I remember seeing this ride pop up on Nick’s Strava in 2018. Phantom Canyon? Where is that? Out of nowhere he took off on a bike ride with some friends and came back with a huge load of beautiful images and a ride title to the effect of “So beautiful my eyes hurt”. I got that sort of bike envy that we all get when friends go off and do awesome things without us.
When we were children we spoke as children, we understood as children, we thought as children; but when we became men, we put away childish things. (That last part is a massive bummer).
On Tuesday nights we pull childish things back out and it feels great.
6pm at SloHi on 29th. 30 miles mixed terrain. Intermediate pace. Lights required. Rain or wet trails cancel.
Sometimes we have 25 riders, sometimes five or six. Sometimes we have 4-6 women, sometimes none join us. All are welcome!
It is about 4pm on Friday (Date). Nick and I have just completed a seldom or never ridden dirt and gravel ride over three remote Colorado mountain passes approaching or exceeding 12,000 feet above sea level. We’re smashed. Smashed, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is a word that the kids these days use in place of “exhausted”. I think it’s a great descriptor.
Words by Jack Potter // Photos by various (thank you!)
How do you sum up something in words when the emotions associated are so much bigger?
I have been dreaming and talking about doing Dirty Kanza for about three years. I was fascinated with the idea of doing a ride that was so huge, so monumental, so crazy that it would completely scare me and keep me wondering if I could finish the task I had undertaken. This all stemmed from an article written by Chris Carmichael that said something like “..don’t be afraid to fail, do something that scares you”. I thought about the events I had been doing and it struck me that in each case I was confident I would finish the race. My goals were either beating my previous time or finishing under a certain time. There was no unknown about if I would actually finish because I had enough experience with mechanicals, flats, weather or mistakes with nutrition or preparation to know that if I stayed calm, fixed the problem, I could get to the end. I wanted to challenge myself to try something that was out of my experience, something that I might fail at. Enter my obsession with Dirty Kanza.
Writing the story of Rodeo is about writing a story of constant striving for new challenges and milestones. This year that striving took us back to the Leadville 100, this time with four Traildonkeys in the mix and ambitions to see how quickly we could complete the race aboard them. Taking a gravel bike to a mountain bike race is an arbitrary challenge on paper, but to us it is exactly the sort of challenge that we strive for on an existential level.
It has been a very busy year at Rodeo and that in itself has been exciting and exhausting at the same time. We haven’t quite had the time resources to plan Rallies or Roundup this year but we did kick off a weekly Tuesday night ride in Denver called Table Top Tuesdays. The rides are open invite to anyone who wants to go wring themselves out on the local roads and trails in and around Denver, Golden, North Table, and South Table mountains.
I’ve been on a long-distance off-road adventure kick the last few yeas (exhibit A, exhibit B,exhibit C, etc). When I heard about the Rockstar VA bikepacking race, I decided not only did I have to ride it, I was all-in it to win it. The course seemed to be right up my alley: long backcountry trails, rocks, ridge, suffering, hardship, or other words everything that makes an epic event. At first I thought “hey it’s just a really long ride” but the more I dove into it I found it’s actually a whole different sport. It’s actually a combination of land navigation, lightweight camping, nutrition planning, time management, hiking, and with some bike riding in there as well.
I stared up the rusty colored scree field and strained to make out the solitary post just barely peaking above the ridge line that topped it. That was the prize. That was the summit of Imogene pass, the second summit of the day, the crux of the ride. The post was not far as the crow flies, maybe only a couple hundred feet away. It felt much further, infinitely far all things considered. Our progress was painstakingly slow. The fatigue and altitude had quietly stolen away all of our spit and venom all day long leaving us with dry mouths and heavy legs. The 4×4 road surface was generously strewn with wet, coarse rock. We shuffled on our feet.
I swiveled left nervously, my eyes following the ridge line west until they found their target about a mile away. A dark wall of clouds was quickly approaching us. Only ten minutes earlier they had seemed twice as far away. The clouds didn’t move if you stared at them but if you turned away they darted closer at an astonishing pace. Now they were nearly on top of us, thumb and index finger shaped like an O, ready to flick us off the mountain.
A quick mental calculus painted an obvious picture: We weren’t going to make it. We were only a half mile from the summit, a distance that we could cover in a few minutes on a normal ride, but at 12,600 feet with steep gradients ahead of us it would take us more than fifteen minutes to cover the ground.
“What do you think?” I asked Peder, hoping he would contradict what I knew to be true.
“It’s going to hit us.” he said. So much for that. “But I really don’t want to high tail it back down to Telluride.”
A strong gust of wind hit us, a light rain along with it. If we turned around now we would fail to complete our planned loop but if we went for the summit we’d get t-boned by the storm; completely exposed on a ridgeline at 13,114 feet.