Eager to ride more endurance mountain bike events, we had scoured the calendar and found the Whiskey 50 event in Prescott, Arizona. This thing looked awesome, 50 miles, 7.5k of climbing, loads of singletrack and did I mention Whiskey? Peter, Rob, Torsten and myself all signed up immediately.
When we met at my place Friday morning for the 6hr drive to Arizona, Torsten was looking super ill. With a big race we’d all been looking forward to for months the next day, it was a total bummer for him. He had his bike and kit but just sitting in the car for 6hrs was looking like a big ask. Peter was also having trouble. His fork and rear shock were on full lockout and couldn’t be released with his remote – unless we could get it fixed it was looking like he was going to have to ride all that rocky singletrack on a fully rigid bike, ouch.
Arriving in Prescott, it was obvious this race was big deal for the town, there were people everywhere and the vibe was incredible. With a pro crit on the Friday evening, the 600 strong amateur race on Saturday and the pro race on Sunday, it was a whole weekend devoted to mountain biking. Fortunately for Peter, it being such a big event meant that the Cannondale Factory Team mechanics were there and they took Peter’s bike in, worked on it for 2 hours solid and returned it to him with factory upgraded parts and the suspension working super sweet – thank you Cannondale! Meanwhile, we picked up our packets, watched the pro crit, grabbed dinner and then went for a drive to recon the first few miles of the course.
Saturday and the weather was perfect for the “50 proof”. As soon as the race started we set off at the usual hectic pace that always accompanies these kind of events, I was way over my threshold power as we climbed, and climbed and climbed. As we hit the dirt, Rob was driving our group trying to catch riders ahead of us and it was hurting. I decided that as there was still a long way to go it wasn’t worth burying myself and I backed off the pace to something I could handle more comfortably. I looked behind and saw no one so it was a case of just dig in and suffer by myself.
Soon the top of the climb came and we switched onto singletrack, part flowing, part rocky, mostly fast it was great fun. I was passing riders left and right, taking a few risks and praying my tires would stay up in the rock gardens. All too soon we were at the bottom, back onto fire road and climbing. After a long steep section we reached the first aid station. I had a bottle and a bit of SiS Go Hydro still so I decided to push on without stopping, although I was a little worried I hadn’t been drinking enough and I hadn’t had the chance to eat either.
A fast 9 mile downhill fireroad got us to the turnaround and the second aid station. I had taken the opportunity on the descent to re-hydrate and eat but I decided to stop and pick up fresh supplies. Rob didn’t want to stop though so it was a super quick fill up and we were back underway, climbing at a fast pace, we passed lots of riders. Getting to the last aid station and I could feel the cramps coming on, fortunately they had some pickle juice so I knocked some of that back. If you suffer from cramps and haven’t tried pickle juice, you should, it definitely works for me, it tastes horrible though! Back on the bike and the climb continued up and up, I wondered if we were ever going to summit. Finally the top came and we turned onto singletrack for more rocky, sinewy fun. I was tired and making mistakes, but fortunately Rob had given me an SiS Go Energy Plus Caffeine gel, which I hastily consumed. Normally I can’t take gels as the sugary concentration plays havoc with my stomach, but the SiS ones are premixed with water and much gentler on the system, plus the caffeine works wonders for your concentration at such a late stage in a race like Whiskey 50.
Down multiple rocky pitches and some fast flowing trails we passed through numerous crowds of people urging us on with bacon, bbq, beer and even whiskey handups. Resisting the urge for bacon and booze was hard but eventually we came out of the singletrack temptation zone and on to the road for the fast blast back into town. I was in a small group and we worked together to catch lone riders ahead. Soon though, the group left it to me to do the closing and I spent the last couple of miles on the front with no one coming through to help. I sensed a time under 4hours was possible (I was aiming for 4:15) so I put my head down and went for it. Into the last corner and a couple of the passengers I’d been carrying tried to outsprint me, one got past but I sprinted as hard as I could and managed to hold the others at bay to finish in 3hrs 56min, 19thin category, 74thoverall.
After the finish I was spent, this thing kicked our butts! Back at the car I took 30mins picking cactus needles out of my leg and after a rest, some food and plenty of rehydration, it was all good. I absolutely loved this race!
Despite not feeling well, Torsten led the PAA team home in 3hr46 for 47th place overall, even when ill the guy is a beast! Rob finished just behind me in 4hr03 after being directed down a “bonus” section which added extra miles, 23rdin category and 91stoverall. Peter, who suffered huge cramps (not enough pickle juice Peter!) finished in 5hr29, 93rdin category and 319thoverall.
All that was left was to get some dinner, drink some whiskey as homage to this great weekend and then Sunday we hit the road for home. A fantastic race and a fantastic weekend.