With the forecast predicting snow and heavy rain for last Saturday, we had no choice but to post-pone the Antelope Peak Challenges one day. Instead of racing, we opted for a mellow ride on Saturday at 50 Year Trail followed by the (now) scenic drive out to Willow Springs.
Snow, water and moisture was everywhere.
This summarizes the 115-mile perspective.
Would the few hours of sleep yield a better, more rideable course? The 3am start time came early.
The thought of bailing to the 65-mile option was always in the back of my mind. After a quick stop at the warm, inviting Circle K, we continued on toward Tiger Mine Road and the singletrack that awaited us.
A wise, local endurance racer once told me that "These three things will cause me to quit a race: rain, darkness, and cold." Too bad it wasn't raining or that "wise" endurancer racer and I would have stayed in Circle K.
Frozen washes (that were once impossible, sandy traps) led to fast singletrack that led us to twist around in the night. Coldness quietly left my body as I begin to wander up switchbacks. Winter gloves and layers were the trick.
Not turning on my GPS was another trick. Surprisingly, when I asked Scott the time, he said it was 6:30am and we were nearing the gasline. We flew down, often glancing at a LED light that seemed to be coming from near Bloodsucker wash. It had to be David. He started at midnight, as it turns out, he had flatted on the gasline and thereby delaying his progress.
In Bloodsucker, I fell behind for a few seconds. The wash had seen some moto action the day before and was in horrible condition. Time for a new line. I choose the side of the moto line and realized it was frozen compact. I buzzed by Scott and Max thinking they would follow. No such luck. I zoomed in and out of side washes on the frozen top soil. As I glanced up to the Galiuros, a sliver of the sun started to appear. As I continued to go faster, I would lose a little bit of that sliver of the sun that had just peeked up over the mountain. I was glad to be on a bike.
As I climbed the singletrack out of Bloodsucker, nobody was coming for a few hundred yards. I rode for a few miles as the sun was rising in the sea of saguaros. Pretty surreal. There is something about pedaling 4 hours in complete darkness only to watch the sun bathe you and the landscape around.
I was energized and ready to ride. But, I was also getting a little hot. I stripped some layers, changed my glasses, and grabbed my camera. About that time, Scott pulled up. We had a quick break to see if Max would appear. No such luck.
We continued, at times through Cholla Mine Fields like this one above. Ride over one and your tire may just explode. Kaaaaabooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
Before Antelope Peak proper, Scott throttled it toward the water cache. As I neared the exit of the singletrack, I heard what sounded like my name. I checked around for a bit, nothing. Must have been a cow.
Turns out it was David. He had climbed Antelope Peak and watched Scott and I ride the last bit of trail before Freeman Rd.
After refueling, we continued on to one of the best sections of the day, The Boulders.
"Carve, baby carve that singletrack," Scott yelled from behind me.
The Big Hill...aka Ripsey Hill...is the highlight of the ride. Steep but surprisingly rideable during most of the uphill battle.
ridgeline in Arizona. Ahhhhhhhhh, Ripsey Hill.
After you top out, you bolt down a fast, switchback infested route like this
I think we counted about 16 switchbacks in the last, steep descent to the road. You will have to ask us (Scott or I) in person who cleaned the most switchbacks.
Last time I was on this road, the words "Ah man, finally a dirt road. I don't have to mentally think about where to place my wheel" was uttered by my fellow rider. It summed up how I felt to see that road.
We climbed back up the Florence-Kelvin Highway to the Ripsey Singltrack, completing the candy part of the lollipop.
A lot of ground still separated us between our cars. Scott led most of the time, as my legs begin to hurt a little bit.
The sunset while we were on Willow Springs Rd. Some singlespeed skills came in handy here. Stand up, put your head down and crank. Pain in the legs ensued. After many hills, the 24 HOP course powerline was in sight. We took Junebug trail until the car was finally in sight. Great ride, Scott.
This is the best singletrack century in the state of Arizona. Best part is, it is only going to get more and more singletrack....
Stats: 114 miles, 14,500′ gain, 15:47 total time. (from Scott's GPS)