On Sunday Melanie, the Torrance Bros. and I loaded up my Super Rupair billboard Outback to drive to Breckenridge for the Firecracker 50. We had lovely accommodation in a rad ski-house up the mountain with Melanie’s Tough Girl teammate Talitha (she even made us dinner and pre-race blueberry pancakes!). It’s a race high on altitude and fun; starting with a 4th of July parade on Main Street in Breck at 9,000ft and climbing to 14,000ft. It consists of two 25-mile loops so arguably the most challenging part is the first lap of the steep and loose rocky climb topping out at 14,000ft…because you know you need to climb it a second time.
Everything was feeling good in my warm-up. John Husk had done a pre-race tune-up and clean of the Mojo. He installed the Continental Race Kings on a brand-new set of Crankbrothers blue Cobalt wheels. My new Race Club 11 kit was shiny white and ready for the mud bath on course from Colorado’s ridiculous snow year. I attached my Genuine Innovations Big Air and put a second in my pocket…you never know with this race; 5 years of racing this and I have either been flawless or the flats come in pairs. With all the equipment boxes checked, my legs were also feeling great and the altitude didn’t seem to be an issue as I did my usual warm-up routine. On top of that I was wicked jazzed to stand on a start line again, with no nagging pains anywhere!
As always, 5 minutes prior to the start the town grows quiet as we listen to a local Breckenridgian belt out the National Anthem. Then the start is a neutral roll-out as the bike race begins the 4th of July Parade. We feel like rock-stars cruising out of town as kids are perched on barriers, their hands out-stretched for high-fives. Once off Main St the smiles and high-fiving enthusiasm muffles and the Pro men and women start their race together up the grueling Boreas Pass road. It was a tunnel vision slog up the first long and sun-exposed climb before finally ducking into the woods for single track. This is where I started to feel more comfortable and really found my pace, and I continued to feel better and better as the race wore on. Better until the rear of my bike felt a bit too squishy for a full-squishy bike…fortunately it was just a burp so I took out my CO2 for a quick fix…except this CO2 was void of CO2. So I took out my 2nd , quick refill ,and was on my way. What seemed like 5 minutes later I was hauling down jeep track where I always see people on the side fixing flats because this section is ridden with sharp rocks; and I always chant the same thing “please don’t flat, please don’t flat.” Amidst my mach schnell I flatted; the tire had a centimeter long slit on it that the Stan’s solution couldn’t mend. My CO2s were used but luckily another rider was a bit down trail fixing his flat. He offered me a CO2 which I ran down to gratefully use only to find it had already been used! So he then offered me his pump. So I ran back down with my wheel and put the tube in with a Clif Bar wrapper between the tube and the slit. Pumped up the jam and was on my way again. It took a while to feel quite right on the bike with a tube in and maybe 10 pounds more pressure than normal, just to be safe. Hitting another fun single track descent I was getting my groove back and was looking forward to the fun swoopy ending of the lap which would bring me onto my second lap. Pssh and an immediate rim to rock, I was out of air, out of patience, out of mending tools, out of luck.
I ran the rest of that flowy downhill with the Mojo on my shoulder to the next marshall section. They had a pump and I tried to inflate the tire enough so I could at least reap the reward of the final descent. No such luck – instead I worked on my cyclocross running all the way back to my Superru. Once home I took a good luck at the rear wheel. Those Crankbrothers wheels are light AND bomber; 2 of 3 of my flats were on a fast descent and took big hits and they’re still cherry-new. For me I seem to have a 50% success rate at the Firecracker as every other year I am flawless and every other year I am a disaster. With a good ride to finish 2nd in this race last year, which was the National Championships I guess I should have known better and ridden with spare wheels on my back. The good news is that I should own the 2012 Firecracker. Look out.