“We nutted up for better or worse”
Thirty-eight riders started but only 19 finished the classic Vapor Trail 125, a 125-mile-long ultra-marathon bike race linking fire roads and single track as well as the Continental Divide trail outside of Salida.
In the end three riders from the Gunnison Valley finished in the top ten as Jason Stubbe took second place, Brick Oven/Crested Butte Builders rider Aaron Huckstep took third and Jordan Carr finished in seventh.
“We nutted up for better or worse,” says Stubbe.
Typically the race starts at 10 p.m. to allow as many participants as possible to finish before nightfall the next day. This year, as riders gathered for the start, it became obvious that no one was going anywhere.
“It was nuking, raining sheets,” says Stubbe.
As a result organizers decided to push the start back to midnight and cut 15 miles from the 125-mile course.
“It definitely didn’t make it any easier,” says Stubbe.
By midnight, the skies broke and riders headed off into the night on the first section of the course, a 30-mile stretch—15 miles of jeep road and 15 miles of single track, with 6,000 feet of climbing.
Leaders reached the first checkpoint at approximately 3:30 a.m. and turned onto the next section complete with high-altitude riding, still in the dark.
“You’re next mission is to get over three passes at 12,000 feet,” explains Stubbe. “It’s spooky being up there like that.”
Stubbe and crew were met at daybreak at the next checkpoint by a large Gunnison Valley contingent serving up breakfast for the masses before heading up Monarch Pass to finish with the Crest Trail and Rainbow Trail.
It was here that Stubbe had his personal epiphany, heading out onto the Rainbow Trail with nobody in sight.
“The rain and snow the night before made it such that you could see the tire tracks of the rider ahead of you,” says Stubbe. “I came across two guys out there and then there was just one track on the trail, the leader, and I knew I wasn’t going to see him. That was the highlight, knowing I was never going to see anyone. I’ve waited 20 years for that.”
Stubbe soaked up the solitude, cruising to a second-place finish, covering the 110-mile course in a time of 12 hours and 28 minutes. Huckstep came in with a time of 12 hours, 49 minutes and Carr crossed the finish after 13 hours, 34 minutes of riding.
It was Stubbe’s third second-place finish out of the four times he’s raced. Nevertheless, the vibe and personal challenge keeps him coming back every year.
“It’s kind of a test at the end of the year—did you ride your bike this summer?” explains Stubbe. “It’s a really cool event, really grassroots. A huge shout out goes to the guys at Absolute Bikes in Salida who put it on.”
Still, the season isn’t over yet for Stubbe with one event left in his schedule, the CB Classic.
“I live for that race. That’ll be the end of the season,” says Stubbe.