Ochs repeats, Willoford spends hours in the saddle and courses put the wood to enduro racers
by Than Acuff
Crested Butte Bike Week started 38 years ago. It was a time when the Fourth of July parade was more than just a line of local business advertisements and Gunnison hosted the Open Mining Championships.
Since then it appeared to have seen its heyday in the mid- to late 1990s when people started to realize mountain biking is hard and interest faded. Technology soon took hold, wheels got bigger, shocks traveled more and clothes got cooler and, thanks to the aforementioned miners, we have the materials to create the bikes used at the annual festival of all things biking, Thursday through Sunday, June 21-24.
While the week has seen some down years, it has turned into another showcase of talent and insanity with the Chainless World Championships. The Fat Tire 40 cross country race, the Big Mountain Enduro, the Junior Wildflower race and the Bridges of the Butte 24-hour ride, were all part of the celebration this past weekend, put on by the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce.
The racing started on Friday, June 22 with Dave Ochs defending his Chainless World title against a handful of heavy hitters, including Jordan Willoford on his tiny bike and speedsuit, while more than 350 other riders just casually coasted down Kebler Pass road on a variety of bikes, both factory-made and backyard-fabricated. The entire race was a testament to the spirit and creativity of both the locals and visitors.
Saturday morning more than 100 bikers lined up for the Fat Tire 40 cross country race as athletes of all ages and a variety of abilities, including Jordan Willoford, tackled a 41.8-mile course of mostly singletrack touring the north end of the valley. While a majority of cross country bike races these days happen on or near ski resorts and include a lot of double track, the Fat Tire 40 is a pure cross country mountain bike race.
Meanwhile, close to 250 athletes were busy humping their bikes up Roaring Judy to charge down Cement Mountain Trail and Rosebud only to head back up to the top of Doctors Park to charge down that as well in the first two stages of the Big Mountain Enduro.
Once he finished with his Fat Tire 40 race, Willoford joined a huge collection of individuals to participate in the 24-hour Bridges of the Butte to raise money for the Adaptive Sports Center. Suffice it to say, Willoford spent the most time on a bike of anyone this weekend.
On Sunday the celebration of biking came to a close. The Bridges wrapped up at noon, the Enduro riders finished with Reno Ridge to Deadman’s and then back up to Double Top to hang on as they descended down Warm Springs. In the end, enduro riders climbed 10,000 feet over two days and rode 45 miles of trails—an experience that had several Europeans here for the event a couple of years ago asking “Where are zee lifts and where is zee oxygen?” The young guns also got a taste of the bike racing in CB Devo’s Junior Wildflower Race.
In the end, Crested Butte Bike Week returned to what it once was and has turned it up a notch, if not two.