Welcome to The Crux.
From Feed 1 at Silver Lake Lodge, to Feed 2 at Park City Mountain Resort is the heart and soul of the Park City Point 2 Point. These miles are rugged, remote, and demanding. The climbs are sustained, and the descents, technical, narrow, and long. for 2011 there will be an intermediate water station somewhere along the course (I’ve been told it will be at the top of Guardsman Road, at the top of the TG1 Trail) which will be a huge help in keeping riders hydrated during this 30+ mile section.
The climbing begins immediately upon leaving Feed 1. The good news is that the 2011 route features a much more pleasant, gradual climb to the top of Deer Valley. The leg-busting, soul crushing, ascent up the Aspen switchbacks and dirt road have been replaced by sane-graded single and double track. Will this mean faster overall times in 2011? Maybe. But it is still a climb, and riders will have 30 miles and 2,500 vertical in their legs. So, despite the changes, there won’t be anything easy about the climb out of Deer Valley.
After riding the narrow and primitive Bowhunter trail, the fast and flowy Flagstaff Loop, and the tight switchbacks down Team Big Bear, riders will spend a short time on the Mid-Mountain Trail, before climbing (once again!) Tour de Suds and Moosebones. These climbs are switchbacked, and rugged. There are steep grunts, but the overall grade is even and consistent. The climbing tops out at Guardsman Pass, where a water station, and long, twisted, descent await.
TG1 is a great descent. However, it’s also very demanding. There are log and root crossings, rock gardens, switchbacks, and narrow, overgrown plunges. The downhill ends abruptly with a sharp, loose and very steep left-hand turn onto the Mid-Mountain Trail. Take deep breath and enjoy the smooth, albeit brief riding on the Mid-Mountain. At this point, the race enters its most technical segment—Johns 99.
Johns 99 is a tight, rooted descent through thick, beautiful Aspen trees. It is, without a doubt, my least favorite section of the course. It eats me alive. But it’s a unique trail. On any other day, it can be quite enjoyable. But on race day, it can be stressful. The good news, it’s not a terribly long segment. The bad news, following Johns 99 is another major climb.
The Steps climb is brutal. There are sections that are exposed, steep, and rugged. There are also sections that are shaded, smooth and pleasant. But after the long, bumpy descent from Guardsman Pass, the climbing will be a rude awakening to your fatiguing legs. The entire climb, including the Apex and Shadow Lake trails, is about 4 miles. And most of the 2,000 vertical in this segment are part of this climb. The climbing tops out at 9,400 feet above sea level. And when that happens, it’s (almost) all downhill to PCMR and cold Cokes, potato chips, and CarboRocket. The descent to PCMR is very fast. The singletrack is smooth, wide, and generally switchback free. It’s also very long, but very fun. It will be some of the fastes miles of the entire day.
Why are segments 4 and 5 The Crux? They are the hardest miles. They come late enough into the day that fatigue and other physical issues will begin to manifest themselves, and if the day is going to be hot, these miles will be hot. The riders that finish the Point 2 Point are the riders that are able to mitigate the difficulty of these 28 miles. And while the miles are difficult after PCMR, those are close enough to the finish that adrenaline, determination, and sheer plucky willpower can see a tired racer to the finish. But just getting to PCMR is tough.
After running out of fluid in both 2009 and 2010, I plan to use a hydro-pack for these segments. Even with the water station, these are remote, nearly unsupported miles. If temperatures are elevated, as they were last year, hydration will be even more important.
One more thing: Yes, these are difficult miles. But they are also very rewarding. Shadow Lake, in the Jupiter Bowl, is beautiful. The high-elevation pine forests and wildflowers will help to distract your aching body and mind from the task at hand. The cascading descents make the constant climbing worth the effort. These miles are part of what has made Park city’s singletrtack famous.
Up next: Segment 6, the final stretch!