Team Alchemist saddled up for the 3rd annual Bailey Hundo on Saturday. 100 miles through the Buffalo Creek area with over half of the riding through sweet, sweet singletrack. Also known as the Senator’s Race, the Hundo was conceived as a race to benefit youth cycling. This was Alchemist’s second year racing the event. The course starts in the town of Bailey, CO and rolls up the dirt road toward Wellington Lake before turning into the twisty, fun terrain, for which the Buff Creek trails are known.
Last year, Ken, Stuart, and I rode together. We had a great time riding as a group. Even with some mechanical issues (Ken’s chainring fell off), it was worth sticking together, so we could form a pace line through the flat sections, and push each other up the long climbs to the finish. This year, Dan joined the train, and we decided before the race to stick together again. For a race of this magnitude, this early in the season, we all agreed to stipulate that none of us needed to suffer alone.
Ken pushed the pace up the dirt road, trying to hit the singletrack before it got too jammed up. Somehow, I dropped my chain right as we climbed into the trees. I told the guys to keep going, since I just needed to slide the chain back on. I wrapped the chain back onto the chainring and hopped back on, only to have it jam up and drop off again. Weird. I went through the same process a few more times, before giving the big ring a try. It finally held, but it left me wondering if I was going to ride the next 95 miles like that. I had some catching up to do, having lost a bunch of places, a couple minutes, and my team, so I didn’t give it any more thought.
I was pinned for the next 20 minutes, riding well above LT, and approaching max heart rate for a good portion of it. It was like riding short track, except I had 90 more miles to go. I was pretty sure this kind of effort so early in the race was going to kill the rest of my day, but I couldn’t bear the thought of riding the rest of the way by myself. . . all by myself. It took a while, but I finally caught back up and settled in.
Ken, with his Clydesdale pedigree, took control of the train. Leading us through most of the 50 miles of singletrack, he was on fire, pulling our tired and beaten butts to the 60 mile mark, where the singletrack ends, and the long road climbs begin. We picked up John Bliss, from IMBA and Kappius Components, and chugged up Platte River Road, picking up more engines for the train along the way, trying to keep the pace strong, but not over-doing it. Last year, we took long pulls at the front, and each rider that came to the front redlined it, for fear of being a slacker and letting the other guys behind him down. Last year, the pack blew up at this pace. This year, we kept it together most of the way, but the pace was still too high for comfort, so our train unhooked, and we tried to conserve for the long climbs ahead.
My little ring, as it turned out, was bent, which explained why it couldn’t hold a chain, so I did end up riding the whole race in big ring, which according to Walt of Waltworks, is more like a mega ring. 44 teeth, 29er wheels, 9 speed rear. But I usually ride one gear anyway, so standing and pushing a big gear up climbs wasn’t what I was worried about. I was more concerned with the effort I had put in earlier in the day to catch the rest of the team. I didn’t know when that was going to catch up with me.
Perhaps I should have been more worried about the weather. As we crawled up the long climbs back home, the storm clouds moved in and hail pelted us on our helmets and backs. As thunder rumbled around us, the dry dirt on the roads turned to sticky clay, making the wheels turn noticeably slower. I thought we were in for it, but as fast as the storm moved in, it moved back out, and we were treated to sunshine again. The sun felt good, but only marginally improved our situation. The climbs were long and they just kept coming, so taking a page from Ken’s book last year, I asked Stuart to tell us a story. He wasn’t in the mood, again.
We did eventually finish, and we rode across the finish line four across, like a click of junior high girls. Some would say we ride like girls anyway. That would be fitting, except for the monumental injustice that would be implicit with that statement for girls all over the world. But either way, we had a super time riding together. Once again, the Hundo did not disappoint.
Alchemist makes sustainable and USA made custom cycling jerseys, apparel, wool and casual wear. We also field a team of marginally better than average mountain bikers, who appear to only care about not being alone.