Guest Post: A First Hand Look at the CTR

Posted by on Aug 4, 2010 in Bike, Races | 9 Comments

The following is a guest post from Jeff Higham, who woke up early on Monday August 2nd to watch the start of the Colorado Trail Race—a 470+ mile unsupported race from Denver to Durango. Jeff lives in Highlands Ranch, Colorado with his wife and 4 kids. He currently rides for the Natural Grocers / Vitamin Cottage Cycling Team competing in regional XC and endurance mountain bike events. For more from Jeff—and I highly recommend adding him to your regular reading schedule—visit his blog.


I woke up early today to join some hard bodies for the start of the Colorado Trail Race, a self-supported mountain bike race that starts just west of Sedalia, Colorado and ends near Durango, Colorado some 470 miles later. Those that complete the race will have climbed over 65,000 vertical feet (how many feet are in a mile? 5,280?).  The race is 100% self-supported with no entrance fee, outside help, aide stations, food drops, course markers, first aide stations, team cars, etc. Just the riders and what they can cary.

Unlike the rest of those lining up at the starting line—a parking lot at the intersection of Colorado Highway 67 and Rampart Range Road in the Pike National Forrest—I was planning to sleep in my own bed tonight.  I was just there for a small sample of the whole experience, a meager 5 miles of the course.  Everyone else will be sleeping under the stars, clouds, lightning, snow, hail,  or whatever nature throws at them tonight.  As I write this at 9:30PM it looks like the leaders will be sleeping the first night just west of Breckenridge or possibly near Copper Mountain. Follow the race in real-time.

My “pretend racer” plan was simple and took all of 5 minutes to dream up this morning on my drive to the trailhead. I was going to snap a few photos at the start and then strap a POV camera to my helmet and  ride the first 5 miles of the race and then venture back up the trail to my car.  Then I would drive home, take a quick shower, and head into the office to spend the rest of the day dreaming what it would be like to have kept riding.  Much like my pretend CTR race plan my bike pack was extremely simple and took about as much time to get ready. Cycling clothing, helmet, glasses, shoes, gloves, 2 tubes, 2 water bottles, 3 gel shots, a Flip Ultra, and a POV cam attached to my helmet. This is my usual setup for 1-2 hours of riding which is all I ended up doing (excluding the camera equipment).  At the starting line I had some comments by real racers on how light I was packing for such a demanding race.  Jokingly I asked them what they needed all of that stuff for.  I got a few puzzled looks but mostly a lot of smiles.

Many of these racers have been planning, training, testing equipment, and doing weekend bikepacking trips to prepare for the demands of the race.  Just browse the 2010 posts of Topeak-Ergon pro Jeff Kerkove to get an idea of the kind of commitment and preparation required to RACE the CTR.

Perhaps someday my pretend dreams will turn into reality and I can ride on past Lenny’s Rest and into the 465 miles of singletrack heaven.  Maybe next year, or the year after that, or even the year after that I’ll be among those lining up with a 40lb bike and a huge smile.


  1. Jeff Higham
    August 4, 2010

    Adam thanks for letting post! It was a fun event for sure. I have more video and photo links here for anyone interested.

  2. Me
    August 4, 2010

    Hey, thanks for this Adam. Been following pretty much non stop the last couple days.

    But I must say, Kerkove riding this is the same sandbagging Lance does at Leadville. Jeff isn’t a Tier 1 MTB pro, nor is he a top amateur. He’s kind of stuck in no man’s land. Event-wise, this nice guy is just pack fodder these days so I guess he needs to look for results in an event for the rest of us. Secretly, I’m hoping Dave Harris or Eszter beats him. Unlikely, but the weather has been rough so far and those two are tough as nails.

    • Grizzly Adam
      August 4, 2010

      Nobody sandbags the CTR. How does one go about doing that? It’s a 5-day 500 mile race. DH, Jesse, Ethan, Jefe… they are all as hard as nails, and have a long history of finishing in the pointy end of races. Dave and Eszter are Stars and Stripes winners. Does that make them sandbaggers? Jeff is a multi-day rookie. I’m betting his lack of experience catches up to him late in the game. If not, good on him. He’s worked his tail off for this race.

      Is he pack fodder or is he a sandbagger?


    • Jeff Higham
      August 4, 2010

      I tend to agree with Adam. Whomever ends up pulling out the W here will have to give 100%. Sandbagging isn’t an option. I know very little about multi-day racing (like 0) but I’m guessing it is at least 40% strategy which only comes with experience. No doubt Dave, Jesse, Ethan, and Jefe have the upper hand on Jeff K on that front so it will be interesting to see how it all pans out. At the same time, all it takes is a mechanical, poor night sleep, poor nutrition, etc to turn the whole race around. There is still a LOT of one-track for them to get through and Jeff K is no slouch when it comes to planning or riding. Eszter is just blowing my mind at the moment with how strong she is riding.

      I’ll be riveted to the leader board the rest of the week.

    • Jeff K
      August 13, 2010

      So this means we will see you at CTR in 2011? FANTASTIC!

      • Grizzly Adam
        August 16, 2010

        Maybe. I’d love to give it a go. And nice effort this year. You were crushing it.

  3. eeeeeeeeeevilbanks
    August 4, 2010

    very cool………how can you help but admire those guys?

  4. nathaniel
    August 15, 2010

    This is great. Adam, thanks for being an inspiration. I looked at your dixie race article and the great video you made with the phish song and drew some real motivation from your website and your enthusiasm. I successfully completed the 2010 CTR with a one route deviation and I feel that I may participate again in the future. -Happy Trails!

    • Grizzly Adam
      August 16, 2010

      Thanks! And nice ride!

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