The Bailey Hundo… And Then Some

bailey-hundo-headerThe Senators’ Underground Invitational, a 105-mile mountain bike race in Bailey, Colorado that took place on Saturday June 19th, has been the talk of the town for months. With the support and direction of Senators Romer, Brophy, Kopp and Scheffler the inaugural race was run as a fund raiser for Trips for Kids, Colorado High School Cycling League and COMBA.

Anybody and everybody who is into endurance mountain bike racing wanted a spot. This year’s beta race only allowed for 150 participants and was by invitation only. My invitation came from Andrew Goodwillie, Director of Trips for Kids Denver. After I accepted the invitation I happened to meet John Gerritsen and Pat Mayben essential members of the Bailey Hundo organizational team. As we shared a beer at the Colorado High School Cycling League fund raiser they told me about the course. “Its going to be harder than Leadville” John offered gently questioning whether I was up to the challenge. I gritted my teeth and tried to quell the shaking in my shoes. I knew the Bailey Hundo was going to be a brutal race no matter who you were or what your experience.

At 5:40am on June 19th we assembled at the start in downtown Bailey, Colorado. The field was stacked with super stars. Dave Wiens, Travis Brown and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski were there among others. Even though this was only my 6th mountain bike race to date as I scanned the crowd I felt quite welcome. There were lots of familiar faces, some I had only seen in magazines, raw talent oozing from their eyeballs, rad mountain bikers I should be seeing in magazines and talented happy riders who simply love to ride. The spirit of competition had a kind tone as racers exchanged smiles and words of encouragement.

A few minutes to the gun and Tom Zirbel popped his head up wearing his standard wide eyed grin. “I think I need air in my shock, do you know how to work this” he says gesturing with a shock pump. I smiled, glad for the distraction and coached him through the process. We exchanged hugs and he asked about my gashed up knee a consequence of our pre-ride the week before. A few more quick nods from friends, see you at the finish.

At 6am the air was cold, the sun was just getting its start and the gun blast was piercing. The comparatively small pack of 154 riders rolled off the start line. As the race began so did the over 14,000 feet of of climbing. It was a short 10 or so miles of paved and dirt road that lead us to the start of the single track. We were in for a treat.

The goal of The Bailey Hundo was to bring attention to one of Colorado’s most spectacular set of mountain bike trails. And so they did. As the single track began so did the flow, endless flow. The trails were fast, pumping and lively with countless banked turns, whoop-di-dos and non-stop drifting through loose downhill corners. The course meandered through a huge burn out section providing epic panoramic views. Niner Team Manager Dejay Birtch, who is always comparing trails around the country, reported that “there is a new Sheriff in town, and that sheriff is the eye bonking single track around Bailey, Colorado.” By the perma-grins you could tell that all agreed. Sonya Looney of Team Ergon described it as “ripping fast, giggle inducing single track… yes, I was actually laughing out loud by myself”. All the way to victory that is.

For the first 62 miles to aid station 6 the climbing was manageable, the terrain was rockin and the race support was unreal. Each station provided riders with large bottles of water, fresh cut juicy sweet oranges, bananas and non-stop smiles of encouragement. Several stations also had mechanical support from Wheatridge Cyclery, a top race sponsor. Those guys were awesome. Immediately checking with each rider as they entered station 6, they offered lube, adjustments and a good solid pat on the back. All the volunteers were swift, courteous and happy to help.

As we rolled out of station 6 the race took a different tone as the Bailey Hundo’s evil side emerged. Gone were the swoopie turns and shaded hillside. The next 13 miles to Deckers was brutal flat paved road following the South Platte River. As the water flowed and tubers tubed the sun baked and the headwind blew. With each pedal stroke the scheme to trade my Yeti for a whitewater tube and case of beer became ever more tantalizing and reasonable. Thank god Deckers had ice-cream and a fellow racer who was worse off than I was to put things in perspective.

Seventy-five miles complete and we had reached the lowest elevation of the race course. The next 25 miles were on relentless exposed gravel roads that climbed to the heavens. Several riders reportedly cracked on the wall between aid stations 7 and 8. The road continued to climb and the burned out landscape provided no shelter from the scorching sun. The subsequent rolling terrain to Wellington Lake offered little reprieve.

Finally topping out around mile 100, the road took a turn down the mountain. The next 4 miles was absolutely gratifying. But the race wasn’t over. The glorious high speed downhill cruise was met with a 1/4 mile wall of loose, rutted, switch-backing gravel road up to the finish. The wall was steeper than anything we had encountered through the day and was said to have made some grown men cry.

Each rider was met with an ice cold can of beer from Wynkoop Brewing in Denver, Colorado and super sweet Bailey Hundo plaque. Riders were required to remove the bottom portion of their race number and staple it to the official Bailey Hundo board in order of finishing.

bailey-hundo-board-2010

Topping the board…
Men’s Elite: Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (6:37), Dave Wiens (6:49), and Brian Alders (6:56).
Women’s Elite: Sonya Looney (8:19), Brenda Moczygemba (9:21), and Melissa Trainer (9:24).
Men’s Singlespeed: Cameron Chambers (7:44), Mark Thompson, and Eric Carter
Women’s Singlespeed: Eszter Horanyi

Complete results available soon on the official Bailey Hundo site.

Of the 154 starters a phenomenal 139 riders finished. I was among them.  As I crossed the finish to loud cheering and clapping from my friends and the remaining volunteers, supporters and racers I became instantly unaware of the suffering the 13 hours, 105 miles and 14,000 feet of climbing had brought me. A kind gentlemen in a blue Bailey Hundo volunteer shirt handed me an ice cold Rail Yard. “Its the last one, we were saving it for you.” By the time I made the short walk to the official Bailey Hundo board, race number in hand, my beer was half gone and the only words I could manage were “that just happened”.

Before the event John Gerritsen said they hope to expand next years race to have as many as 1,000 participants. With the inaugural Bailey Hundo being such a clear and complete success I have no doubt about its future. Keep your eyes on this one kids, with over 40 miles of heart pounding single track, top notch volunteers, fantastic organization and support, pristine mountain top views and all the punishment you could ever want, The Bailey Hundo is going to be an epic event to top.

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