This year, we had close-to-perfect weather and the scratch rate (7 out of 20 riders) was better than the Donner Party’s 46% casualty rate. And no one got eaten.
Out of the gates, it seemed to take most riders a while to settle in and find their rhythm. The route throws a lot at you, but easy, flowy sections come along frequently enough to keep you smiling.
It was hot and a lot of riders had to filter water more than anticipated. While filtering water during the Hole in the Ground section, my brand new squeeze filter (Sawyer) suddenly ripped open and exploded, dumping unfiltered water into my bottle. I limped into the Soda Springs general store fried and thirsty.
The two race favorites were both taken out on the first day. Kurt (2017 winner) was the first front-runner to scratch. Really bad back spasms turned into numbness in his arms and legs, so he pulled out along the Donner Lake Rim Trail. Paul (2018 winner), continued to set a blazing pace, but crashed along the Incline Flume. After going over-the-bars and landing on rocks, his back was done.
Bligh and Brad, both rookies, took the lead and did the insane “no sleep” approach to the route. They rode together through two nights and finished around 45.5 hours, tying for 1st place.
Alex, another rookie, had some bad mechanicals (snapped derailleur hanger and slashed tire) and got lost. After those setbacks on day 1, he pushed hard through the rest of the route to grab 3rd place.
Jeff set the men’s single-speed record on his fully-rigid Blacksheep at around 81.5 hours. The route is no joke and screams for suspension and gears, so it was amazing to see him move so quickly through it. Although, coming out of Hole in the Ground, he did say he felt like he brought a knife to a gunfight.
Special nod to Jim who’s hub blew up. Rather than bailing, he got it fixed at a shop in Truckee, rejoined the route, and finished a day or so after the main pack.
Many finishers commented on the “epicness” of the route and the amazing trails and scenery. All of them rejoiced in completing such a demanding ride. And no one will forget Pole Creek.
Finally, this year, we added the “Forlorn 4-Day” option, in which riders camped together each night at designated locations and purposely paced to finish in ~3.5 days. The goal was to offer an option that was challenging, but ensured that people got to connect with other riders. Everyone in the group felt we nailed that. In fact, it didn’t feel any easier compared to the last two years when I was in race mode. The Forlorn option allowed me to get more sleep, but the days were still very hard. Going forward, I will stress that anyone who opts in for the Forlorn option needs to understand that it’s no cakewalk.
Until next year…