New Women's Record for Horanyi
Images by Chris Miller and Jordan Carr
On August 1, 2011 68 anxious cyclists departed from the Indian Creek Trailhead just west of Denver, Colo. Packed for the worst while hoping for the best: Riders were in for an epic singletrack journey of a lifetime.
Clear skies and warm temps greeted riders as they headed southwest on the Colorado Trail. Destination: Durango. The Colorado Trail rises and falls approximately 70k feet through some of the most beautiful yet relentless terrain in the state. With 490 miles of epic flowing singletrack and technical and steep topography, it punishes riders day after day but somehow rewards those who choose to race it with a sense of freedom and inner peace that is impossible to replicate.
In the race's five-year history it has continued to grow exponentially from 10 riders the first year to nearly 70 in 2011.
“It just amazes me how many people want to push themselves in events like this” said Jefe Branham, past CTR winner and ultra endurance racer.
Thanks to SPOT personal satellite trackers the race has also continued to grow in spectator popularity. Live tracking of the event is easily found by anyone on the Internet, giving the event a much broader interest group. Friends, family and anyone else interested is able to watch the event unfold in real time as tiny blue dots (representing each rider) travel across the online map. See for yourself at TrackLeaders
Though the race is easily tracked online the course runs through some of the most isolated backcountry terrain anywhere, pushing riders physical and mental limits with extensive hike-a-biking, unpredictable weather, and little chance for resupply. Riding this event can be extremely difficult especially at a “race pace”.
This year, limits were pushed in both the men's and women's races with veteran riders carrying as little as possible and riding massive distances each day. In the Men's race Jesse Jakomait opened it up from the start, riding an unfathomable pace for the first 48 hours, gaining a commanding lead but soon realized it was too much.
Near the “half way” point of the race, the trail crosses Hwy 50 and ascends South Fooses Creek to the top of the Monarch Crest Trail. Here Jakomait fell victim to digestion problems and was unable to eat, which is a huge problem in such a long event. He attempted to wait it out but with no success, he was forced to pull the plug and descend to nearby Salida some 25 miles away.
With Jakomait out, singlespeeder Kevin Thomas of Salida took the lead and was able to keep a consistent yet fast pace for the duration of the race. Averaging about 108 miles per day, Thomas covered the challenging course in 4 days, 11 hours, and 39 minutes, a mere 8 hours off the CTR course record held by Owen Murphy at 4 days, 3 hours, and 31 minutes (set on a geared bike).
Only one other racer was able to break the 5-day mark, Garrett Peltonen pulled in late Friday with a time of 4 days, 18 hours, and 15 minutes. Saturday welcomed in 15 racers completing the race in under 6 days including Zach Guy in 5 days, 1 hour, 26 minutes in third and Jarral Ryter in 5 days, 5 hours, 13 minutes in fourth place.
“The race is definitely getting faster,” said Ethan Passant, previous winner and participant in every CTR. “Guys are going lighter, faster, and on less sleep, its just insane.” Although, Passant started this year’s CTR, a successful Tour Divide ride only weeks earlier left him overly fatigued, forcing him to abandon near HWY 50.
Eszter Horanyi, course record holder after her 2010 finish, was the first woman to land in Durango and was notably the fifth overall finisher. Crushing her previous record by almost exactly 24 hours, Horanyi averaged just over 94 miles per day, finishing in an amazing 5 days, 5 hours, 26 minutes.
Horanyi approached the race much more prepared this year.
“Compared to last year, I had a much better idea of what worked and what didn't. My gear and bike setup was much more streamlined and I had actually tested it as compared to last year where I rode the race figuring out things as I went along,” Horanyi said. “I slept a lot less this year and was a lot more efficient in towns during my resupplies and was a lot better at incessant forward motion, regardless of how slow. Just having the course knowledge from last year was priceless, especially since I seemed to have blocked out all the nasty parts so I spent most of the time looking forward to the nice pieces of trail instead of dreading the terrible parts.”
Cat Morrison pushed all day to finish up the same day as Honanyi in 5 days, 15 hours, and 2 minutes, also beating Eszter’s previous course record.
With an event of this length and magnitude almost anything is possible, being prepared can be the difference between pushing the limits and trying to survive. But at the same time being competitive forces racers only to bring the bare essentials due to added weight. As racers continue to go lighter and faster, it will be amazing to see this event evolve.
With such a high rate of attrition it is obvious that everything must click just to finish this event and while some may be able to get by with minimal gear, others may find themselves in over their head when the weather turns. Preparation is key when considering any type of ultra endurance event, knowing what’s comfortable and what’s not may be the difference between enjoying the ride and struggling to push on.
Author's Note: As a rookie to this type of event, I can say that it is the most difficult thing I have ever done. Pushing for 18 hours a day, sleeping uncomfortably for a few hours, and then repeating for a week. Although it was a daunting and painful experience it was also one of the most inspiring and amazing things I have done. Pushing myself mentally and physically in ways I never thought possible is an important part of life, and the CTR does just that. Congratulations to everyone that participated in the 2011 CTR, whether you finished it or not I hope you gained as much from the adventure as I did.—J. Carr