Rocky Mountain Endurance Series – Race Report


Yesterday I finally won my first (big) Colorado mtb race. It was a stop on the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series at Keystone resort: 38 miles, 7,000 feet of vert, and started at 9,300 topping out at 11,800 feet above the deep blue sea. A race designed for the pain cave. It was the hardest race I’ve ever done, I think. I live at altitude and the race was TWICE as high! Ridiculous. Anyway, I hadn’t raced since April due to sickness and travel, so I didn’t know what to expect. The start was a mass start with a neutral roll-out thru the resort town. That meant there was no way to keep track of who is in your field. The pros were mixed with single-speeders and the rest of us. I just made sure to start in the front. But it was soon enough that everything got sorted out because the first climb was completely brutal. It was one of those ski area races…you climb for ever and ever, straight up the mountain, then descend for two seconds; then up again. The climb to the top was 14 miles of the 19 mile loop. Insane.

The first time up I felt great. It was one of those days where you are wondering, “Why is everyone else going so slow?!” Yah, while I did shred the climb up the first time and pass 6 guys in my field, the second time up was a bit different. I DID try to back off some because I knew we had to do it again and it was stupid hard…but it’s a race!! Anyway, I knew I was ahead of most of my field by the top but I had no idea if there were others in front. The downhill was very technical but mostly fun. So, I’d done only half the race and had been riding for almost 2 hours!! I signed up the *half* marathon, people!! Unbelievable. This was not going to be painless. Let’s just say the second hour and a half of climbing brutality was one of the most challenging–physical and mental–times on a bike I’ve had. It was just so hard to to keep going…going like it was a race anyway. No oxygen, no energy. I knew I was hurting and slowing because, for the first time, within a few miles from the top, a group of riders were gaining. Two passed me. Then I just had a feeling that the guy behind them was in my field. As he crawled by me on the fire road I saw that indeed he was. Crap! At this point I took Jeff’s advice, “shift up and pedal harder”. Right, Jeff? 😉 I was on the verge of cramping, collapsing, crying, etc. I don’t know where it came from but I found one more gear and kept the guy in sight to the top. He had some time into me but I HAD to stop to refill my bottle at the top or it really would be over. He now had a decent gap on me. But, I told myself, I saw he was riding a hard tail and that downhill was steep, rocky, super technical, suited only for the kind of downhill 6inch travel bikes the Keystone Bike Park rented out. I figured I could catch him on the downhill unless he was an animal. In that case, he deserved to beat me.

I hit the descent like a fiend. My arms and fingers and legs were all giving out and in serious pain. I might have yelled in pain a couple times…maybe. But about one mile before the finish, I caught and passed him! Man, I’m thankful for downhill and that missing screw in my head. When I crossed the line I still had no idea where I was on the leader board. But when they posted the initial results a while later, there was my name right on top. An incredibly awesome feeling after working so hard and digging so deep. Amy asked me after I told her all this, “So, what made you keep going and go thru all that?” At that moment, I had no answer. No answer that I can put in words anyway. It’s just racing. It’s just the pain cave way.

Thanks for reading, hope to see some of you all soon!! cheers,

Ryan Hughs