24 Hour Solo World Champs

It’s been a couple years since the last 24 hour race I took part in over in Australia in the fall of 2013.  It was a rough Worlds with a few injuries and since then I have focused heavily on single day and multi stage Marathons.    24hours_full_logo_2015_WEB

This year the WEMBO 24 HR Solo Worlds will be in Weaverville California, just a short 12 hour drive from home.   My buddy/ support team of Dave Mcnaught and myself are headed there and will be followed with my Dad and his wife Eileen as well as Kona/Sellwood Cycle racer Sean Babcock from Portland to try and leave our Canadian mark on the race.
Why do a 24 hour race solo?  Why not is a better question?  Our lives on this planet are pretty short and time flashes bye.   Its one way to make it slow down for a while and truly experience every heartbeat of this existence.  The journey a 24 hour race takes your mind and body through is out of this World and a good test of character to make sure one isn’t getting soft in this World full of modern day conveniences.  Spending 24 hours inside on a couch watching tv or surfing the net is way more painful  then riding a bike around in some fresh air and going through some unforgettable moments, good and rough that will stick with one for a very longtime.

I can’t wait to get out there in the California forests for a day with some of the Worlds legendary 24 hour riders such as Tinker Juarez and the reigning World Champ Jason English from Australia who has been undefeated over the past 5 years and seems to have this thing down to a science.


Results : www.timeyourrace.com

Huge thanks to Kona Bicycles for hiring Dave for the weekend and making this trip happen.


Over and out!


Costa Rica- Rincon de La Vieja 100 Miler

IMG_0621The Rincon de la Vieja is an adventurous 100 mile mountain bike race circumnavigating an active Volcano in Northern Costa Rica.    The land surrounding the race is a tourist haven filled with hot springs, waterfalls, zip lines, tubing, horseback riding and other types of adventure ecotourism.  We were there to race though so after a couple of relaxing days at  Borinquen Resort tucked away on the western flanks of the Volcano it was time for bussiness.  The night before the big show I headed to race headquarters at Hacienda Guachipelin resort to focus on the task at hand.  The 3 year old event  is now part of the USA’s NUE (National Ultra Endurance) series and attracted over 550 racers from North and Central America this year.

1As far as bike racing goes this is what it’s all about with adventure, sightseeing, stiff competition, a laid back atmosphere and an unforgettable experience racing through one of the Worlds most extreme varied environments.  Racing in places like North America and Europe is generally pretty tame but down here in Costa Rica there is a wild side to it!

The adventure started getting to Costa Rica as the flight required an overnight in Atlanta Georgia.  Getting in at midnight with the next flight at 9am left little time to find a hotel  so I searched out a place to camp for the night and opted for the parking garage at the inteMallik Police Comedy copy(1)rnational airport.  Finding a spot between two concrete walls made a tight but quiet place to sleep until the Atlanta Police Department found me.  “Wake up sleeping beauty this is a parking lot not a bunk house!”  Looking up to see a large angry black policeman starring down at me was a bit of a jolt.  After some negotiations he let me on my way and soon I was sky high nearing Paradise!

Race day started way too early Saturday morning at 5:30 am.  The sun was smarter then us and wasn’t even up at this time.    Someones needs to make a rule on how early these things can start as 4 am is a good time for dreams not alarm clocks!   After eating half a rice cake for breakfast it was off to the line where we had a neutral start climbing up to the base of Rincon volcano before the race kicked off with a sprint for one of the 2 single track sections of the day. This was followed with 5 km of fast trail through a dry forest back towards the start line before heading out on a series of rolling hills.  andreusvargas_leadadventuremedia265

The race started nicely until I dropped my chain in the single track descent, bending a few links as it got tangled in my pedal.  Untangling the knot and then chasing hard for the next 30 minutes with skipping gears I finally caught back up to the lead group of 20 as they went over some “rolling hills”.  These rollers were not rollers at all but rather vertical walls up 500 m-1 km climbs on 20% + roads which were so steep they had to pave them. Once I caught up I  considered stopping to brake and re fix my chain but would’ve surely lost the lead group for good so tried to bend it back with my hands whenever the pace slowed a little.    Usually you try to pace yourself during the first part of 100 mile race but between the relentless hills and trying to fix the chain it was a hard start to the day!

After the first feed zone 25 miles in we road off the dusty roads through open pastureland and straight into a wall of Jungle.   Suddenly the ground was slick and muddy, the sun was blocked out from the thick canopy above and the humidity shot straight through the roof with a drizzle of  rain to cap it off. TJoseAndresVargas_RVC2015539here were Toucans and other colourful birds squaking and lots of strange rustling in the dense foliage.  Fluorescent blue Morpho butterflies floated about against the dark green back drop and looked like something straight out of Avatar. Some racers towards the back of the race even captured a Cougar on camera. This was the wild side of Costa Rica we all dreamt about

It’s always an adventure racing in the Jungle but it’s a different beast which is hard to tame.  I’m not sure if its the humidity or the fact I know little about it but I tend to focus more energy on staying alive then riding.  The big animals generally stay away but there were some crazy insects in there which thought us riders were a smorgasbord.   Eventually we popped back into an open road now covered in mud and with some bloody insect bites.  The next 2 hours were spent pedaling through the wet Northwestern side of the Rincon Volcano through patches of jungle and otherwise very thick forest.  This was the heart of the countryside, far away from the tourist trail and a great place to get a glimpse of the real Costa Rican way of life.  The locals back here all seemed really happy although they must be amphibious as it was a real rainforest with drizzle coming down all the time. IMG_0705

As quickly as we road into the wet rainforest environment, we road back into the dry desert side of the Volcano and were soon heading towards the Pacific ocean on dusty roads.  Ripping through the open burnt landscape we took a hard right  back onto some rough quad trails through the El Chizo canyon area. This was a great part of the race and gave me flashbacks to racing the rough mining trails at the Crocodile Trophy in the Australian outback.   Having my Kona Hei Hei full suspension was a nice treat to soak up the rough course!

When we had a chance to glance up the scenery was spectacular with the Pacific far off in the distance and the cloud covered Rincon Volcano towering above.  The race route was now covered in a white dust  which was blinding after the dark jungle and added another element to the adventure.IMG_0890

After finally fixing the skipping chain after 4 attempts to bend the kinks out of it I was starting to crawl back into the race before flatting my front tire heading down a steep pitch just before a rocky stream crossing. This nearly caused a massive pileup as I slid my bike into the ditch to fix the leak.   Luck is a weird thing as it’s very real and sometimes its on your side and other times its not.  American National Marathon Champ Todd Wells was having an even rougher day, leading the race with eventual winner Paolo Montoya before also flatting and then having his cranks come apart virtually ending his race.  The Ticos thus claimed the top 6 positions with myself in 7th and Wells DSQ’d himself as he had received outside help.    I think we both would like to return next year to settle some unfinished bussiness.  That being said the Tico’s are a strong force down here on there home turf and are tough to beat at the best of times.IMG_0911

Overall the race was one of the better organized events I’ve been too with every aspect of it covered. Race founder Juan Carlos and his crew are down to earth and really on the ball.  JC is a bike racer himself so he knows what it takes to pull off a World class race.
The event doubled in size from 2014 and there’s no doubt it will continue this trend into the future if they keep pulling off shows like this.JoseAndresVargas_RVC2015529

Post race we went back into Costa Rica holiday mode as the organizers had all of us foreigners staying at the Hacienda Guachipelin resort at the race start/finish.  This made for a nice atmosphere as we hung out and visited, soaking in the relaxing post race days.  Dining in an open air deck under a large Guanacaste tree made a good place to refuel and arrange plans for the coming days.  The planning worked out good with a surf trip, a waterfall adventure, a swim in a jungle stream and a little bit of easier riding to check out the surrounding area.IMG_0764

Once the other racers took off on Tuesday I hopped on my bike and headed to Santa Rosa National Park in the Northwest corner of the country.  The 6.5 hour (140km) ride had everything from trails, rough dirt roads and the smooth pan am highway as it lead to the secluded beaches of Playa Naranjo.  The feed zones weren’t quite as great as the fully stocked ones during the race but there were guys selling ice cold coconut waters along the highway and it was also Mango season so there were loads of fruits to pick along the route.  This was the icing on the cake to an already stellar trip to Costa Rica.  The country is a paradise and the Rincon de La Vieja is a perfect way to get a taste of what this heaven has to offer.  I can’t wait to return here for the next round of ecotourism adventure!

PS  Big thanks to my Tico buddy Ronald and wife Angela for the support during both the trip and race as its a long ways from home for a Canadian!JoseAndresVargas_RVC2015503

Leadville 100

13202The Leadville 100 is historically the biggest marathon race in North America with past winners such as Alban Lakata, Todd Wells, Dave Wiens and drug cheats Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer.  The race starts in the the old mining town of Leadville Colorado up at 10 200 feet and heads 50 miles out to the top of the Columbine climb at 13 000 ft and then turns around and backtracks itself to the finish.  Course wise its a road race on mountain bikes with just 1 mile of single track, about 25 miles of pavement and the rest fire road.  What makes this event is the history and the organization which has done wonders in making it a must do which sells out its 1800 spots within minutes of opening registration.

Getting a chance to race Leadville was a nice opportunity so I tried to acclimatize a little by racing the first 3 days of Breck Epic and then resting before the big show.  Arriving in Leadville the day before d-day was an event in itself as the whole town was buzzing with activity.  After getting my start number, and attending a portion of the commercialized pre-race meeting it was off to the woods to get a way from the chaos.  The country up here was great with high alpine meadows flowing forever and 13 000- 14 000 ft mountains towering above.  There was a nice free camp zone near Turquoise lake which had a perfect rock to camp beside.  I had only packed a thermorest and a summer weight sleeping bag for airport sleeping so I went back to town to buy a blanket at the thrift store.  3$ later I was set for the night and headed back to camp. IMG_0579

Thunderstorms rolled through the area throughout the afternoon but thankfully the skies cleared in the evening for a good nights rest.  It was an early morning at 4:45 am as the night chill had sunk into my bones and I awoke shivering.  It was the perfect wake up call as the start gun would be going off bright and early at 6:30am.  The pre-race rituals went to routine, except at the start line when I lined up near the front I got escorted away by a race official and told to line up at the back of the gold start corral with nearly 200 riders in there.  I was crossing my fingers my National Champions jersey would get me close to the other fast riders but no dice.  bazu-6768293 copy

When the pistol went off we had 2 miles of road descent, followed with a couple miles of flat before hitting the first climb in which the early race selections would be made.  Starting 200th is a lot harder then it sounds and by the time we got rolling I was a long ways back from the Team Ergon Train setting the pace at the front.  Sprinting like it was a World cup I caught the lead group just before the climb, and according to strava set a new record for this first part of the course.  The problem was the boys charged up the next hill as soon as I joined them and I couldn’t match the pace and thus missed the train with the 6 terminators (Lakata, Hynek, Bishop, Nissen, Sauser and Wells)

I was bummed to miss this as that was the race.  Demoralized I settled into a chase group of 20 or so riders for a long day ahead. Then the whole day changed when we passed Todd Wells fixing a flat tire.  One mans bad luck is another mans good luck somedays.  I knew once he came back through it was a chance to save the day and try to catch his wheel and work with him.  He caught us near the top of the power line descent and nearly 10 riders hopped on his wheel.  One sketchy guy from Tokyo Joes, cut me off into the woods and I lost some time. I would’ve love to jersey this Latino but there was not time.   With adrenaline rushing I got back on and went to my limit passing all 10 of those riders on the rough descent and closed within seconds of Wells before sprinting up the first climb off the hill to catch his wheel.  My mom wouldn’t of been proud of the risks I took on this descent but there are times you gotta let it all go.01

The next 30 miles would be spent riding with a possessed Todd Wells all decked out with aero gear including road aero bars.  He did 75 % of the work, I did what I could and we managed to keep the gap to the lead 5 to around 4 minutes.    Going through the feed zone at twin lakes was a madhouse.  There were a thousand people there all looking for there racers to feed.  Luckily my friend Peter Butt and teammates Sneddon and Wicks were feeding me and they did a great job standing out and passing off bottles as we cruised by.  Soon after we hit the 10 km Columbine climb where Wells would slowly ride away from me.  bazu-6767784 copy

Settling into a good tempo things were going alright before my bike started to skip gears.  Unable to figure out what the problem was I struggled to keep going to the Columbine turnaround near 13 000 ft.  From here it was the sketchiest part of the race as we descend back down the same climb only with 1800 other riders still riding up it.  There were blown bikers all over the road but thankfully all crashes were averted.  Off the kamikaze descent there were about 8 km to the twin lakes feed zone.  I barely made it as my bike was now skipping gears all over the place and nearly unrideable.  In the feed zone we swapped wheels, checked the hanger, checked the chain and finally determined the rear shifter cable was frayed and ready to snap.   Our friend Damo was there and he put a new cable in my bike in a flash and after a 10 min + pit stop it was back on the road, now in 20th place or so with 40 miles to go.

It was a good test of spirit to keep fighting as the race was all but over so I tried to refocus my energy on beating the Canadian record at Leadville.  Life was alright until we hit the power line ascent which was a kick in the head after 5.5 hours of racing as it shot straight up.  I was ready to get off and walk but a girl showing some nice cleavage kept me motivated for a bit.  Once she was out of sight I was ready to walk but then caught glimpse of my friends from New Zealand and Australia a bit farther up the climb and I couldn’t consider walking the only place they were watching so I kept pushing over the cadence at 30 rpm.bazu-6778439 copy

Getting over this climb was a bastard, then we had a fast road descent before one final road climb.  This was turning into a real humdinger of a ride and very European with its lack of trail.  Still having a real shot at the Canadian Record of 6:54 I dropped my ri
ding buddies and neared the top 10 again but on the last descent slashed my rear tire.  Argh, it was a gaping whole I wasn’t sure I could fix.  Eating 3 gels so I could use there wrappers as patches, and putting my sunglass case in for good measure I managed to get a tube in there and continued on.  Now there was a 30-45 minute time limit on my day as once the gels ran through the system there would be no fuel left to save a massive meltdown.  The last bit of race went by with no more bad luck and I got to the finish line, 7 hours after starting and out sprinted a couple guys to claim 15th.

Leadville was a good experience, it’s a big scene but overall a great day out on the bike with the town and its surroundings being the highlight of it all.  Without the mechanicals I think sub 6:30 would’ve been doable but that will have to wait for another time.  Rincon-de-la-Vieja-Challenge-logo

This night my teammates headed off to Denver to fly home while I headed to Boulder with my old high school friend Jana to stay with her and her husband Kent.  It was a nice couple days of relaxing and re supplying before heading off to Costa Rica.  It was a last minute decision to head south to race the 100 mile Rincon De La Vieja MTB challenge but I figured I was already half way down there so might as well giver a go!logo_12

Breck Epic

The Breck Epic is onBreckEpic_Logoe of the North American classic stage races right up there with Single track 6 (aka TransRockies) and the BC Bike Race.  The 6 day event takes part in the Rocky mountain town of Breckenridge Colorado with a base elevation of 9 500 feet and goes up from there, a couple stages touching 12 000 feet!  It’s a humdinger to deal with the altitude but the race more then makes up for it with its easy logistics being based out of the same town all week and the 100% pure mountain biking with a perfect mix of flowing alpine single track, quad trails and some forestry roads mixed in.   The days are a bit longer then its Canadian cousins with the leaders coming in around 2.5- 3 hours which seems like a nice balance which keeps everyone content.

In 2009 I lucked out and raced in the inaugural Breck Epic, showing up solo and camping in a ball diamond all week.  Returning this year was a real treat as Kona booked us a nice palace with my teammates Kris Sneddon and Barry Wicks along for the journey.  They were both racing the full 6 day version while I was doing the 3 day as a warmup to the Leadville 100 mile race on the following Saturday.IMG_0544

Getting to Breck from Canada was easy, one flight from Vancouver-Denver, then a 1.5 hr shuttle ride up to the mountain retreat.  Getting there Thursday a couple nights ahead of my teammates I had no accommodation figured out so headed to the forest.  A friend (Zeke) of a friend (Dax Massey), picked me up from the bus terminal and dropped me at the edge of town where a little hike into the woods later I found a rad little fort to spend the night in.  The sleep in the forest was awesome so I kept this as a little hideaway for the rest of the week and would use it as a recovery hut.  Once my teammates arrived Saturday the real fun started and we prepped for the week ahead!

Stage 1 of any stage race is a bit nerve wracking as we all test our legs and figure out if it’s going to be a week of kicking ass or one of dragging ass.  With World Marathon Champion Alban Lakata, Czech champion Kristian Hynek, and there Topeak Ergon teammate, american stage race legend Jeremiah Bishop all racing the 3 day version we were in for a rough ride.  From the gun the 3 Topeak Ergon boys went to the front and set a tempo around 400 watts.  Feeling fast after taking out the Singletrack 6 race a week before I fought for there wheels and had to elbow one roadie out of the way to keep position before the road climb dumped us into the first single track.

Bishop and Hynek went off the front, Lakata and Belgium’s Marathon Champ, Franz Claes, stuck to my wheel and  20 minutes later we hit the next big climb where these two European climbing fanatics blasted away.     Racing at altitude is a tricky game, if you over do it you explode into a pile of ashes and end up in never never land.  I was on the ed11888093_10206137313366362_1887645557211783351_n copyge of this but managed to govern the legs just in time and held onto 5th for the day as we raced up and do11826027_817921968321903_3726347259221916638_n copywn a number of small climbs mixed in with some mid alpine single track.  The final flow trail into the finish put a smile on everyones face.  Barry had a nice ride testing out the new Kona carbon Honzo, while multi time BC Bike race and TransRockies champ Kris took one for the team and soaked up the bad luck with 2 flat tires.11864775_876854275735636_773242812810506456_o copy

Stage 2 started with Bishop going off the front just before the first fire road climb.  Not having anything to lose sitting 4th overall I through all my cards at the Topeak Ergon boys and went off the front, hoping to at least hurt Bishop a little.  Lakata and Hynek sat on for the next 15 minutes, breathing through there noises, while Bishop seemed to be hurting a little so I kept up the momentum.  Starting to hurt myself we crested the hill and had a long flat section in which I was crossing my fingers for a single track dh to appear to save the day.  Unfortunately we came around a corner to a wall of a climb where the 3 Terminators left me in the dust and pretty soon Franz Claes also cruised by as I gasped for air trying to avoid going to never never land..  The rest of the day was a challenge trying to bounce back but luckily the course kept my mind off my physical state as we cruised parts of the legendary Colorado trail through some Mongolian like mead
ows.  It was a perfect day of high alpine riding and definitely one of the coolest rides I’ve had all year.  Barry had a killer ride highlighted by a 15 minute switch back descent  leaving everyone in the dust and was sitting 6th overall for a bit of the stage.  Kris also rebounded after the rough luck on day 1 and had a lot of riders talking about his straightening descending style in which he bulldozes everything and anything in his way. IMG_0561

Stage 3 was the final day for us riders preparing for Leadville and it was a glorious one.  Again it started on a nice climb to sort out the 400 + riders.  The Terminators did a team time trial off the front not even breaking a sweat while I dangled at 15-20 seconds trying to keep from being sucked up into the atmosphere.  Just before the first feed zone we hit a rough rocky descent in which I let go of the brakes and road my Hei Hei to its limits bouncing off sharp stones and back onto the back of the Termo Train as they exited the feed zone.  From here Lakata sat on the front like a robot, Hynek glued to his wheel, Bishop dangling, and myself dangling a bit further back as we headed up the infamous French Pass.  It’s amusing as you can see riders just up ahead climbing up the steep alpine ascent over 12 000 feet, but with the altitude it takes forever to get anywhere and even riders you could through a rock to are likely over a minute ahead.

This climb was a bastard, we all had to hike the bottom section then Lakata set the standard on the second pitch riding over the top so we all followed suit trying not to barf our breakfasts up.  In 2009 I believe only Bishop made it up this climb but this year I heard over a dozen guys did which says a lot about the speed of races these days.  The back side decent was fast as the single track laced between willow bushes before dropping into the tree line and hitting a  rougher descent all the way down tot he 2nd feed. Riding though I grabbed 3 gels from the feed station and dropped them all as my hands were still numb from the long descent.  The feed zone guys laughed, and then one guy picked 11873428_817922401655193_6433691785567748575_n copyup a gel and sprinted up to me.  This saved the day as I cracked the gel and used the energy to bridge up to Bishop.  Lakata and Hynek put it into overdrive and were no where to be scene.

Riding to the finish with Bishop was a good battle.  He would eventually gap me by 5 seconds over a 17 minute climb and then used his stealthy arrow position going over the false flat descent to extend his lead to 20-30 seconds which he’d hold to the finish.  I had a chance to take his 3rd spot on the podium this day but he knew the course and made sure to lead the long rough single track descent off french pass so he could block me as I was riding a bit better dowIMG_0556nhill than him on my duallie.   Live and learn, there’s a reason Bishop has won nearly every USA stage race in the past decade.  Next time I’ll make sure to lead the descent!

Stage 4 was a weird day watching my teammates lineup for the race while I tried to recover for Leadville.  Watching races is tough as its way more fun to be out there suffering!  This was the sufferriest day of the Breck Epic with the infamous Vomit hill mixed into the long 44 mile stage which balanced itself between awesome trails and some steep mother of climbs.   I think every stage race needs a day like this which hits the riders in the head with an iron frying pan.  After all if we wanted things easy we could just stay home on our couches with a bowl of ice cream.

Stage 5 was just 28 miles long but from listening to the stories it was not only the highlight of the week but also one of the rowdiest days.  It started out with a long climb on a goat trail into the alpine before cruising across the lush alpine meadows and onto a small path over Wheelers pass.  It was a hike a bike for the majority of the riders but being the rad race that Breck Epic is, they had bacon and beer feeds going over the high point.   It’s things like this which add a festival like atmosphere to what is already

11831763_10156004316975354_3541292325155637243_n copy a great event.   The views from up at 12 000 feet were  out of this world before the riders hit a gnarly descent back into tree line.

From this point my teammate Barry took control of the day on his Honzo hardtail with 2.3 inch Maxis Ikon tires and annihilated the bouldery rough descent to take a commanding stage win! I can’t wait to get on one of these bikes for next year!  The day took its toll on a lot of riders and again Kris soaked up all of the bad luck for the team, breaking off his derraiulure hanger just miles into the race.  Being a true Canadian hardman he ran his bike for the rest of the day finishing in nearly 5.5 hours, a very long run for a runner, let alone a bush man in non flexible biking shoes!

Stage 6 started a half hour before the actual start as Barry built up a 2016 prototype Kona Hei Hei DL in exactly 21 minutes.  It was impressive, after the bike building portion of the day, Kris and Barry tackled the final 30 miles of the Breck Epic on a fast rolling course up into the Boreas Pass alpine a couple times before landing back in town to cap off a stellar week on the bikes.   Barry would cap the week finishing 4th overall while Kris has e82459c6bac8bddbccb18f796390e5bdhis eyes set on coming back with a bit better luck next time as he had more bad luck this race then most of us have in a whole season.

While these guys were finishing off the Breck, I was headed to Leadville for registration, a pre-race meeting and the final preps for America’s biggest single day marathon the next morning.  It was a busy week for the Kona Endurance team as we put our sea level bodies through the ringers up at 1.5 to 2 miles high in the atmosphere.   The Breck Epic is a race we’ll hopefully get back to in the near fut13202ure as the fun laid back atmosphere which organizer Mike McCormack puts into the race is what this sport is all about and the riding is just awesome!

Leadville report is in the press..


Big thanks to Tina Brusker for feeding us all week and also for finding time to take pictures on top of that!



Singletrack 6

TransRockies-Bike-LogoTransRockies was arguably North Americas premier stage race for a number of years and went over a major overhaul last year as it transformed into SingleTrack 6.  The format is great with 6 days of riding some of the Worlds best trails in a different iconic Canadian town everyday and new region each year.  Last year we tackled 6 days through the Rockies between Canmore and Revelstoke, and this year we got to race trails in Canada’s summer playground of the Okanagan.

After getting smashed around to no mercy in Europe this spring trying to bounce back from injury I was more then keen to do some smashing myself on what I consider the closest thing I have to a hometown race!

Day 0 in Salmon Arm was spent shuttling up the first climb of the course and pre-riding the last 25 km to the finish with my team Kris Sneddon, his girlfriend Kate and my good buddy Anderl Hartmann (Rocky Mountain) from Germany.  My Dad who is a real cowboy drove us up the shuttle portion of the ride and then told us to cowboy up and get our game faces on for the week ahead of us.11046569_10101189315604601_4937995726381328865_o

The pre-ride and pep talk payed off in dividends as we finished 1-3 on the opening stage.  At the start I was feeling rough but had some built up anger from the beat down I received in Euroland and went off the front and stayed there for the race.  It was a close battle but I received some outside help when 3rd place rider Greg Day (Rocky Mountain) crashed into a hornet nest getting stung 12 times and creating a hornet storm which attacked pretty much every rider in the pack that rode by after.

Day 2 we drove up to Silver Start resort sitting at 1700 M above Vernon.  It was a trip down memory lane as we use to race Canada Cups and National Championships up here over a decade ago.  Since then they’ve done a nice job at creating new trails and we had a great 40 km race around the loamy trails.  Leading just over a half hour into the race with my teammate Sneddon, we came around a corner to see a couple riders up ahead.  We figured they were a couple dudes just out for a easy morning spin and were surprised when they didn’t acknowledge us when we told them there was a race on and we wanted to pass.  Eventually they piped back that they were racing too and we better be patient.  WTF?  For the next 20 minutes we passed over 30 riders who had accidentally gone the wrong way but were convinced they were on course and kept asking what we were doing back there.  We did our best to stay focused and eventually got through the traffic and back into the lead.  The race was close this day with Sneddon, Anderl and myself in a slim lead over a chase group of 4 before Sneddon opened up fire and got us a nice gap on some flowing trail.  Near the finish Anderl and I would break away on a firewood climb and would work together for a while before I would gap him for a slim 1 minute W.

location: Silver Star Mountain Resort, Vernon, B.C., Canada

Day 3 we hit some rowdy trails up in Kalamalka lake park.  It was a pure Canadian style course with a technical 1 hour switchback climb through the forest followed with a small traverse through the sub alpine.  The traverse was on fire road but required attention as there were loads of rabbits and chipmunks blindly crossing the course everywhere.   These little guys got to get there heads up and possibly consider using some sort of birth control!   After riding across a rough cut block the trail hit the infamous Big Ed descent.  It was a ass behind the saddle slide down sort of ride at the top before hitting some steep loamy switchbacks down below.  There were also a load of sketchy jumps which the Europeans thought were hilarious and didn’t believe anyone would ever launch themselves off them.    My solid lead over the top of the climb shrunk to 30 seconds by the bottom as BC Bike Race champ Tristan Uhl let it all hang out.  Luckily there was a small climb before the finish in which I could extend the lead back up to 1.5 min and add a bit of padding to the GC lead.  Kris rolled in soon after us to claim the ST3 title for the year and was soon headed off to the states for the Downiville Enduro starting a couple days later.

Cory Wallace leads the race at the first singletrack climb/location: Vernon, B.C., Canada

Stage 4 in Kelowna was the Queens stage of the race and a good chance to do some solid damage.   It was a good battle with Sev from Switzerland.  He’s been living in Kelowna for a couple months and had the rough descents dialled, managing to take advantage of my conservative no risk style to get leads on the descents while I’d regain control on the climbs.  Knowing the course ended on a nice little climb I saved a few matches to overtake Sev for the last time with about 5 km to go and put a nice dent into the other riders in the overall GC.  This day took its toll on the field as a number of riders had nice duke of hazard type crashes on the loose descents.  The courses may have been short this year but the crew at ST6 sure jammed a lot of hard riding into them day in and day out.Gibson.S6.4.1DX.3478_1

Stage 5 in Penticton turned into a gong show as the tight windy course up on Campbell mountain overlapped itself in a few spots and caused some mass confusion behind.  Building a nice lead in the opening climb things got interesting as Tristan Uhl was ripping the sketchy side hill riding.  The gap got really close when I had to slam on the brakes ripping down a 40 km/hr decent, to open a gate.  Being polite I left the gate open for the other riders which allowed them to bomb through it at mock speed and pretty soon the gap was down to 10 seconds before I had a chance to extend it over the next climb. Gibson.S6.5.5D.4329


None of us in the top 10 really new the course so we just followed the flagging which was great, all the way back to the finish line in downtown Penticton.  The confusion happened behind us as riders that knew the route, started to realize that the course had been flagged differently then it was suppose to be and then started asking volunteers what was up which further added to the confusion and pretty soon riders were riding every which way.  Unfortunately this caused the stage to be neutralized.    The post ride swim in Lake Okanagan looking for the Ogopogo monster helped us forget about the day and cool off the engines.

Going into the final stage was nerve racking.  Ever since I flatted 3 times and lost the Mongolia Bike Challenge in 2011 after leading for the first 8 stages I’ve had a ghost in my closet.  Knowing the final stage was short and rough with a lot of sharp rocks the head went into red alert seeing the potential for tire problems.  Thus instead of cruising the last stage and enjoying my 15 minute lead in G
C I opted to attack and get a gap over the climb.  Tristan was riding great this day and kept it together for the first half of the subtle technical climb before I could open up a slim 1 minute lead towards the top.  Here we hit a faded, often overgrown rocky descent back down to Okanagan lake for the finish.   The trail was hard to follow in spots as it snaked around sharp rock outcrops in overgrown grass.

location: Vernon, B.C., Canada

Settling into a conservative mode things started to go sideways as I punctured a slow leak in the back tire.  Not wanting to stop and risk trying to get a tube to work it was a gentle ride down the long last decent.  Tristan would blow by about 1/4 of the way down, grinning in a weird way as he told me how he just nearly escaped killing himself on the top of the dh trying to catch up.  I told him to taker easy as it was now his stage to lose.  It was a weird way to finish the race as once I slowed the dh down I fell out of the zone I had been in all week and started to really struggle, clipping pedals, missing obvious lines and battling little climbs.  It was a good lesson to remember to rip it to the final finish line as its a fine line between kicking ass and getting your ass kicked!  Even with the few blunders on the last stage the overall GC lead stuck around 12 minutes which was plenty fine for me as I captured my first overall North American Stage race victory!  Wendy Simms and her husband Norm continued the Kona dominance of the race finishing third overall in the mixed team category, with Wendy also being the fastest overall girl in the timed descents!

location: Penticton, B.C., Canada

Penticton was a perfect town for post race activities with wine tasting, tubing, lake swimming and a rowdy young crowd.   A couple new friends, Aart,  and his wife Carey had opened there house in Summerland to Anderl and I for the weekend and were a great host.  Also Jess Merrill and her Mom opened there door in Kalamalka lake for a good nights rest.  This meant a lot to us.  Thanks guys!  Also a big thanks to the Bike Barn in Penticton for supporting the ST6 and building up my nice new 2016 Kona King Kahuna DDL race bike :)

After 3 days at the 2016 Kona Launch in Bellingham Washington, a night camping in Tswassan, and a ferry ride back to Victoria I had a nice 30 hour block at home before heading off to Colorado for 10 days.  First up is the Breck Epic followed with the historical Leadville 100 mile race at 10 000 ft +.  It’s gonna be some sort of rad adventure guaranteed!

Over and Out!Bike-Barn-Logo-Header-2


PS  Big Thanks to John Gibson @ www.gibsonpictures.com for generously donating all these shots for this report!