount of road, and to keep times in the same general zone they decided to take out some trail and add some road. I was a bit bummed about the change but it was necessary and the road section was all climbing so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
The day of the race ended up being perfect weather with the high temp only getting into the low 60’s, the leisurely race start of 8:30am at the Bike & Bean bike shop (who are gracious enough to host the event and after party) was a nice treat, usually I’m staring races at 6 or 7am so the extra sleep is nice.
Once we got going no one really wanted to take the lead so I jumped up front and started up Slim Shady trail at a leisurely pace. Once we hit Highline trail I upped the pace and was soon by myself, I figured I could make some time on this section because of the technical nature of the trail. Highline is probably the most technical section, but the entire course really doesn’t let you relax. The race is completely self-supported and I think it really levels the playing field, you can’t have someone meeting you every 10 miles to give you handoffs. It kind of annoys me when a race calls itself a “self supported race” but then you can have someone meeting you along the course at any point the whole way. To me that’s not self-supported and I don’t get why some races out there do this.
I figured I would be about 5 hours and I knew it was going to be cool temps so I went with about 100oz of my Infinit drink mix, and this ended up being perfect and I even had some left over. I’m not going to go into all the trails we rode but you pretty much ride through every trail network in the area except for Hangover. I ended up finishing just under 5 hours for the win!
I was pretty happy with that, this is definitely my kind of race, it’s really not my distance but this is what I want in a race, demanding trail riding the entire time basically what I ride on a daily basis. As usual my Santa Cruz Blur with Shimano DI2 was flawless throughout, I definitely take it for granted that it’s going to work perfectly and I never really even think about if it’s going to fail me because it never has. I will definitely be back for the full trail version of this race without any road. If your looking for great trail races this is one of them, put it on the list you won’t be disappointed.