Epic Rides - Carson City & Missoula - Cody Schwartz

The last few weeks have consisted of many miles on the road exploring awesome new places and sights and partaking in some challenging bike races.  A few weeks back my family and I set out on a road trip to Montana, to see Yellowstone, race at the Missoula Pro XCT, and enjoy the sights and destinations on the way home.  The trip to Missoula was amazing, we were able to spend a few days before the race camping outside of the park and exploring the park checking out all of the sights, doing a little bit of hiking, and also doing some fly fishing along the Madison River. It was an awesome experience and Yellowstone is definitely a place I want to come back to and explore some more.  After making the jaunt over to Missoula from Yellowstone on Friday, I was able to burn in a few laps of the course. The course was very steep, tight and twisty, and a fun ripper of a descent at the finish. It was definitely going to test my skills and my fitness. 

As race day rolled around I was less stressed because the XC race was slated to go off at a leisurely 7:00 pm instead of the usual 10:00 am most races choose. After a day of sleeping in, walking around town, and generally doing nothing, I felt well rested and ready for the night’s event.  At the start, I was struggling to hang on the steep stuff and was falling towards the back of the race. I was able to hold my position on the descent but I was really falling behind on the climbs. After a lackluster 4 laps, I was pulled from the race and my attempt was over. Sunday came around and I was motivated as ever to really give it my all and see where I could place in the Short Track race. After getting caught behind 2 crashes at the start, I had a few good moments the first two laps but quickly fell off, not able to hold the blistering pace. Missoula was definitely a tough race weekend for me as something just refused to click in my legs and I was left with a less than stellar performance. Despite the setbacks though, I was able to have a clean race, gather some info about the course for collegiate nationals in October, and have an awesome time on the road trip to and from the race. 

On the way back, we travelled through Idaho, Western Washington, and Oregon. We spent a day in Bend, OR, and I spent every available minute riding the world renowned trails Bend has to offer. I rode about 50 miles of mostly downhill singletrack and every inch of it was amazing! The corners were bermed, there were jumps and tables for as far as the eye could see, and plenty of optional rock features to keep you on your toes. It was truly like a mountain biker’s Disneyland. I found out on my way out of town that I was leaving Bend the day before the Blitz, an annual bike race turned party that involves a shuttled XC style downhill, a long jump competition, a hole-shot competition, and culminates with a beer chug competition. To top it off there’s an arm wrestling match at the end for $500. Maybe next year I’ll have to work this one in and see if I can chug a rootbeer instead!

We got home late Wednesday and I spent most of the day Thursday getting my bike ready for the final race in the Epic Rides series, the Carson City Off Road. I headed out for the ‘local’ race (it seemed as if it was in my backyard with only a 2 hour drive versus the 12-14 hour affairs the past few weekends) Friday morning with teammate Lauren Desrosiers. We stopped in South Lake Tahoe before heading into Carson City for a few laps on the always-fun Corral Trail, a downhill-flow style trail with rock gardens up top and endless flowing tables, berms, and rollers at the bottom. We rode for a little while out there and loaded up to head into Carson City for the Pro Riders’ Meeting that afternoon. After that we waited around for that evening’s fat tire crit in downtown Carson City, riding right in front of the state capitol building. After the shotgun start, man are those cool, the race bunched up and a lead pack formed. I was able to stay in the lead pack of 25 or so for most of the race, but could never quite get around to the front. Because of this, I was stuck in the back and forced to slow down for the corners then sprint to catch back up to the field. With about 3 laps to go I had enough and fell off the back of the group to cross the line in 29th. 

Sunday was the main event and with it a new course. The record-breaking winter we had in the Sierras last winter meant that much of the 50 mile course that was planned was still under significant snowpack. To cope with this, the crew at Epic Rides turned to the backup plan of 3 loops totalling 54 miles and over 7000 ft of climbing to dish out the punishment. With record heat on tap that weekend, the start was also moved up to 7:30 am, thankfully, to try and help us survive the heat.  After a social pace for the first two miles, the pace picked up significantly as soon as the road tilted up. I was redlining early on but I knew I had to keep it up if I stood any chance at finishing well. I kept pushing on like this for the first climb, riding on the ragged edge up the climb and keeping it nice and tidy on the descent back into town. Coming through the second lap, we had a slightly different lap with more climbing to complete this go-around. I knew I had to tone it back slightly or the heat and pace would really take it’s toll on me.  I rehydrated and refueled at the aid station and carried on at my own pace, as fast as I dare go in these conditions. At the start of the third lap, I was starting to feel the toll of 3 hours racing in the desert sun and hadn’t seen anyone in front or behind me for quite some time.  After a quick stop to fill water and eat some food again, I was feeling better and was ready to make up some ground this last lap. I dug deep and motored up the final climb and caught a group of riders ahead of me. I caught a few more on the descent into town and then unfortunately began to cramp. With only 5 miles left to go I knew I could pull it off if I could reign in my leg cramps. I ate a Gu and nursed my legs up the final climb.  After regaining some energy on the descent, I went into full-on time trial mode and made up several positions on the pavement back into town. I even passed a guy just 100 feet from the finish line! I came across in 32nd out of almost 50.

All in all I would consider it a major success, as I was able to pace myself well and listen to my body to prevent any significant issues from cramping, the heat, or fatigue. I would’ve liked to finish slightly higher up but the successful execution of my own race and strategy was well worth it and definitely a big morale booster. This was the hardest endurance race I’ve completed yet, and just finishing was a relief.  Summer is just starting and I have a full schedule of training, camping, and having fun ahead to keep the stoke high before Nationals in late July. Stay tuned!