“Patience paid off”[ story by T
It’s hard for the layperson to truly understand how fast these people ride 40 miles on their mountain bikes. The fact that Team Griggs Orthopedics (Team GO) rider Brian Smith won in a time of three hours, 12 minutes and 34 seconds is staggering but, like I said, hard to comprehend because only a handful of people would actually ride those very same 40 miles of trails in one effort. Let alone keep track of their time. I guess one could always “Strava” it but, again, who would ride that punishing combination of trails?
The women’s times were impressive as well, as Rachael Hadley out of Aspen, Colo. won in a time of 4:04:47, with Team GO rider Jari Kirkland a minute back in second and Team GO rider Janae Pritchett placing third with a time of 4:06:10.
I will try to break down the times for said laypeople.
The course started with a neutral start from the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), up the road before turning onto a climb up Prospector Trail, down Columbine, over on lower West Side before hitting the Upper Upper Loop.
So, the leaders did all of that in 27 minutes.
The leaders then rode the Upper Upper Loop, from start to finish with the reroute, in 25 minutes.
One would think with 40 miles of racing, there might be a little pacing at the start. You know, save some in the tank for the rest of the grueling ride. But, riding the entire Upper Upper Loop in 25 minutes is not pacing. At least not in the traditional sense of pacing.
The leaders then headed to ride Strand and the Canal Trail and were coming off of that one hour and 20 minutes after starting.
Then, then, they proceeded to knock off the next section: Deer Creek, the climb out of the town of Gothic, up Meander and down Awakening and Down Time to the finish line, in two hours.
I couldn’t even car shuttle that sh** in that time. No one can. What is wrong with these people?
As I was saying, Brian Smith won the race in a time of 3:12:34 but was far from out front all race long, as he found himself battling with Cameron Brenneman and Team GO teammate Bryan Dillon for the first two-thirds of the race.
Smith entered the Fat Tire 40 race with a new plan in place. Rather than bury his competition right from the start, he erred on the side of caution this time around.
“My whole attitude was, I can’t go out hard,” says Smith.
He tested the waters early in the race with a surge at the top of the climb up Prospector but after veering off into the tall grass to pass people, Smith was gassed and returned to his initial strategy.
“That move almost buried me,” admits Smith.
He got his first shot of inspiration on the Columbine downhill before turning off the resort trails and onto the Upper Upper Loop.
“I started opening up a gap on the downhill without even trying and passed Jay Henry heading into the Upper Upper and that was inspirational,” explains Smith.
Smith got past Dillon on the Upper Upper Loop and was in a two-way battle with Brenneman heading into the Stand portion. The two riders proceeded to trade off in the lead with Brenneman taking the helm on the climbs and Smith reeling him back in on the descents.
“Cameron was pushing big gears on the climbs and I decided to just let him go and be a little patient,” says Smith.
By the time they hit Deer Creek, Brenneman was off the front and Dillon had returned to the mix, at which point Smith let Dillon by him as they turned onto the singletrack climb, including the “Wall,” up Deer Creek.
“After the Wall I was back about a minute and thinking I was just racing for third,” says Smith.
Once again, patience paid off though. Smith pulled in behind Brenneman on one downhill section and as Brenneman cut a corner a little tight, he clipped a rock and was sent flying.
Smith then made his way up to Dillon, who was in the lead, and the same thing happened to Dillon as he hooked a wheel and crashed, leaving it open for Smith.
“I just stayed conservative on the downhill and cleaned everything and when I hopped on the road out of Gothic I put my head down and started hammering,” explains Smith.
The final push up Meander had Smith suffering but with the finish line so close, he managed to push through to the win.
“My chain was squealing, I was starting to cramp and almost threw up at least three times but I was running on adrenaline and just gutted out every little steep climb,” says Smith. “I dug so deep because I wanted it bad those last 20 minutes. Patience paid off.”
Dillon ended up finishing in second place two minutes back and Henry finished the day in third with a time of 3:15:21.
Smith and a gaggle of local riders will now take their talents on the road as they head to Breckenridge to race in the Firecracker 50 on Friday, July 4.