Monday, June 22, 2009

Andy Schultz Wins at Crested Butte

This weekend, Crested Butte played host to the Mountain States Cup series. I made the journey from Durango on Friday and arrived in Crested Butte in the late afternoon to perfect weather. Not a cloud in the sky and temps in the upper 70's. I took a spin on the course and discovered that a lot of it was new. The climb was almost all really narrow, bumpy, singletrack. They had also but in new singletrack on the dowhill which was rocky, bumpy and lose. All and all it looked to be a pretty fun course.

We raced on Saturday at 2:30 just as it started to drizzle. I decided to leave my armwarmers on and in hindsight I should have left more clothing on but I forgot that we were well over 10,000 feet at the top of the climb. When the start gun went off I hit it hard to make sure I could make it to the singletrack climb first. I got a pretty good gap on the first climb because a lot of other riders got stuck behind slower riders in the singletrack. The first descent went well and I had a decent gap on the start of the second of three laps. I held that gap through the climb until I hit the descent again. It had started to get wet enough that the mud started to pack into my Smallblock Eight tires. The descent had a lot of off-camber sections and on these, my mud-packed tires would slide out not matter what I tried to do. So I had to keep jumping off the bike and running the off-camber sections.

I started up the climb for the third and final time with three riders in hot pursuit. Partway up the climb I got to a section where the mud packed into my tires so much that I no longer had any clearance and my tires wouldn't spin. So it was off the bike and back to running. I glanced behind me and saw that my pursuers were still on their bikes struggling up the climb. I thought my race was over when I finally got to a section that was a little wetter and therefore the mud was thinner and didn't pack up as badly. I was able to start riding again and I hit it as hard as I could. In hindsight I feel like it was a good move to get off the bike and run. I think that my competitors wasted a lot of energy trying to ride that sections because I quickly got a big gap and had no one in sight at the top of the climb.

The final descent probably would have been really funny to watch but was really stressful for me. I crashed once hard and couldn't stay on my bike because the mud was packed into my tires so badly. About three quarters of the way down the descent two riders caught up to me. I didn't loose hope though and was able to ride one section really smoothly and hit a short climb really hard and got a small gap on them. The last section of the downhill was full of switchbacks to the finish. It was impossible to corner the bike without it sliding out so I had one foot out at all times sliding through the corners, then would clip back in, sprint to the next corner, and put my foot out and slide through that one. Luckily I was running CrankBrother's Eggbeaters so even though my shoes were getting packed full of mud I was still able to clip in easily and sprint to the next corner. In the end I was just able to hold off my purser's and take the victory.

I haven't been that muddy for a long time and I'm happy to say that my equipment worked perfectly in those extreme conditions. Everyone's tires were packing up with mud so I was still lucky to be running Smallblock 8's because they were wicked fast on the climbs. My drivetrain was completely coated in mud but my WickWerks rings still shifted like a dream. My gloves were soaked and coated in mud but I never once had my hands slip on my Ergon grips. My Tomac Type X carbon frame helped soak up all the roughness on the course and kept me fresh as well as helped me have one of the lightest bikes out there. And I felt great on the bike thanks to Hammer Nutrion's Heed and Endurolytes.

I really need to thank Matt, the Hayes Bicycle Group Field Expert who got me up and running on a great feeling Manitou Fork. There is no way I would have done as well as I did without him. And of course, thanks to everyone else for helping make this happen.

I will try to track down a photo of me right after the finish, soaked in mud and one of the podium.

Thanks for reading and your support,