Another Carson City Off-Road is on the books. A lighter snow pack allowed the course to return to the high country. There were some great route adjustments this year as well. More scenic singletrack was added, including The Flume Trail, and recently redesigned Secret Trail. The Ash to Kings Trail was moved to the beginning of the course instead of the end, which I’m sure all the 50 milers appreciated not having to climb when they were nearly back to the city. All these changes plus some milder weather made for the best Carson City Off-Road yet!
For the third year in a row, I spent the weekend up in the backcountry with Carson City Sheriff’s Search and Rescue and Fire Department. One rider that I know of was injured bad enough to be taken off the mountain by Jeep, but the 24 hrs I spent up on the trail were largely spent communicating rider position over the radio, answering rider questions, helping to sweep the course, and of course, spectating!
FRIDAY – CAPITAL 15
The Capital 15, or “Fun Ride” as those who like climbing really big hills call it, started on Friday afternoon. This loop has stayed pretty consistent over the last three years: climb Kings Canyon, take the Kings to Ash singletrack, then descend Ash Canyon to Carson City. The front end of this ride turns into a race, and is usually dominated by some really fast kids. I was assigned to the Ash Canyon side, the side with all the downhill. People were definitely in the fun zone. There were a few reports of minor crashes, but everyone rode out on their own.
SATURDAY – CAPITAL 35 and 50
Saturday morning started early with a 07:00 drop-off time in Ash Canyon. I rode up past the first set of switchbacks on the Ash to Kings Trail, and then waited for the Capital 50 riders to show up. This didn’t take long with their 07:30 start. Soon, I spotted a long line of bikes coming up Ash Canyon Road. 307 riders finished this class, so it was a parade of bikes with a lot of good mornings to be said.
The Capital 50 riders passed by and joined the Capital 35 riders in Kings Canyon. I then rode back to the Ash Canyon water tanks and waited for my teammate to arrive. Bikes were loaded onto a Jeep, and we were then delivered to the Marlette Peak campground. From there it was about a mile ride to our position on the north side of Marlette Peak. We had to be careful when we arrived at the racecourse junction. Even with fresh legs, the lead racers were blowing by us, and we did our best to get out of their way. This was the racer’s last big climb on the Tahoe Rim Trail before the big descent to Carson City.
We enjoyed the view of Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe briefly. It’s one of the best views of Lake Tahoe and Sierra Range from the Carson Range. The wind was really picking up, with gusts that took our breath away and chilled us to the bone. We retreated back to the Washoe Valley side of the ridge, and took cover near some trees and logs. It was amazingly warmer in this spot, just 50 yards away from the top.
The bulk of the riders started to come through. Both the Captial 50 and 35 shared this section of trail. Several 35 riders asked me if they were going the right way for the 35. It was fun to tell them yes, and that the top was just around the corner. The relief on some of the faces! One rider was in such disbelief that he was almost done climbing, that he had to confirm that I wasn’t just messing with him!
We followed the 35 Sweep off the course. Getting back to the ridge, the wind was howling now and almost knocked us off our bikes! The wind was bad until we got over to the north side of Marlette Peak and descended into the woods. The 50 Sweep had to turn around at Marlette Lake for some reason, so our mountain teams covered the sections of trail where the 35 and 50 differed. Dropping into Vicee Canyon, we got to try out the newly redesigned Secret Trail that would connect us to Ash Canyon. It now has a few switchbacks to take out some of the steepness, but it’s still a narrow trail on a steep hillside that took some careful attention. I definitely burned some brake pads by the time I got off the trails, and would have to adjust them before Sunday’s ride.
SUNDAY – PRO 50
The weather forecast for the racecourse was a little concerning Sunday morning, but I wasn’t too worried for myself, since I’d be spending the entire day on the lower trails above Carson City. I started to leave the house, but ran back for a fleece vest and wool arm warmers at the last second. Just in case. As we were being dropped off at the top of Waterfall Road, the sky darkened. It rained and hailed slightly, and then the thunder boomed a couple times. It made laugh, because people were almost passing out from the heat in this location last year! I put on all the extra clothes from my pack and shivered in a windbreak by a big boulder as we waited for the racers to arrive. Soon they passed by, less than 80 combined men and women. It’s always impressive to see the pros attack the hill, keeping the same pace until the very end without fizzling out.
The weather held out, and even cleared a bit as we descended down to Ash Canyon to setup near the Ash Canyon Creek Trail. Warm gear was stripped off and stowed, only to be put back on again when the sun went behind the clouds. This repeated a couple more times. The temperature just couldn’t make up its mind! Teams up top reported snow flurries and were seeking shelter in the vehicles through the worst of it.
We had communications difficulties with the teams up the mountain, so when the riders showed up again in Ash Canyon, it took me by a bit of surprise. The leaders were completing the entire 50 mile course in about 3.5 hours! While most of the riders had their game/suffer face on, pro female rider Megan Chelf was whooping and hollering the entire course as if the mileage had no effect on her. I lost sight of her when she dropped into the Creek Trail, but I could hear where she was. You couldn’t help but smile and laugh as she flew by!
I wasn’t able to make it to the downtown festivities, but had a blast up on the mountain and saw a lot of beautiful country. They really had the course dialed in this year! There was a lot of climbing, but I think it was easier for the riders mentally than last year when they did laps over the same terrain in the brutal heat. And really, it’s hard to be suffering too bad when you have such a great view of Lake Tahoe. Cheers to another year of successful racing in Carson City!