PRESCOTT, ARIZ. - While the pros may be getting most of the of the attention this year, the amateur competition at the Whiskey Off-Road had plenty of action as well. The times may not be as fast as the paid men and women racing, but they certainly provided for some great entertainment.
Taking place in downtown Prescott, 1,750 riders toed the starting line at Saturday's event. While racers were pounding singletrack, spectators hung out on Whiskey Row at the bike expo, listed to live music and enjoyed the warm sun under the scattered shade of the large trees of the courthouse square. Bikes were everywhere; from locals on their townies to racers on expensive race machines, bikes filled the streets.
Out on course, spectators also lined the trails, gathering at water crossings and other keys points along the route to cheer racers on. At the Sierra Preita overlook, the highest point on the course, a large crowed gathered and offered beer, whiskey and water to racers as they completed the brutal climb.
One of the more unusual incidents of the weekend involved a collision between a racer and a deer. While ascending the gravel portion of Copper Basin Road near the beginning of the race, Dan Carroll was struck by a running dear, knocking him to the ground and cracking his carbon fiber frame.
"I was just riding along and next thing I know I was on the ground," he said.
At most of their events Epic Rides tries to honor someone in the industry that has made a significant contribution to the sport. This year they chose mountain bike Hall of Fame-er Joe Murray. Murray won numerous races in the 1980's, including a streak of 12 straight wins that has yet to be matched by any make racer to date. Additionally Murray has designed bikes for the Marin, Kona and Voodoo brands. Epic Rides held a toast to Murray on Saturday at the Raven Cafe to honor his achievements.
One of the most notable happenings was the fact that a single-speeder had the best overall time at this year's race. Nate Miller of Park City, Utah set an amateur course record with a time of of 3:19:13, coming in ahead of the nearest geared rider by over two-and-half minutes. "I didn't read any course descriptions, I just came ready to ride," Miller said. "It definitely helps to have people cheering you on. You just don't get crowds like this anywhere else."
The man with the second fastest time of the weekend, Kenny Wehn, won the Men's Open category for the second year in a row. "That climb is just brutal. If you're feeling good it's easy, if you're not in can be a long day." Wehn said.
Angie Kell was the fastest woman on wheels in the Women's Open category, having completed the course in 4:17:42. "I think this is very much a climbers course" Kell said.
Single-speeder Karen Tremaine wasn't far behind with a time of 4:18:59. "The amount of climbing definitely worked in my favor," Tremaine said.
Like last year, Epic Rides gave away two free entries to the Single Speed World Championships, taking place in South Africa this year. Candidates were randomly chosen from the top five finishers in the male and female singlespeed categories. Coincidentally, Tremain and Miller were the lucky winners.
With another great year of racing and celebrating in the books, it will be interested to see what plans the Epic Rides crew has for future years events. One this is for sure; it's only going to get better.
View complete results at the Epic Rides Results page.
All photos by Brian Leddy Photography