A man on a mission—in the missionary position
by Than Acuff
It took 17 years but it finally happened. On Friday, June 23 the stars aligned, the wheels rolled, the hole shot held up and Dave Ochs won his first Chainless World Championship title.
“When I turned onto old Kebler I looked back and didn’t see anyone, I could feel the smile coming, busting out of my jaw going ear to ear,” says Ochs. “It felt good hitting Elk Avenue and throwing the arms out. I think it’s exactly the same as winning a Tour de France stage. Or at least the closest I’ll ever get to that. It is the single greatest sporting achievement of my life.”
Close to 400 hooligans assembled at the top of Kebler Pass for the start of the 17th annual Chainless World Championships brought to you by the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce. It was a party and I’d like to think everybody packed out what they packed in.
Nevertheless, there they all were, letting the good times roll.
And, in the end, Ochs, a man who has been gunning for the title lo’ these past 16 years, finally reached his goal, crossing the finish line first after riding seven miles downhill alone and prone, sternum to stem, speedsuit and all, aboard his trusty 1978 Motobecane Super Mirage, running at least 105 pounds per square inch in the tires.
There was some blood spilled, specifically defending champion Pete Sedunov, who during the frantic Le Mans start suffered a laceration that needed stitches once the adrenaline of racing wore off. Aside from that, and a host of road rashes, everyone appeared to steer clear of any major carnage. Which is a miracle in and of itself given the number of riders bombing down Kebler Pass on the jankiest of rides. There are junky rides and then there’s janky rides and some of the bikes were janky to say the least.
The seamen on their “ship” (report to the poop deck to receive instructions from the rear admiral) held together by wood and a lot of bolts (and nuts), the Mad Max crew, the Reverse Cowgirl (giddy up!), Donald Trump, middle finger and all, and his crew of Secret Service men all made it down. Even Austin Weaver, who was on a homemade bike that had him perched probably six to eight feet off the deck, made it.
But the first one to make it was Ochs. And if you ain’t first, you’re last.
It all started for Ochs in 2001. Actually, it all started for Ochs at conception but let’s not get into that. He spent the first couple of years in the mountain bike division, which was soon disbanded as everyone was thrown into the mix together. From there he spent the next several years crossing the finish line in the tailwind of someone else. Mark Cram, Roman Kolodziej and the most decorated chainless rider in the event’s history, four-time winner Spencer Hestwood, to name a few.
“He had a heavy bike, was down low and just killed it,” says Ochs. “Every year I get the hole shot and every year for the first four minutes of the race I think, oh my god, this could be the year.”
But, ultimately, someone with a little more weight passes Ochs somewhere around Splains Gulch and he just can’t hang on.
“I try to draft but they just pull away from me,” says Ochs. “It’s strictly a matter of weight. I’ve been second like four or five times, third countless times.”
Ochs credits the people at the top of Kebler as his inspiration, them and the Trampe family. In 1901 Bill Trampe’s grandfather, H.F. Trampe, first came to the Gunnison Valley riding a bike over Marshall Pass to eventually homestead.
“It goes back to who we are, the homesteaders,” says Ochs.
Regardless, Ochs finally got his title and is looking for a few more before he’s done.
“Do I get to relax now and enjoy the race and just have fun? I don’t think so,” says Ochs. “I’m gonna keep going for it. My goal is to keep doing the chainless until I’m 82, if I make it to 82.”