Racing and campfires fuel locals in national mountain bike series
Steamboat Springs — No offense to the presidents of Mount Rushmore or the fine residents of Pierre, but South Dakota never made Becky Edmiston’s mountain bike road trip bucket list.
“Especially not in July,” she said.
A decision early in the spring to try to take part in the National Ultra Endurance mountain bike race series had Edmiston racing there, however, and she was one of two Steamboat Springs residents to both come away from the Tatanka Mountain Bike Race with strong results and to show well in the overall NUE series standings.
At the event, near Sturgis, South Dakota, Alex Pond won the men’s marathon distance, a 35-mile race, and Edmiston was second in the women’s marathon distance.
Those results helped solidify Pond atop the men’s NUE series standings and set Edmiston into second place.
Among the takeaways, Edmiston said, is that South Dakota is a pretty good place to ride a mountain bike, even if the temperatures soared to 95 degrees at the start.
“The trails were really good, mostly covered in pine needles with a few rocky areas,” she said. “And, they don’t get ridden much. Alex and I rode the day before the race and the day after, and I don’t think we saw one other person out on the trails.”
Two things led Edmiston to take part in the NUE series this summer.
The first was the series’ inclusion of shorter races. In the past, it’s only included races at or around 100 miles but recently added a shorter category for rides between about 35 and 70 miles.
Next, the first event in the 10-race series, in St. George, Utah, fell during the spring break at Colorado Mountain College, where she’s a biology professor.
So, after squeezing in a trip to Moab — ensuring she’d at least ridden her bike in 2016 before she raced it — she hit up St. George and finished eighth.
She skipped the next race in Tennessee but was back to place third at the 100-kilometer Mohican Mountain Bike Race in Ohio, about 45 minutes from where she grew up.
“I had no idea mountain biking even existed back then,” she said.
She was then third in a 50-mile race at the Bailey Hundo, southeast of Denver, and finally made the trip to South Dakota, where she was second.
The series takes the best four results from each rider, so with four finishes under her belt, Edmiston said she’s finished, but only after logging plenty of miles in places she never expected to ride.
“I like racing,” she said, “and that’s been my excuse to go try different areas.”
At the top
For Pond, the trip to South Dakota and his stellar result may have preceded an even more serious dive into the NUE series.
He had a bit of a slow start, placing seventh in St. George, but was first in Bailey, and first again in South Dakota.
Those results thrust him into first place for the entire series, and that opens some intriguing possibilities in the five remaining races.
He plans to attend the Pierre’s Hole 100K race in Alta, Wyoming, early next month, then will travel to New Hampshire for the Hampshire 100 later in August.
He received word this week that the ninth race in the series, the Rincon Challenge 100K in Costa Rica, offers free lodging and race entry to the series leader.
“That would definitely be an opportunity, one of those memorable lifetime moments,” Pond said.
The marathon distances have proven just right for Pond, one of the top mountain bike racers in town and regularly one of the fastest finishers in the Town Challenge mountain bike series.
He said the longer, 100-mile races can be eight hours of suffering, and they can take days to recover from. Shorter races, meanwhile, aren’t always right either.
“If I’m going to go all the way to South Dakota,” he said, “I’d at least like to race for a decent amount of time while I’m there.”
As much as anything else, however, the appeal has proven to be the time off the bike.
The far-flung locales have prevented most racers from hitting every event in the series, but Pond and Edmiston have still been able to make fast friends at the campgrounds and on the race course.
“The people we meet, they’re so warm and friendly,” he said. “You just get to hang out, set up camp and talk bike racing, talk life and realize that everyone’s doing the same thing you are, going through the same struggles to still get out there and ride and race. Hopefully, we’re making some new life-long friends.
“It makes you feel good about being a bike racer.”
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