A few months ago, my pals Jennifer and Tobin asked if I would help out with the inaugural riding of the Telluride 100 mountain-bike race. Having never been to this affluent mountain town, I jumped at the chance. And all I had to do was ride my bike for a few hours; I would be the sweep for the 60 mile(actually 55 mile) loop of this gruelling endurance event. Just my sorta thing!
On Friday I arrived at Tobin and Jennifer’s home just in time for pizza and work; assembling all the food, water and first aid needs for each of the 5 aid stations. The next morning I woke just in time to witness the start of the race. With 53 starters including a few highly-ranked pros willing to tackle the nearly 19,000′ of climbing over 100 miles, it was an impressive group of athletes. There was even a bear at the start. Seriously, a bear.
As sweep my job was simple; ride my bike and make sure everyone got home ok. Easy. Basically, all I did was ride and ride and ride until I came across the last person on the trail. Having been that person before, I knew that he would really not want to have me on his tail, reminding him that he was in last place, that he was suffering. So, instead, I would ride until I saw him up ahead then sit down, eat some food, enjoy the view, wait about 15 minutes and then get back on the bike. Eventually I would spot my rider up ahead and I would repeat the whole sequence. His name was Tim and this was his first mountain-bike race.
While the winner–Yuki Ikeda, team Topeak-Ergon–completed the race in just under 8 hours, I spent just under 8 hours riding those 55 miles. And while I did not enjoy the glory of victory that Yuki enjoyed, I had a wonderful day spent riding new trails and meeting new people.
While there is not a lot of single-track on this course–at least, not on the 55 miles I did–it made up for it in climbing. Seriously, it felt as though all I did all day long was climb, drink water, climb, chat, climb and maybe climb some more. While there were sections of double-track, rail-trail, 4×4 roads and bike paths, it’s the climbing that will forever stick out in my mind. If you like to suffer, this is a great race for you!
Eventually, I caught and stayed with my racer, Tim. After 25 years “living the corporate life” he finally realized that life really is too short. He quit his job, bought a home in Telluride and moved his family there about 8 months ago. Now he rides his bike, loves life and makes sure to enjoy it to the fullest every day. He’s also a fan of testing himself; this was his first mountain-bike race….ever! Damn, Tim, that’s a burly way to inaugurate yourself into cycling!
About a mile from the finish line, as Tim pointed out some of the local single-track trails he’s been enjoying, I stopped to fix a local cyclist’s bike; her front quick-release was flopping about, causing her front wheel to bounce all over place. And they say chivalry is dead… The timing was perfect.
Because of this delay Tim rolled across the finish line alone but to the cheers of friends, family and volunteers. I came in about 15 seconds later. It was so wonderful to see Tim surrounded by his wife and adoring children, one of them handing him a drawing she’d done of her daddy riding his bike.
While I’m sure Yuki and the other pros enjoyed themselves on this day, as far as I’m concerned, the day belonged to Tim. He suffered, suffered hard. He pushed himself further and longer than he’d ever done before. He crossed the finish line hours after the others but so full of pride….rightfully earned. That is mountain-biking right there, pure, honest, beautiful mountain-biking. Congratulations, Tim, it was an honour to ride with you.