Freewheeling: Drinking In The Original Growler

Race Coverage

That’s not to say pedaling efficiency wasn’t a factor in the race’s overall outcome. At the front of the field that had to climb an accumulated 8000 feet was Orbea-Tuff Shed rider Kalan Beisel, who piloted a wispy hardtail Orbea Alma 29er to a record-breaking and race winning time of 5:02:08. That was just three seconds ahead of teammate Cameron Chambers, and eight seconds in front of third placed Brian Smith (Griggs Orthopedics).

Race winner Kalan Beisel off the front. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net

Afterward, the pair of teammates admitted they played a little possum with Smith, a Gunnison local, who Beisel says has a propensity for “racing aggressively.”

“We know how [Smith] races, so we let him do his thing and lead out most of the first lap,” explained Beisel, 31, who when not riding bikes is a hairstylist in Colorado Springs. “On the second lap Cam and I noticed he wasn’t climbing quite as fast, so we attacked on the long climb coming off the short paved section and got about a two-minute gap.”

That was enough – barley. Smith, who can excused for taking the bait considering his wife Jenny (herself an accomplished endurance athlete) gave birth to the couple’s first child just a few days before the race, clawed his way back during the race’s final quarter.

“For a while I figured I was just riding for third place, but then I started getting visuals,” said Smith. “I got the gap down to a minute , then 20 seconds. But then I started to cramp and I couldn’t quite close it the rest of the way down.”

Smith was consoled by the fact that he still rode about five minutes faster than his record time from two years ago – and that after the podium presentation he got to pedal his bike back to brand new baby Jade.

The women’s race had a similar outcome, with first and second place going to Griggs Orthopedics teammates Janae Pritchett and Jari Kirkland, who both live in nearby Crested Butte. The gap was just a minute and 50 seconds, with third placed Elizabeth Sampey (Alp Cycles) cruising home about 10 minutes later. All three were well under 6.5 hours, which is totally badass – and humbling to lesser skilled types like me.

“I think anyone who just finishes [the 64-mile Full Growler] is impressive,” said Golden’s Paul McGregor, who added that the highlight of his 8 hour, 20 minute day in the saddle was not crashing, and that the lowlight was throwing up at the start of the second lap. “I guess I ate something I shouldn’t have.”

I forgot to ask McGregor if he’d eaten any of the bacon being handed out by the support crew at the course’s backside Skull Pass aid station, but I know I did and it was effing awesome. Turns out that was shared sentiment.

 
If you finish you get some beer. What’s better than that.

“During the two race days we cooked up 65 pounds and it all got eaten,” said aid station volunteer Greg Osgood, who was sporting a hat saluting his membership in last year’s bacon brigade. “It started happening a few years ago when someone had a little leftover bacon from camping the night before and gave it to one of the racers. The next year a little more got cooked, and this year we lugged up two coolers full of the stuff.”

But while good times and lots of laughs punctuate the Growler experience, it’s the good the event does that is its true hallmark. By funding Gunnison Trails, the Original Growler has helped make itself a better event, leading to the construction of new trails and the dreams for even more.

“Last year we had around 1700 volunteer hours,” said Gunnison Trails board of directors member Dodson Harper, who was 39th overall finishing in just a breath over six hours. “This year we’re working on a new wide hand-cycle friendly trail and developing trails behind the college (on the other side of Gunnison).”

And then there is the Valhalla of trails, the proposed Gunnison to Crested Butte connector that would link one of the world’s most famous riding locales with one that’s on its way to joining that esteemed conversation.

“Crested Butte is and will always be one of the best places to ride mountain bikes,” said Original Growler race director Dave Wiens, who’s a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and has been spearheading the effort to connect to two riding locales. “That project has a long way to go. But right now more and more people are learning about Hartman Rocks, and I’m sure more and more of them are going to be coming back for more.”

Just like a good beer, one is never enough.

Freewheeling: Drinking In The Original Growler Gallery
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The Challenge

Do this. Twice.
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The Whip

We rode an XL-sized full suspension Specialized Camber Pro 29er. At about 27 pounds it's not the lightest bike out there, but she handled the rough stuff like a dream.
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Number Plate

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Reason To Smile

Mountain Biking = Fun. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Chip Off Block

Young Cooper Wiens raced the Half Growler. Dad says he has the goods. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Not Tan Lines

Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Stab Move

Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Winner Winner

Overall champ Kalan Beisel powers toward the finish. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Grippy

The rock was the best place to be for traction. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Dropping In

Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Long Day

Features Editor Jason Sumner slugged his way home in a (not)blistering 7:27:10. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Rock Hopper

Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Cookie Monster

Topeak-Ergon's Jeff Kerkove starts the recovery process. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Shower Time

Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Beer Thirty

Race done. Party start. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Scene Stealer

The views helped ease the pain. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Trouble Everywhere

Choose the wrong line and it gets ugly fast. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Dust Devils

The race leaders charge through Hartman Rocks. Photo By Matt Burt/mattb.net
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Finisher Growlers

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Finisher Mugs

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Need We Say More

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After Party

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Lance Fan

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Drink Up

Crossing the finishline netted an official finisher's t-shirt, mug or full growler. Paul McGregor made the right choice.
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MC Wiens

The six-time Leadville 100 winner was man on the mic.
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The Bacon Boys

Besides normal aid station duties, these guys cooked up 65 pounds of salty goodness.
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Pride in Bacon

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No Slow Down

MTBR.com ad man Mark Gouge handily won the 50+ race.
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Men's Top Three

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Winner's Painting

Besides cool metal trophies, the day's top man and woman each walked with one of these.
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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