The inaugural group start went very smoothly (PHEW!). During the event, the temps would warm up in the morning and then turn into clouds and thunderstorms in the afternoon. On Day 2, in the late morning, we got to experience the partial solar eclipse. Some people got hit by rain, others pummeled by hail. And, unfortunately, a hiker was struck by lightening very near the route on Day 3.
As expected, the field split into 3 groups:
1) No sleep/go for broke – Kurt, Isaac, and Blake packed very little on their bikes and set a blazing pace. They rode with or very near each other the entire race. They reached Incline Village on Day 1 before 9pm, but then pushed on into the night – no sleep. Blake dropped back from Isaac and Kurt late in the first night after Spooner Lake and, after putting himself through a brutal 24 hours, he pulled out at Fallen Leaf Lake. After stopping in Tahoma for a break, Isaac dropped behind Kurt. Kurt went on to set an amazing course record (38 hours, 15 minutes) and Isaac rolled in just 30 minutes later.
2) Some sleep, but pushing hard – Joe, Tony, Forest, Whit, and Matt all carried sleep kits, but were gunning to finish in less than 72 hours. Joe dropped the rest of this group early in the race and consistently moved quickly and efficiently throughout the course. He bagged around 4-5 hours of sleep per night, pretty much setting the bar for how fast you can do the route, while still getting some sleep (53 hours, 45 mins). Whit and Matt both experienced mechanical and stomach issues and they dropped behind Forest and Tony on Day 2. Tony was plagued with navigational issues and got off-track a dozen or more times. Tony and Forest rode together off and on throughout the course. On Day 3, Tony got an early start after being woken-up by rain. Meanwhile, Forest was sleeping comfortably in a roadside bathroom. Though he was feeling fried, Forest caught Tony at the very end of the race and they finished together. Whit rolled in about 5 hours later. And Matt came in an hour after that with a completely frozen bottom bracket.
3) Big miles, but smell the roses – Rich and Sharon probably had the most fun. Everyday, they rode 55+ miles of amazing singletrack, but stopped for plenty of breaks and photo opps. And, each night, they stopped at a reasonable hour to get some solid sleep. Bad timing put them under a massive hail storm near Armstrong pass, but they hunkered down until it passed. Their 4-day ride is a great template for how to really enjoy the route.
Lastly, Alice Drobna did an ITT about 2 weeks before the group start and set an impressive women’s and single speed record (66 hours, 18 mins). And that was despite stopping for lots of sleep on both nights. Luckily, she had cooler temperatures, but got hit with some heavy rain. After riding the route ourselves, we had a much better appreciation of how fast she was riding to finish so quickly, while getting lots of sleep.