I picked up Eugene and Josh Friday on the way down to Tiger Mine Road, where the Gila 100 finishes. We took a detour to drop water at the Freeman water cache. This is a metal box where thru hikers, riders etc can typically count on water. This is stocked by trail stewards and volunteers like me. And since we were to have a handful of riders utilizing this cache it is only fair to go stock it up. It is about a 40 mile round trip detour on a dirt road from the highway. When I raced the Arizona Trail 300 back in 2014 this water cache was critical to get through the race.
|Freeman cache stocked|
We arrived at the Tiger Mine trail head around 4 pm to chill out and prepare for the beating that was to take place on Saturday morning. Carlos and Ty were instrumental on getting all of us to the start line at Picket Post trail head on Saturday morning. Thank you guys.
We arrived at the start line just before 5 am after a long hour plus drive from the finish area. 10 riders in the shuttles and a few more at the start line. About 15 people total. Elliot gave a few instructions on bail out options, etc. We rolled out and the games were on.
I backed off of the guys who took off on the front. I wanted to just ride my ride and not get caught up in a pace I wouldn't be comfortable with.......true....you have to be out of your comfort zone when racing but this was to be a brutal ride. Ride your own ride. Finish. The route is hard. The single-track from the start is hard and uphill. It is dark and techy....ride clean and ride smart.
As we started off in the dark I looked back to see who was behind me. I was thinking Eugene was close but I saw no lights close by as I climbed up. After nearly two hours the darkness turned into grey light.....the sun was coming soon. As the sun rose the surrounding terrain lit up. Amazing. It is a beautiful area. Remote and rugged. Just amazing to be out there on a bike and seeing some true Arizona back country. Much different than Colorado back country.
As I climbed and than descended toward the Gila river the riders started to disperse.....I rode with a dude named Steve along the Gila River to the mining town of Kelvin where we watered up at a trailer park. A known neutral water stop for riders/hikers on the AZT. After a brief stop I headed back on course along with Steve and a dude named Bob up away from the Gila River to the climb that would lead us to Ripsey Wash. After 37 miles to Kelvin the next 27 miles to the Freeman Water Cache are hard long miles in the heat of the day. I had dropped Steve on the climb up Ripsey and caught up to Max and Bob taking a break at the top of the Ripsey climb. Elliot came along as well behind me. We all descended into Ripsey Wash.......no man-fucking-land. Hot. Unrelenting. As we navigated this area of the AZT it came down to Max and I cruising together. The Boulders section trends uphill. After many hours in the sun we arrived at the Freeman Water Cache around 3.20 pm at mile 65. We were 10 hours into our ride. I was pretty cooked. That sun was brutal. No shade. Full exposure.
Max and I chilled out in the shade of a tree at the cache and drank a enormous amount of water. Refueled and still laughing a bit we headed back onto the course. Elliot and Bob had come into the water cache looking a bit cooked as well. Elliot wasn't laughing. No words from him. It was now 4pm and we had approximately 27 miles to ride. We knew it was going to be a knife fight to the finish. I was hoping for an 8pm finish time. Yeah, that is fucking funny.
We made quick work getting over to Bloodsucker Wash. Easy miles down hill to the big wash but we knew we had to pay for the easy miles: The Black Hills..............The Black Hills to the finish are brutal. Up, up up and more up. Drop down into a wash..........climb more...walk...drop into a wash........curse. Do it again and again.
It soon became dark and the lights came back on. Stuck in the fucking Black Hills at night is miserable. It takes twice as long. No flow. Max and I were still together....we laughed and cursed as we walked, rode and walked. Soul Crushing. I got loopy and would ask Max the same question over and over. My stomach turned sour.....I turned a bit sour. I kept looking at the GPX file but we were not getting any closer to the finish. It seemed like an eternity. More of the same....up and than one last hike a bike to the finish just to piss you off. The suffering was over......9.20pm. WOW!
Overall it was a great ride except for the last ten miles where the wheels came off the bus. I'll be back to ride this again. Damn those Black Hills.
16 hours and 20 minutes out in the weeds. 12,000 plus feet of climbing. WTF!!!! That was an ass kicking.
My rig: Kokopelli Bike Co 29er. Single speed 32x21. Thanks Kokopelli!!!! Solid. No mechanicals.