It was a beautiful morning up in Nederland, CO to ride bikes; and I was happy to see friends at the start line. Especially my buddy Ben Parman who I've seen come up as an elite racer since we met back in 2013.
The day started out at a relaxed pace which gave everyone a chance to chat and help each other navigate the confusing first part of the race. At about a half hour into the race, Ben, Honey Stinger Bontrager teammate Scott, and myself started to pull away from the group. After many wrong turns and some crashes, the three of us made it out of the labyrinth that was the first big loop.
Catching up, and up, and up
We all started up one of the biggest climbs of the day together, chatting and having a good time along the way. The whole time, I knew Ben was holding back. After a big descent, we started up another big climb on a dirt road. This is where Ben started to show his abilities and pulled away. Soon Ben was out of site up the mountain in front of me. I followed chase, and Scott was soon out of site down the mountain behind me. At the peak, I caught a glimpse of Ben leaving the aid station set up there.
After grabbing supplies, I continued the chase. The next section was a rough, rolling 4wd road to a dirt road descent. Somehow, I was able to pull Ben back in, and grabbed a Strava KOM for the section by doing so. By the time we reached the next trail head I had caught up to him. We started up yet another massive climb. After a minute or two, Ben once again pulled away and that was the last I saw of him until the finish line.
Big climbing means big descending
What seemed like a lifetime, I finally climbed to the top of the mountain which topped out at about 10,500ft. There was no time to rest though since the next section was super technical. It went from rolling terrain into the biggest descent of the day. It was a crazy downhill navigating around a boulder filled trail. Last year this section tormented me, but this year I was ready for it. I was pretty proud of myself for clearing this treacherous terrain.
With the majority of the climbing out of the way, the descent ended to lend way to some more relaxing dirt road rolling. It must of have been a little too relaxing because I blew by the last aid station. By the time I noticed it, it was too late to turn around. Luckily, I had packed an extra water bottle with me just in case. Still, this was my only water bottle for next two hours (which I didn't know at the time). Mother nature must of have been watching over me though because she provided me some cloud cover to cool things down.
Primal instincts to avoid carnage
Next on the plate after my aid station debacle was a primitive trail descent. I haven't been so scared on a bike in a long time. The trail was so steep that my saddle was on my chest — that's how so far behind I was on my bike. I was certain my brakes were going to catch on fire at some point. Amazingly, I avoided carnage, but missed a turn costing me a couple of minutes.
After a big descent, it was time for another big climb. Although not nearly as long as others in the day, it was by far the steepest. I still have no idea how I didn't put a foot down to hike up these beasts of climbs, but I was able to grind them out. After a lot of cursing into the air, I embarked onto the last technical descent. At this point, my hands/arms were about at their limits. Perhaps the adrenaline gave me the extra grip I needed to complete the descent down to a canyon road.
Legs, don't fail me now
I was down to the last couple of miles, and one last short climb. This is when the navigation file loaded onto my bike computer decided to act up. After nearly five minutes of confusion, I finally found my way again. Frustrated, I was determined to give the last climb every ounce I had left. Let me tell you, it took every ounce too. The last part was so steep I was seeing double. Coming to the crest of that hill was extremely gratifying.
Still shaking from the cougar attack
After a long, fast, pavement descent I was almost done. The last section was an easy dirt path ride away from the finish. Nobody was in sight behind me, but that didn’t stop me from gassing it to the finish. I like to say I was smiling at the end but being dehydrated while still shaking from the brutalizing trail I embarked on didn’t leave me in a happy place. However, it only took a sip of Jagged Mountain Brewery’s special Cougar Slayer Blackberry Saison to put a smile back on my face! Hands down, the Cougar Slayer was the toughest 69 miles and 9,505 ft of climbing (including all the missed turns) I’ve ridden!
The cougar is slayed!
I once again slayed the cougar, but not without a couple of scratches. After a long battle on the bike, I came out alive with a 2nd place! Seeing Ben come up through the years as such a strong racer, it’s an honor be second behind him. I’m extremely proud to have earned the prestigious Cougar Slayer belt buckle!