This past Saturday I planned on racing in Salida’s Big Friggin Loop (SBFL). After the Original Growler, and my first race with Team GO I was super motivated. I wanted to get another race in before my busy non-bike schedule kicked in. Tom Purvis, the Salida local race organizer has done a fantastic job planning the 2 routes. The base loop is the shorter of the two at 90 miles and 10,500 feet of climbing, it follows the big loops route but takes a more direct route back to Salida. The Big loop consists of 107 miles with a mix of singletrack, dirt road, and very primitive trail. The course climbs roughly 12,500 feet through thick forest and wide open valleys.
If there was an option to ride a century I didn’t want to pass it up, I was in for the 107 mile loop. The previous day I rolled into Salida with hopes to get a good nights sleep at the Days Inn. First, Lindsay and myself went to Amicas for some pizza and salad, I would highly recommend it. They are also a microbrew with a tasty IPA. We went back to the hotel where it seemed to take me forever to fall asleep. I was not all that nervous but for some reason I had a lot going through my mind, making it difficlut to fall asleep.
I woke at 5:00am excited for the race. I made my way to Cafe Dawn to get all my gear and bike ready to roll. Racers started to trickle in and soon enough the place was packed. Tom stood up to give a brief overview of the day ahead and explained about the 45 minute time reduction ‘chip’ long loop riders could find in the ghost town of Futurity. 6:30am arrived quickly and 65 riders swarmed the streets of Salida. We made our way up the contry side of Salida and steadly climbed up towards the Mt. Shivano Trailhead. I biked With Matt Schiff for a bit as 6 other riders took off ahead. Matt gave me some beta on the trail that was very helpful. We chatted a bit about bikes then he eventually dropped me a little ways after we hit the singletrack.
I forgot how difficult this section of the Colorado Trail was. I remember it being rocky from riding the Colorado Trail the other direction last year. It was much more difficult then I had anticipated. What I did know was the climb out of Prinston Hot Springs would be tough, with 1,400 feet of elevation gain in less then 4 miles. I passed two short loop riders and one long loop rider before I got to the long decent into Buena Vista. I knew there were at least 3 riders ahead of me, and I assumed they were all going for the long loop.
I cruised as fast as my 38 tooth chain ring would go down to Buena Vista, trying hard to catch up to anyone I could. I arrived at Boneshaker Cycles, they were kind enough to have water and electrolight set ouside their shop. It was a perfect location as it was still on course. It was getting hot, I took off my base layer and purchased a few Honey Stingers waffels, filled up on fluids and got on my way. My refuel was brief and soon I was off to unfamiliar territory, the east side of the long loop.
Jens Nielson passed me while I was at Boneshaker Cycles, I caught up with him on the climb out of Buena Vista. He set a good pace and I just followed him on the super fun Midland Trail. We climbed up Co Road 315 and I eventually passed him before the downhill where the long loop seperates from the base loop. I later found out Jens took first overall on the base loop. I took the turn left on the long loop, the head wind was brutal. I slowly made my way up and across HWY 285 into the South Park basin.
After 285 I didn’t see another soul, at least souls on bikes. The terrain was tough, lots of permitive roads that were rocky and steep. There is a lot of time to think when your in the saddle for hours and hours. I studied the tire tracks, I saw three, I figured I was in 4th because no one in their right mind would bring a bike out there for fun. The tail wind was helping me a bit with it blowing at my back, it gave me a boost. Eventually after a few small climbs I ran into a locked cattle guard. It stated “No Tresspassing, No Hunting, No fishing.” I didn’t want to turn around as no one else did. I had no choice but to climb over and push on, hoping a rancher would not see me.
My willpower soon faded and cruise control set in. I had to dismount my bike numerous times because of locked cattle guards. I eventually got to the hike-a-bike section after passing the turn off, thank god for GPS. I knew my opportunity to pass someone was out of the question now. I was on and off my bike for a good half hour, hiking up to the ridge that would eventually lead me down to the Ghost Town of Futurity. In Futurity I found the 45 minute reduction chip quickly in a house on the right side of the trail. I also looked for a water stash that I secretly hoped was there, nope. I was conserving water pretty well but it was hot and I wanted to chug gallons upon gallons at this point.
I took off from the small little ghost town thinking it would only get eaiser. After descending down a road the long loop rejoined the base loop. I start to notice lots of tire tracks, I was thinking maybe I would have seen some one, nope. Better yet I would start the toughest climb of the day. It took forever, the loose rock and steep grade road was demoralizing, I wanted to just walk my bike. A jeep passes me, he says “your almost there” he saw the pain in my eys, those simple words were very uplifting. I finished off my last of my two water bottles. I had a little more then a half liter in my bladder left.
After making it to the summit of the climb my legs were beat. I was completely exhausted, I was just hoping for nothing but downhill the rest of the way. That’s what I got a very fast 10 mile decent into Salida. I recognized the North Backbone Trailhead which is part of the Arkansas Hills Trail System. I chugged the rest of my water signling a personal victory. I walked across the 3 railroad crossing and hopped back on the saddle and weaved my way to Cafe Dawn. I had made it. 107 miles, with 13,000 feet of elevation gain. This was a true test of endurance. I finished In 4th place (9hr 27min) just as I had thought. However, Jessey Jakomait who finsihed first (8hr 47min) did not find the chip, which bumped me up to 3rd… if we’re playing that game.
Big Thanks to Team Griggs Orthopedics (GO) and Rhett Grigss. I was the only GO rider in the field and it felt good to represent. I also want to thank the Alpineer for Calling SRAM multiple times this month regarding my broken Reba. The persistance eventually paid off with a generous upgrade to a 2013 Sid XX World Cup. The fork worked to perfection. Another big shout out to Rock and Roll sports where I spend far too much money. Acli-mate is the best endurance sports drink, I love this product and used it daily. And to the rest the sponsors: Go To Guide, Pike Builders, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Rudy Project, Elk Mountain Lodge, High Mountain Concepts, Chucks Glass, and Squirt, thank you. Can’t wait for the Vapor Trail.
– Neil Beltchenko, GO Rider