I headed down to Crested Butte on Friday, fully intending to sleep in the Van-again. Some last-minute texting with Este scored me a far-better sleeping arrangement. Sweet house, huge bed, shower – all just blocks from the 4-way stop (meeting/start location for the CB Classic).
After getting the tour of my new domicile for the next 2 nights and catching up over a few PBR’s, we headed downtown for some food and more beer. With a full belly, it was time for sleep – the 6:00am meeting time would make for an early awakening.
It was dark and chilly (but not too cold) when I arrived for the pre-race sign in and instructions. A neutral rollout up Elk Avenue to Old Kebler Pass brought us to Kebler Pass Rd proper and it was game on. Being the early riser that I am, I settled in at the back of the pack, searching for a decent-sized group riding at a pace that worked with my sleepy self. I found the perfect group and hung at the back as we rolled up the pass to the Irwin town site. After discarding my jacket, I made my way to the entrance of the Dyke. Still half asleep, I damn near wadded it up within the first 20 meters of singletrack.
Now awake, I enjoyed every minute of the first downhill section of the Dyke. The trail was riding wonderfully with several spots blanketed in aspen leaves. Approaching the mean-middle section, I opted to try to ride as much of the climb as possible. No need to walk so early on. I managed to clear 80% of the climb and then gave in to a bit of walking. Back on the bike for the final ripping descent to Horse Park Camp and then the climb back up Kebler to the Wagon Trail. Kept a reasonable pace up Kebler and then cruised back into town. 2.5 hours into the race and loop 1 was complete.
After checking in with the official-unofficial timers, it was straight out to the Lower Loop and then up Slate River Rd. Slate starts our mellow enough, but then takes a hard right and so begins the Slate d’Huez. FOK! I’ve never accessed the 403 via Slate and now I know why. It may be the most horrible (but rideable) climb in the world. I was hoping for a mechanical just so I could walk…stupid properly working bike.
Climb over and time to descend the 403. This is not a descent that is conducive to recovery. It loses a lot of elevation in a short period of time. It’s fun, but you have to remain focused. Safely down the 403, Stubbe is there with a cooler full of baby Cokes. Baby Cokes rule! The route now heads up Schofield Pass to the 401. A mellow-ish gravel road climb followed by a steeper singletrack climb.
About 1/3 of the way up the road, I’m passed by two very-chipper fellows, absolutely hauling ass – thankfully they assured me they had driven to the Rustlers parking lot and were not doing the “hundo”. I felt much better about my leisurely pace.
The 401 descent brought some much-needed recovery. This downhill is always fun and allows for a little less focus. Out at Rustlers for the 10-mile “descent” back into town. A few guys hammered by on the road, but I continued at my own pace in attempt to recover from the efforts of the big climbs loop 2 had dished out. After checking in, it was to the van to prepare for the final loop.
Refill Camelbak, eat 4 ibuprofen, drink baby coke, eat bagel with avocado and cheese, shot of whiskey, and lay down. Then the voices in my head began debating next steps. I could just take a nap and be done…HTFU and get back out there…the climbs up Strand and Deer Creek are going to hurt…the downhills are sweet and the leaves/scenery are awesome. Lube the chain, another shot of whiskey and I was on my way out of town for loop 3. A tailwind helped keep the pace reasonable and I was making good time right up until I was greeted by a cattle drive coming at me on Brush Creek Rd. I can now check – riding through a cattle drive – off the list. Once beyond the cows, cowboys and cattle dogs it was time to climb the Strand Hill Rd. It’s a steep mo-fo and once again I was looking for any excuse to walk, but managed to stay on the bike for the entirety of the climb. The painful climb was followed by yet another sweet descent back down to Brush Creek Rd – where Stubbe was waiting with more baby Cokes. From here more climbing ensued – getting steeper all the way. I was looking forward to the mandatory hike-a-bike section so I could take a break from pedaling for a while. Hike-a-bike complete, it was now time for the final descent of Deer Creek singletrack and then 8 miles of road back to town – nothing like another super-fun descent to block out the pain of the climbing. I checked in at the Brick Oven with a time of 11:04. Was hoping for better but am satisfied with my first attempt.
Beer followed by a shower and then more beer and then a solid nights sleep. I rolled out of town happy that I finished and still liking my bike. I’ve done several “difficult” things on a bicycle and this ranks up there with some of the most difficult. While I’ll probably never revisit a few off that list, the CB Classic has left me wanting more. I would highly recommend giving this event a try. I’m sure I’ll be hanging out at the 4-way, next fall.
If you’re one that enjoys photos and videos, you can find them here (http://www.mountainflyermagazine.com/view.php/8th-annual-crested-butte-classic-2.html), as well as a great write up of the event by Chris Miller.