I met these legs today
They push, they pull
These legs have kicked
on this earth
for 30-some-odd years
They are healthy legs
firing for 50 miles
for a third place finish
in an Idaho gravel grinder
killer Ts triumphing
These legs have fought
for more than a bike race
They have beat
radiation and chemotherapy
They have overcome
and pedal with power
They kick up dust
I let the dirt settle on my brow
like the imposition of palms
on Ash Wednesday
I met these legs today
and worship a new god
-T. Ortega, 2013
Words by Trina Ortega. Photos by Trina Ortega unless noted.
A 30-something cancer survivor, an Olympic gold medalist, a 7-year-old about to turn 8, some of the nation’s top current and former pro cyclists, a couple from New York who signed up the day before, and local Sun Valley/Ketchum hammerheads were among the racers who turned out for the inaugural Rebecca’s Private Idaho gravel grinder, staged out of Ketchum, Idaho, on Labor Day weekend.
Endurance champ Rebecca Rusch played host to 250 participants in the fully-supported tour through the Pioneer Mountains and Copper Basin north of her hometown. The event was a benefit for three of Rusch’s most endeared cycling organizations: World Bicycle Relief, PeopleForBikes.org, and Idaho’s own Wood River Bicycle Coalition.
But Rusch also wanted to showcase the Western hospitality and scenery of her Ketchum-Sun Valley with the grinder, which featured two routes: The Big Potato at 95 miles and The Small Fry at 50 miles.
“Cycling is proving, time and again, to be a viable tool in driving the local economy, personal health, and social change,” Rusch says. “I’ve wanted to host a ride that not only does these things, but does them in my own backyard. There’s so much I want the world to know about the hometown that I love; putting on a bike ride is the best way to get that word out.”
Meredith Miller won the women’s Big Fry 100-miler with a time of 5:48:20 and T. Burke Swindlehurst took the men’s in 5:00:50. The Small Potato, 56 miles, saw Kellie Lusk at the top of the women’s podium with a time of 4:11:04 and Jim Santa for the men with a time of 3:30:38. A queen and king of mountain were honored for the best combined time on two segments. (The first was about seven miles in and involved a four-mile, 1,500-foot climb up the dusty Trail Creek road. The second K/QOM was on the return around mile 80 and climbed 400 feet.) Meredith Miller and Levi Leipheimer powered out those wins.
Rusch said she was pleased with the turnout, especially given that massive wildfires had forced evacuations throughout the Wood River Valley only weeks prior. Smoke and ash still filled the air in the days leading up to the event. Throughout the streets from Hailey to Sun Valley, printed banners and homemade signs recognized the efforts of firefighting crews, some of whom were still camped out keeping tabs on the blaze. No stranger to the tough work involved, Rusch is a volunteer firefighter with the Ketchum Fire Department and had additionally answered the call to help with the Beaver Creek fire.
Of particular importance to Rusch—whose SRAM Gold Rusch Tour organizes a series of female ride initiatives that combine cycling and inspiration for women through clinics at major bike events, female media camps and via an all-girls MTB club in Ketchum—was that 31 percent of the participants were women.
When this endurance champ hosts a weekend of gravel grinding, she does it right. Rebecca’s Private Idaho coincided with the 55th annual Wagon Days, a celebration of the pioneer and mining days of Ketchum. It includes the nation’s longest non-motorized parade, and the Queen of Pain and her cohorts (including Levi Leipheimer and Meredith Miller) entered the parade pedaling World Bicycle Relief “buffalo bikes,” robust bikes that are engineered as work rigs to haul loads in the terrain of rural Africa.
Smith Optics (based out of Ketchum) sponsored a post-ride street party in Ketchum’s downtown square that featured live music, vendor booths, food trailers, a saloon with PBR and Red Bull-and-vodka cocktails; and gelande quaffing. Gelande quaffing is a different level of drinking game that requires a team of four to take turns basically playing catch with steins of beer by sliding them across a long table, off the table, while another player “catches air” (or “gelande”) and then chugs (or “quaffs”).
Both the gelande quaffing and Rusch’s gravel grinder were so popular among participants that they’ll both be back in 2014. For more information, visit www.Rebecca’sPrivateIdaho.com or www.RebeccaRusch.com. To see more photos by Mountain Flyer's managing editor, Trina Ortega, visit the MF Facebook page.