White knuckle descents.
And all above 8,000 feet. The Utah Open at Solitude resort is the quintessential mountain bike course. It is brutal and tough and relentless. An instant of casual disregard will lead to an altercation with a tree, an unexpected hairpin, or becoming reacquainted—up close and personal—with the rocks and dust and tree trunks scattered across the mountainside. The attrtion rate is high, and the number of bloody elbows, dirty jerseys, and bruised egos even higher. It is the ultimate mountain bike experience.
I lined up for the race with some tangible doubts about my form and fitness. Lingering deep within my legs I could still feel the lasting effects of the Dixie Lite. My fingertips still tingled. My feet still hurt. And while racing can exaggerate those festering inconveniences, it can also purge them. If only temporarily. A few minutes into the event, I knew that as long as I could stay upright, and keep air in the tires, that I was in for a good day.
When I finally did crash—an inevitability on that course—it was a quick, hard, surprising flight over the bars and into a vast quantity of dust. A lucky soft, albeit rather dirty, landing. But the bike held together. And the legs did as well. But only just. I suffered a late race fade which spit me off the back of the podium bound riders that I had sparred with throughout the day. The bounce in my legs had become dull and muted. The pain more announced and persistent. But pain, while surrounded by aspen and pine and at altitude seems an acceptable, pleasant alternative to any sedentary conglomerate of asphalt and yard work.
Finishing the day with fresh grilled brats and old school Mountain Dew was the perfect capstone.
I crossed the line 5th. Given the field, and the time I spent on the fringes of relevancy during the race, I think I can claim that it was my best race of the year. Something I will use to catapult—hopefully—myself onward and upward as the cross country season starts to wind itself into history, and the Park City Point 2 Point racks itself into sharp, glaring focus.