Your Own Private Idaho: 50 Miles at the Pass Gran Fondo Report

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Race Report submitted by Chad Dexter.


Coeur d’Alene’s Bicycle Sales & Service held its 2nd annual 50 Miles at the Pass Gran Fondo over the past weekend, http://www.bicycleservice.com/4thJuly.html. Showcasing the mountain bike riding opportunities near I-90’s 4th of July Pass, this event’s proceeds benefit the local Lake City Trail Builders Association. The 70+ participants that showed up on Sunday had the option to do a 10-mile, 17-mile, 35-mile or 50-mile route. In Italy, “Gran Fondo” means “Big Ride” so I figured I’d better go big here in Idaho as well & give the 50-miler a shot…

It was emphasized at the start line that, “…a Gran Fondo is not a race…it’s a ride.” Well, some of us didn’t quite adhere to this approach at the beginning. Actually, it didn’t really come into my thinking at all. I mean, when you’re in a group of riders & someone sez, “ready, set, go”…well go hard or go home. That was my thinking early one…that is until I got dropped from the group of 4 racers…eh, riders…that shot out from the start today. “Hey, wait up, fellas…it’s supposed to be a r.i..d…e….!” Everyone started on the south side of the interstate at the Idaho Parks & Recreation Park & Ski XC trailhead. Rolling along some pretty gentle double-track throughout this loop was fun & fast. Sections along the way include the following: High Road, Elderberry, Eagle Run, Makin’ Tracks & Twisted Klister. The 4 of us that were together in the front were “big-ringin’ it” through all these sections except for one short, steep stretch of singletrack that arrives just past “Ian’s Hut”. This managed to catch us all off guard & terribly wrong-geared the first time around, resulting in a bit of unfortunate & embarrassing hike-a-bike. Fortunately, 50-milers do the south loop twice, so we got another shot at this section to clear it cleanly the second time around….successfully!

Coming across I-90 to start the “big loop” on the north side, I had about half a bottle left of the Hammer Heed/Gel/Electrolyte concoction I had brewed up earlier in the morning. I figured this would be enough to get me to the Curran Saddle aid station, so I ripped past that last aid station on the south side. This ended up being a dumb decision as most of the miles ahead was steady climbin’. Nothing too steep. Just steady…and the temps were rising fast. Nursin’ my remaining few ounces of fluid, it wasn’t too long before I had to bid “ah-riv-ah-dare-chi” to my breakaway of co-riders & settle in for a rough climb up the #800 Trail to the next fueling stop. When you’re not quite sure when, where, if(!?!?) you’ll see the next aid station on a long ride, and your fuel supplies have dwindled down to about nothing, the mind & attitude can quickly turn against you. Every turn in the trail ahead that presents another climb is a small defeat. Mentally, these defeats start compounding themselves at each disappointing turn in the trail…and the next…and the next, etc.. This is when you can find yourself on what I like to refer to as “your own private tour of angst, fear & regret”. Out there all by yourself, (literally) yelling & cursing at the ride organizer & volunteers (out loud mind you) about how “unfair & utterly ridiculous this is!” Of course, the reality of things in this particular situation is that “this” is 100% my fault. I’m grateful that my “tour” all the way up to the Curran Saddle aid station was well out of earshot of anyone. I arrived, finally, at the aid station as Betty White (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18ya0-OZ58s). Left the station with two full bottles of Hammer Perpeteum and a much improved attitude.

The entire north side loop is a designated motorized use trail system maintained by the local Back Country ATV & North Idaho ATV clubs. I’d be doing both organizations a disservice here by not mentioning what great hosts they were to us this day. The bike ride organizers had notified these clubs ahead a time about our biking presence and, by all accounts, they did a great job in accommodating. The only time I saw an ATV was when one came up to me when I was loading my bike up at the end of the day. This nice & polite couple wanted to know, 1) if there were any more bikes out on the trail and, 2) which trails were the bikes on. Not knowing the area well enough, I was able to direct them to our ride organizer who shared with them exactly where the remaining bikers out there would/should be. A great multi-use experience!

The entire north side loop is a designated motorized use trail system maintained by the local Back Country ATV & North Idaho ATV clubs. I’d be doing both organizations a disservice here by not mentioning what great hosts they were to us this day. The bike ride organizers had notified these clubs ahead a time about our biking presence and, by all accounts, they did a great job in accommodating. The only time I saw an ATV was when one came up to me when I was loading my bike up at the end of the day. This nice & polite couple wanted to know, 1) if there were any more bikes out on the trail and, 2) which trails were the bikes on. Not knowing the area well enough, I was able to direct them to our ride organizer who shared with them exactly where the remaining bikers out there would/should be. A great multi-use experience!

After my “brush with bonk” on the climb up to the Curran Saddle, I managed to settle in & get the remainder of the ride completed without much further drama. There’s a fast section called The Tunnel that you ride through that you have to watch for rogue branches on both sides of the trail throughout. One sneaky branch, honestly, did manage to reach out, grab me & pull me in…true story! Recovered from this goofy experience, I hauled up a 6-mile sustained climb called The Switchbacks that’s not too terribly steep…just terribly long. After that, a fast plunging descent straight down called Rock & Roll (emphasis on “Rocks” here) dumps you into the Marie Saddle. One last climb…a half-mile long, super steep beast with an 8% average gradient. It was here, on the way up, where I sighted one of the breakaway riders that had dropped me a couple hours before. From the top of this, a fun descent back to the original start of things where I was greeted with a salmon burger BBQ & a finisher bumper sticker.

Before I could get going on the long drive back to Helena, the race organizer stopped me to offer his thanks that I’d come over from Montana. He also asked if I had any suggestions on how things could be improved for next year’s edition. I thought about sharing my whiney-baby experience on the Curran Saddle climb (for a just a quick second there) and then replied in all honestly, “Nah, Kent, you’ve got a great thing going here…I wouldn’t change a thing.”

http://app.strava.com/rides/14298346

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