On paper the world looks smooth and flat. Manageable. On maps the contouring trails are fascinating and beautiful, like sirens whispering sweet temptations into an eager and hungry mind. In reality everything is uglier and rockier and steeper and longer, and yet, still beautiful.
And so it is with the Wasatch Classic.
I spent hours pouring over maps and trails designing the perfect epic. That iconic ride to showcase the grandeur, majesty, and harsh indifference of the Wasatch mountains. It never occurred to me whether or not completing the loop was actually possible or not.
And after the inaugural attempt (at this route) the answer is still up for debate.
After last years epic hike-a-fest I redesigned the Classic course. I wanted something that while still challenging, would be doable, possible. Or at least lingering on the outlying islands of rational expectations.
And what were those expectations? I think they were all a little bit different for the three of us who set out on this massive undertaking.
Reed Abbot wanted to finish. He has the fitness to do it. He rode away early, leaving us to follow his tracks in the fine powdery dust that coated so much of the route.
Jeff Butler and I stuck together. Each taking turns pushing and pulling and urging the other forward. We’d arrive at a shortcut or potential bail out point, each considering the options, and then deciding to continue on course “just a little further”.
In the end the three of us rode 63 miles (Reed riding about 2 hours faster than Jeff and I). We climbed over 10,500 feet of vertical. We saw the world unfold around us, the eternal Wasatch range bursting abruptly skyward. We each pushed limits, exceeded some expectations, and fell short on others. But on every account it was an epic, rugged, soul testing day in the saddle.
Exactly what I wanted it to be.
Later, I found myself staring blankly at the map. I looked at potential re-routes or cuts. I wondered where I could shorten the route, what climb or what piece of singletrack or what 4,000 foot climb to eliminate. I thought I ought to scale it back once again. The better to encourage people to ride… and finish.
And then I thought better of it.
The route is terribly difficult. Nothing happens fast on these trails. The narrow, primitive, rocky singletrack is not your typical double-wide expressway found in more well traveled locations. And while there is a healthy dose of flow, there is also a massive portion of rock and root laden path that will slow even the fastest of riders.
But we are mountain bikers. And this is a mountain biker’s route. And so the course will remain unchanged. It is there, even now, waiting quietly for the next audacious lycra clad dragon slayer to arrive and attempt to conquer its passes and switchbacks, its long relentless climbs, and white knuckle boulder laden descents.
Ride the Classic. Be a mountain biker.