First Timers Hitting the Whiskey Offroad Next Weekend - A Few Tips for You:
by Staphanie Jones
If you’ve never raced the Whiskey Off-Road, and even if you’ve done it every year since its inception, getting acquainted (and re-acquainted) with the ins and outs of the race certainly won’t hurt your cause. The basic gist of is that the entire weekend is all about celebrating fun, tough riding and serious partying with thousands of your closest mountain biking pals. If you’re one of the many who have signed up to take the Whiskey (the racing part) challenge, having your holsters and saddlebags properly loaded for your proof of preference will lend to the overall experience.
Be prepared to climb big and descend big – just how many times you go up and down will depend on your distance of choice. The terrain for all distances is mixed with a little pavement, some dirt roads and singletrack - the singletrack portions of the course ranging from smooth and buffed out to steep and choppy. There could be an argument for most types of bikes being preferable on this course but given that a good chunk of the 25 and 50-proof take place on fire road, 29ers may have the upper-hand. A shorter-travel full suspension bike would smooth out the rougher descents along the course; though you wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find a Prescott local racing on a fully rigid single speed rig.
Aside from the fire roads, riders can expect singletrack trails that will be demanding of the tires they choose to run. One of the first climbs, trail #48, has notorious water bars best approached by a tire with a slightly beefier tread. This type of tire also will aid in successfully descending all singletrack on the course with control and without punctures. To maximize control on the loose decomposed granite commonly found in the Prescott National Forest, running a tubeless system with lower tire pressure is the way to go. The last section of trail along the rocky creek side in Thumb Butte is also infamous for causing pinch flats so picking lines wisely and having that tubeless system will help ensure a smooth trip back into town.
As much as Prescott can be a respite from the heat of lower Arizona locations, it will be hot and exposed in the middle of the day climbing out of Skull Valley – so stay hydrated! Toeing the start line with a pack full of water and enough fuel to get you through the entire race is highly encouraged but the event is well supported by Epic Rides and event sponsors like GU Energy Labs. Aid stations are strategically placed so that all 50-proofers on their journey to and from Skull Valley can refuel up to three 3 times en route to the top of the 14 mile climb. At these aid stations riders will find incredible volunteers, water, drink mix and an assortment of typical aid station food-fare. More importantly, if history repeats itself, racers can expect a gauntlet of cheering spectators with adult and non-adult beverage hand-ups at Sierra Prieta; the highest point of the race.
Never hesitating to make a good thing better, Epic Rides has tweaked the race format in a couple ways to make the start of the amateur events flow with more ease. With the total race participants pushing 1,800, there are a couple course locations prone to congestion. The start line on Whiskey Row is the first area with changes this year. Anyone who raced an Epic Rides event in 2012 and finished within an hour of the fastest time will receive a “Preskit Pass” in that respective race this year. This pass allows the speedy and experienced Whiskey Off-Road racers to corral up first to improve the flow of rider traffic out of downtown. Historically, even after climbing about 6 miles of paved and dirt roads from Whiskey Row, when funneling onto the first pieces of singletrack after Camp Perlstein, there has been a frustrating bottle-neck. To avoid that this year, Epic Rides has extended the fire-road climb and tacked on a new section of singletrack for more smiles and a smoother transition.
Overall, to ensure a great race experience for everyone, Epic Rides requests that two basic principles be followed - be nice and have fun (AND DON’T LITTER!!). After you’ve studied the course, aired up your tires and lubed your chain, filled your jersey pockets to the brim and toed the start line it’s important to remember that riding bikes is supposed to be fun. So be courteous to your fellow competitors, respect the trail and don’t forget to smile. As competitive as we may be, it is a bike race after all; enjoying all aspects of the ride is what it really boils down to and what this weekend is all about.