A Grand Junction Off Road Guide

The second stop of the Epic Rides series will take place in Grand Junction, Colorado this weekend and the race, bike expo, and music festival draw quite the crowd to our small town on the Western Slope. As a Fruita local, I’m thrilled to be participating in this weekend’s events, both as a racer and spectator. It’s exciting to partake in the sufferfest, hear race stories from the many locals lining up for the event, and to share our desert trails, restaurants, and Western Slope good vibes with those traveling from out of town. 

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I absolutely love my corner of Colorado, and my hope is that all racers traveling to compete in the Grand Junction Off Road enjoy their time here as well! With that in mind, I’d like to offer a bit of information not included on the Epic Rides website that will hopefully enable you to maximize your time and enjoyment this weekend.

THE RIDE: The Pivot Cycles Mach 429SL is the ideal machine for handling the technical and chunky terrain that we’ll race on this weekend. I’ll be running this capable, light bike with SRAM Eagle 1x12 drivetrain, Enve M525 wheels, Maxxis Ikon 2.35 tires, Ergon grips and saddle, and MRP Loop TR 130 fork (made locally and named after the Lunch Loops!). I’ll be riding the 429SL for the third year in a row in Sunday’s 40 Grand pro race, and my husband Noah is running a similar setup for Saturday’s 30 Grand race. 

If you have multiple bikes in your quiver and are still deciding what bike to run this weekend, my advice would be to go for a full suspension. Make sure that it’s built with tires sturdy enough to handle the rocky, dry, and loose trails at the Lunch Loops (Maxxis tires with their EXO sidewall reinforcements are my pick).

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THE PRE-RIDE: Even if you’ve raced the Grand Junction Off-Road before, you’ll get to experience riding on some new trails in this year’s edition! The full 30 and 40 Grand courses are available on TrailForks, and if you don’t have the app, I highly recommend downloading it prior to your pre-ride. Once you’ve downloaded a region, you’ll have access to maps, race routes, and trail stats even when your phone is out of service.  

One hour: If you’re like most racers and are arriving from out of town for the event, a quick hour may be all that you have for race recon. If your time is limited but you’d still like to get a feel for the terrain, I’d recommend riding Butterknife. This trail can be accessed by driving to the Third Flats Trailhead off of Little Park Road, and includes six miles of singletrack before popping you onto Third Flats Road. Take a right here, and climb for approximately four miles back to your vehicle. The whole loop may take a bit longer than an hour if you’re not going race pace, but riding it will give you a great taste for the physical, fun, and technical style of riding in Grand Junction. 

Two hours: If you’d like to spend a little more time on course for your pre-ride, parking at the Gunny Loop lot off of Little Park Road is a great spot from which to check out this year’s new singletrack. Start your ride by climbing Positive Vibes, continuing on Second Thoughts, and hitting Twist-n-Shout before you drop onto Butterknife. Following the climb out of Third Flats Road, drop into Second Thoughts before finishing up on Snakeskin and returning to your car

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Three hours: If you have a full three hours to ride, parking at the Tabeguache / Lunch Loops Trailhead lot and riding the 30 Grand (minus the to-and-from pavement connections to downtown) is a wonderful option to experience all of the singletrack portions of the race. For those racing the 40, the majority of those extra miles take place on doubletrack on a fairly remote road that you’ll hit after exiting Butterknife. If you have limited time and energy, I’d suggest skipping the Windmill Road section of the course and focusing on tackling the 30 Grand terrain. 

Any of these pre-ride options should enable you to get a feel for the style of riding here in Grand Junction. If you’re really limited on time, simple drive to the Tabeguache / Lunch Loops Trailhead off of Monument Road, and cruise around the beginning and end of the dirt portion of the race to get comfortable on the terrain. It will be hot this weekend, so bring plenty of water and wear your sunscreen as the trails are very exposed!

THE RE-FUEL: Whether you’re racing the 30 or 40, and pre-riding for an hour or ten, you'll probably be in need of a hearty and healthy meal following your ride! Keep in mind that Grand Junction does have a Sprouts and Vitamin Cottage if you need to stock up on groceries. If you’re looking for healthy options downtown, the following are some of my favorite restaurants. *Note, I do follow a plant-based diet, and all of these restaurants can accommodate those with dietary restrictions.

  • Cafe Sol - Healthy and generous soups, salads, and sandwiches. I’d happily eat here every day!
  • Kiln Coffee and Copeka Coffee - Because caffeine is necessary.
  • TacoParty - A simple menu but amazing flavor. Don’t skip the guac! 3 tacos for $8 this weekend (usually $12)!
  • Main Street Bagels - Homemade bagels, pastries, and sandwiches on Main Street. They also have coffee and smoothies.
  • Bin 707 - If you're in a celebratory mood following your race, Bin 707 is the place to go!They have a truly wonderful menu and offer a more upscale vibe. 
  • Pablo’s Pizza - Great pizza, with gluten free crust available, and tasty salad options for those who don’t do dairy. 
  • Nepal - Because Indian food is always a great idea, even before a big race!

If you’re willing to drive, Namaste Nepal in Orchard Mesa and Hot Tomato in Fruita are two of my other favorite restaurants in the area. 

OTHER ACTIVITIES: If you’re traveling with your significant other or family to the race, Epic Rides offers kid fun rides and a 15 Grand shorter course option on Friday evening. Watching Friday's pro fat tire crit, exploring the bike expo, and hanging out at the music festival are great options for those not keen on racing. If you’re interested in scoping out other parts of our town, consider the following activities to do with your family, or after the race:

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  • Hike in McInnis Canyons (awesome for dogs!)
  • Drive over the Colorado National Monument
  • Visit Palisade’s many vineyards (they've got a distillery, brewery, and recreational marijuana shop too)
  • Bike at Kokopelli or 18 Road
  • Do a recovery spin with your family on the Riverfront Trail (spans from Palisade to Fruita!)

Head to www.VistiGrandJunction.com for more tips on the area’s activities. 

FOR YOUR BIKE: In the event your bike needs a little love prior to the BIG event, there are plenty of bike shops in the area. Bicycle Outfitters, Gear Junction, Brown Cycles, Grassroots Cycles, and Ruby Canyon Cycles are close to the venue and should get you rolling in no time. Fruita’s Colorado Backcountry Biker and Over the Edge are other great options with friendly service and a wide selection of gear. 

Have a wonderful weekend, keep the rubber side down, race hard, recover harder, and enjoy your time on the Western Slope! Ride on.


The Whiskey 50 was tough. But so am I.

This year’s Windy Whiskey 50 is done and dusted. After an incredibly hard four hours of racing yesterday, Noah and I hit the road for the nine-hour drive home. By the time we pulled into our driveway just before midnight, I was an emotional mess. Still dirty, physically exhausted, scratched and bruised, I’d boarded the post-race carnival ride rocketing wildly between feelings of empowerment to utter failure. 

I know that all racers, pros and amateurs alike, have experienced that strange mix of emotions I went through yesterday - that feeling of pride in your accomplishment mingled with a tang of despondency that your overall result doesn’t accurately reflect the work, the grit, the passion, the perseverance, the sweat and the blood that went into pulling it off.

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After a very strong start to my season, the Whiskey was tough. I had a hard crash, I made some mistakes, I rode by myself in windy conditions for the bulk of the day, and the course didn’t suit my skills. But after a good night’s sleep, I've filtered through my emotions and find myself really pleased with how my legs and determination held up yesterday. While there are always (always!) places to improve, I’m still stoked about the outcome and know that my performance on that tough course was a really strong one.

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I finished solidly mid-pack in probably the most competitive pro women’s fields I’ve ever raced in. On paper, 18 out of 40 looks subpar to me, especially considering I placed 11th at the Whiskey last year, but my pace was faster this year on a course that suited my riding style far less. On the drive home, I struggled to reconcile a strong performance with a result that sounds less than stellar. I know that I am continuing to get faster and fitter. My early season races are an indication of that, and my strength and skills on the bike are still on an upward trajectory. The Whiskey 50 was a challenge, and while it may have pushed me outside of my comfort zone, it definitely is the encouragement I need to continue doing the hard work necessary for growth. 

My hope for this weekend was to race to the best of my ability, and I did that. I stayed focused through the road portions of the course, I climbed strong, I gritted it out and finished that hard race even after crashing. It was a challenge, but I’m incredibly proud of my performance and I can’t wait to see how this race impacts my drive and growth in the next few months.

You’re welcome to read on for a little more detail about our weekend in Prescott, but if you stop here, I hope you take away some encouragement from a girl who has only been riding for a few years and racing professionally for two. Bike racing is tough. It’s tough to leave it out on the course and to cross the line somewhere in the middle of the race pack, even when that pack is comprised of world champions, national champions, and the country’s most talented riders. It’s tough to reconcile a strong personal performance with a mid-pack pro result. But you know what’s tougher? Not growing. Not challenging yourself.  Not putting yourself in a position from which you can get stronger,  faster and more experienced. I’m excited to see how I progress from this, and I am ready to work hard for my next races. Ride on! And if you're so inclined, read on for the weekend details and a closer look at my race:

Between live music, a huge bike expo, and three days of racing, all of the events orchestrated by Epic Rides have a great vibe, and I was excited to spend some time in Arizona with Noah. We pulled into the wonderful town of Prescott last Friday just in time to check into our hotel and head out for the Fat Tire Crit - a lung burning 20 minutes of racing through the historic downtown “Whiskey Row.” I kept the knobby tires on my bike for the crit, started in dead last (oops!), and spent each subsequent lap passing ladies and grinning for the crowds of spectators. Following the crit, we hit the trails for a beautiful sunset pre-ride. It was Noah’s first time to the area, and as he was racing the 30-mile course on Saturday, we wanted to get a feel for the terrain and make sure our bikes were operating smoothly. 

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I spent Saturday cheering for the 30 and 50 mile racers. I was so happy to be riding between points on the course, looking for Noah, catching up with friends, and exploring the expo that I probably overdid it a little - my legs were fairly tired - but seeing Noah have a strong 30-mile race and cheering for all those on course was my favorite part of the weekend. He ended up taking 17th out of over 1,000 racers doing the 30-mile course! After watching him take on the race,  I was eager to get on the start line the next day, knowing that my goals were to race to the best of my ability and disregard the rest.

Sunday was my race. The pro women took off at 8:40 and the neutral rollout lasted until the road turned to gravel. I lost the lead group fairly early but felt great climbing until the course turned to singletrack. Uncharacteristically, I struggled a bit on this portion of the course - I  was riding my hardtail, and had trouble staying focused on the terrain with the amount of back and forth passing taking place at that point in the race. By the time the group of ladies had thinned out, we were back on the road and I focused on climbing strong to the top of the Skull Valley out and back. I spent both the 10-mile road descent and subsequent climb out all by myself, buffeted by winds but focused on turning my pedals. By the time I passed Noah on the way back out, I’d caught a few racers, and after downing a gel and getting a fresh water and smile from him, finished the remainder of the road climb feeling strong. 

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I was feeling great when I hit the final singletrack portion of the course. But after a few minutes of fun descending, I crested a small uphill only to be taken out by an enormous gust of wind. I lost control of my light bike on the loose course and went down hard. Between catching my breath, readjusting my brake levers, and attempting to pick up the yard sale of gels and water bottles I’d left scattered in the dust, I’d lost quite a bit of time. Worse, my confidence was rattled, and I spent the remainder of the race gritting my teeth through the soreness in my body and descending with far less gumption than I normally ride. Two of the ladies I’d passed earlier caught me at this point, and by the time I hit the road to the finish line, I knew they had put too much time into me for a sprint finish. 

I crossed the finish line in four hours, sweaty, exhausted, with blood all over my legs and a few tears in my eyes. It was tough, but I raced to the best of my ability and know that I have a lot to learn from yesterday’s performance. Here’s to training hard for the next one! As always, thank you for the support from my husband Noah, to the crew at Epic Rides for putting on a stellar event, to Noah and my friend Dirty Biker for the photos, and to the folks at Pivot, Ergon, Enve, and MRP, who ensured I was on the best bike for the event. The beautiful and light Pivot Les performed like a dream!

Strava data here: https://www.strava.com/activities/1539889517