Colorado Trail Race Part 1 of 3

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I was going to post just one long writeup about my Colorado Trail Race, but I realized that this became a mini book and would be kind of painful to read in just one post. So here is Part 1 of 3 of my adventure!

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6 years ago, while in Leadville, I saw a few riders on bikes with bags attached to them, and found out what “ultra bike racing” and the Colorado Trail Race was. Since then, it was on “The List” and finally this year I got to check it off. Not only was this year’s race going to be a great personal challenge, but I was able to use my effort to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. Thank you to everyone who donated money for this amazing organization! I was originally going to match the donations if I did not finish the race, but with everyone’s generosity, I decided to match the donations even though I finished, so we’re going to be giving over $6,000 to this amazing organization!

I spent a pretty good amount of time this year getting ready and training for this race with everything from long overnight bikepacking trips to hikes/jogs up some 14ers. While training has been pretty taxing, because it’s ColoRADo, it also turned into a lot of adventures, so it’s been a lot of fun. I ended up taking a few day trips, a few overnighters including a cool Kokopelli Trail trip into Moab, climbing a bunch of 14ers and also doing a ton of rock climbing and hiking to keep up the cross training.

Getting the bike dialed in somewhere around Breckenridge
Getting the bike dialed in somewhere around Breckenridge

I’m also pretty obsessive over my gear, so I spent a bunch of time getting that dialed in. The bike setup starts with a Trek Superfly FS. I upped the front fork to 120mm to make it a little slacker and softer. I’m using a SON 28 dyno front hub with a KLite light setup and some fancy plastic wheels from NOX Composites. Rogue Panda made me a custom frame bag and otherwise, I’m using one of their “Oracle” downtube bags, a Revelate sling, seat bag, feed bags, top tube bag, and a Topeak fuel tank. I also used a Camelbak Volt backpack for water, as I wanted to pull that weight off the bike because of all the hike-a-bike. I carried a Big Agnes UL1 tent, an REI 30 degree bag, super light down jacket, tools, tubes, first aid, and lots of food. The bike is DIALED with this setup and rips downhill, which was one of my requirements. If anyone wants a full write up of the bike, feel free to contact me (trhoppe@gmail.com) and I can give you an obsessive run down of everything and how much it weighs and how it worked.

Sunset on my first night on the CTR

The race for this year was from Denver to Durango but I decided to race the route backwards as an ITT since I live in Denver. Also, the logistics worked amazingly well as I worked out a deal with a fellow racer to drive my car back to Denver after I got to Durango, since he was racing TO Durango. Just perfect. I got to Durango, got my life together, and set off on Friday afternoon 7/22 at 3:30pm.

Going from Durango to Denver, I knew the start would be difficult and the race would come to me a bit later, but I had no idea how hard the beginning actually was. Right away there is a 5500ft climb out of Durango and 3 12,000ft passes to cross.

Some amazing wildflowers on the way to Silverton

It’s steep, it’s rugged, the elevation is up there, and there is a TON of hike-a-bike. All stuff I knew and thought I was prepared for. But that and reality were different. I got my ASS handed to me by this trail for the first 1.5 days. I don’t think I was prepared but going up hill for around 8 hours. At the end of the first day in the dark I realized I was on a super exposed ridge (Indian Trail Ridge) with lightning storms all around me. I couldn’t hear the thunder, but at that point, I was freaking out a little bit as it was lightning bolt after lightning bolt in all directions. Also this season the horse flies were pretty bad, so every time you stopped, they would swarm and cover you. I think all that combined with not wanting to each too much and a slight bonk meant I was on the struggle bus for a long time. I rolled into Silverton towards the middle of day 2 a defeated man. Thanks to some encouraging words from my friends and Betsy, and a burger and BLT, I decided to resupply and carry on. I had to take on enough food for 3 days in the backcountry as the next stop was going to be Buena Vista. I packed up and rolled out of town and made it halfway up the next 12,000 foot pass before passing out and calling it a night.

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