The 10th Annual Whiskey Off-Road captures the essence of what mountain biking is all about.
Katerina Nash winning the Fat Tire Crit.
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The 10th Annual Whiskey Off-Road in Prescott, Arizona, is in the books, and what an unforgettable weekend it was. Over the last decade, the Whiskey has become the model for putting on a community event that goes way beyond just being a mountain bike race. The Whiskey captures everything that is incredible about mountain biking – from the trails and healthy competition to the celebration of family, friends and community that make you happy to be alive.
The vibe all weekend was simply incredible. The weather was perfect, trails were in primo condition, the music was jammin’ and smiles were everywhere. As I stood on the courthouse lawn watching the sun set over Thumb Butte as Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers rocked the crowd, there was nothing in the world that could upset the incredibly positive vibe of the Whiskey. Well, nothing except for the horrific smell that emanates from a hotel room shared by six guys who drink a lot of beer and eat a lot of fiber.
The ASS leading out the Pro men’s field in the Fat Tire Crit.
The ASS was in attendance trying to crack another top 10 finish in the singlespeed race. I had good legs about 20 miles in, but two flat tires – both in the back. The day before a dog pissed on my front wheel. I took it as a sign of good luck. I should have had him piss on the rear one too. At least I got the honor of leading out both the men’s and women’s Fat Tire Crit while wearing the disco ball helmet. In fact, that might be a career highlight.
The city of Prescott is decisively old school. Because of the extremely dry climate, cars here can outlive humans. Half the cars cruising around Prescott are older than me. Not collector cars either. Just beat up old Chevys, Mercurys and Hondas that have a ton of faded paint and patina from the sun but not one ounce of rust.
The mayor of Prescott, Marlin Kuykendall, is a genuine cowboy with a firm, leathery handshake, a frontiersman’s charm and an infectious smile for everyone who meets him. Even the riders in Prescott are old school. Most people who live in town don’t ride carbon fiber 29ers; they’re still rocking tried-and-true steel whips with 26-inch wheels. And they’re proud of it, too.
Sunset over Thumb Butte in Prescott.
On the final singletrack downhill, I sat under a Ponderosa Pine trying to repair my second flat after quadruple pinch flatting my spare inner tube. I ran out of patches and had to get creative. I employed an old trick where you cut off the punctured portion of the tube by twisting a stick around it, then stuffing it all into the tire. But it still didn’t hold air. It was at that moment I realized a significant drawback of riding 26-inch wheels; nobody seems to ride them anymore, making spare 26-inch inner tubes scarce.
A Prescott local, wearing a crusty old t-shirt, baggy shorts and a circa-1993 Giro helmet with as much cranial protection as a five-dollar Styrofoam cooler strolled up and asked if I needed help. I figured this guy had a 26-inch bike and asked if he had a spare tube.
“Heck yeah I do,” he said. “I’m old school man.”
I limped my bike over to where his rig was parked, and sure enough, he had some 30-year-old steel beast with cantilever brakes and friction shifting. He pulled out a tube and handed it to me with a smile. The inner tube had a Schrader valve on it. When he said he was old school, he wasn’t kidding. I told him the tube wasn’t going to work.
“No problem. I got a file. We can just hog that sumbitch out a little.”
He laughed and slapped me on the back. I was only half-sure he was kidding with me. Eight miles from town with no inner tube, I did the unthinkable and defaced my beloved 26er with a 29er inner tube from a generous passer-by. I didn’t think it was going to fit, but to my surprise, it worked perfectly.
Even though my race was a complete bust, there was so much more to look forward to after finishing. A beer garden, live music all afternoon and evening, incredible food right in town square and the pro race on Sunday morning where people lined the streets in town and the final singletrack section just outside town.
Geoff Kabush defends his title with a commanding win.
Scott-3Rox rider Geoff Kabush dominated the cross-country for the second year in a row, gapping second place finisher Team Sho-Air’s Jeremiah Bishop by five minutes. But the win did not come easy, as a hard-fought battle with Specialized’s Todd Wells played out on the climb up from Skull Valley. Bike strategy was crucial, as Kabush used his full suspension rig to pin it on the final downhill, putting Wells into difficulty on his hardtail. Wells eventually flatted only five miles from the finish and lost five places in those last five miles to finish seventh.
Todd Wells suffers a flat tire in the final singletrack section of the Whiskey Off-Road. Bishop catches and passes Wells for a second place finish behind Kabush. Wells drops all the way to seventh. Bummer.
In the women’s race, 2012 X-Terra world champion Lesley Paterson, who also rides a Scott, proved her rainbow stripes by winning the cross-country in commanding fashion, with more than a two minute gap over second place finisher, Katerina Nash (Luna). Paterson was several minutes back when she started up from Skull Valley, so clearly she had her climbing legs in full effect mode.
There’s three stages to the Whiskey: the Pre-scott anticipation, the During-scott fun and the Post-scott depression. Thankfully we don’t have to wait another 365 days, as Epic Rides recently announced the inaugural Grand Junction Off-Road happening this coming Labor Day weekend in Colorado. It’s supposedly modeled to be just like the Whiskey.