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Friday, December 11, 2020

2020 Ridge Riders Trifecta - Come Together

Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah

Come Together, John Lennon (1969)

A fat bike, a gravel bike, and a mountain bike roll into the Black Hills.

"Rad!" said the fat bike, "Groomed trails that climb to a mountain top lookout tower!"

"Cool!" said the gravel bike, "Forest gravel roads that climb the highest mountain pass!"

"Dude!" said the mountain bike, "Twisty single track that climb everything around!"

With all the bikes happily riding their separate ways, the Ridge Riders Racing Club dreamt of gathering the fat bike clan, the gravel family, and the mountain bike tribe together to celebrate all cycling in the Black Hills. So, they created a singular series, comprising a fat bike race (28 Below) in March, a gravel race (Gold Rush) in June, and a mountain bike race (Dakota Five-O) in September.

"Gather 'round!" said the Ridge Riders, "Let's ride together!"

The Ridge Riders Trifecta.

T-shirts and race plates from the 28 Below Fat Bike Race, Gold Rush Gravel Grinder,
 and Dakota Five-O Mountain Bike Race, along with the coveted Ridge Riders Trifecta mug.

1. 28 Below Fat Bike Race

Back in March, I started the Ridge Riders Trifecta with the 28 Below, a 31 mile fat bike race on snowmobile trails up 3,000 feet to the Cement Ridge Lookout Tower and back down. Not only was this my first fat bike race, it was the first ride on a fat bike on snow. And on a bike borrowed from race co-director Kristi Jewett.

Not surprisingly, my learning curve is steeper than the climbs. With a pile of fresh snow overnight to bury the groom, I struggle mightily all day to stay upright and occasionally ride a straight line. I've never worked so hard to ride so slow.

It's all good. I eventually finish. Everyone is so positive, encouraging, enthusiastic and welcoming. Fastest to slowest. Veteran to rookie. Old to young. Not unlike the grass roots gravel scene, or the early days of mountain biking. What a great boost at the end of a long winter!

For my race report on the 2020 28 Below Fat Bike Race, go to A Maiden Voyage To FatBikLand. For my fat bike "lessons learned" post, go to Exploring FatBikLand.

Fully decked out FatBack bike, loaned to me by race co-director Kristi Jewett for the 28 Below.

Soaking in the scenery along the initial 10 mile climb at the 28 Below.

2. Gold Rush Gravel Grinder

The second leg of the Ridge Riders Trifecta is the very familiar 110 mile Gold Rush Gravel Grinder. Since 2013, I have ridden the 110 mile course three times in the Gold Rush and three times as part of the 210 mile Mother Lode race. With the same course each year and straight forward navigation on local gravel roads, I need no course markings or even cue sheets.

Good thing, because there was no actual event. Due to governmental permit issues arising from virus concerns, the Gold Rush officially was cancelled. Shouting GO! in the face of NO!, Kristi and Perry forge forward with a "virtual" event. As a local, I am able to ride the actual course on the originally scheduled weekend in June, although it is more than a bit odd to see only one other cyclist out there all day.

With no aid stations, I carry supplies for the long, hot, windy day. But with no racing concerns, I stop after 70 miles at The TrailsHead Lodge near O'Neil Pass for a burger, fries and bottomless Coke. That certainly is a refreshing change! 

For my post on the Jewett's decision to manage a virtual event, go to GO in the face of NO. For my race report on the 2020 Gold Rush Gravel Grinder, go to Not A Virtual Ride.

My beloved Black Mountain Cycles MonsterCross set for a solo Gold Rush Gravel Grinder.

A welcoming herd of local cycling fans fill the road to cheer on passing racers at the Gold Rush.

3. Dakota Five-O Mountain Bike Race

The final leg of the Ridge Riders Trifecta is the venerable Dakota Five-O, a 50 mile single track mountain bike race. Poised to celebrate its 20th birthday with hundreds of stoked mountain bikers from 30 states, the Five-O also fell to permitting issues related to virus concerns. Another one bites the dust.

Not about to walk away, Kristi and Perry again make the most of a tough hand by offering a virtual event. As a local, I fortunately can ride the actual race course on the scheduled weekend in September. But that is possible only because the Ridge Riders rousted a posse of volunteers to clear miles and miles of trail blocked by downed timber from a freak tornado. Then they marked the entire course, with some necessary detours, right before the originally scheduled start. Stellar community service.

Like the Gold Rush, this is a long, hot day, with no aid stations. I carry 4.5 liters of water, which is barely enough. Early on, several other riders pass me and later a few more leap-frog with me. So, I'm not entirely alone, but I miss was the energy and encouragement from the typically hundreds of other riders, all the volunteers, and the finish line party. 

Well, a day on the bike is always a good day, especially when cruising sweet single track lovingly built and maintained by passionate locals.

For my report on the 2020 Dakota Five-O Mountain Bike Race, go to 2020 DaCOVID Five-O.

Jones 29+ to navigate the 20th Annual Dakota Five-O course.

Rolling along on the 2020 Dakota Five-O course.

In a year of closed doors, covered faces and cancelled events, when many voices screamed "NO!," a few found a way to responsibly shout "GO! GO! GO!"

Thank you, Kristi and Perry Jewett, the Ridge Riders Racing Club, volunteers, sponsors and riders who worked together to keep the vibe alive. Pedal Power!

The Ridge Riders Trifecta. Mission Accomplished.

Come Together, The Beatles (1969)

1 comment:

  1. I always love your thoughtful Racing/Riding and Touring write ups from near and far reaches. Retirement looks good on you but really nothing looks too different, still lots of Pedal Powered endeavors. Thanks for the support and kind words!