Since Sjoert had to cancel due to an injury and I was the sole Baltimore representative, here’s my race report for Rebecca’s Private Idaho!
Short version: it was really great, please come do it again with me another year.
– Idaho is beautiful and Rebecca Rusch is super cool
– 30% of the racers are female, dammmnnnn!
– It’s a fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief, People for Bikes, and to clear unexploded landmines from Laos.
– Sun Valley also happens to have epic downhill mountain biking, which is what I got to spend the whole day doing before the race
– Everyone is super friendly and chill and awesome and it’s a weekend-long party
– Technically it’s less elevation than Hilly Billy, so why the hell not?
Long version: I decided to do this because, like 9 months ago, Ian sent out an email about all the reasons not to do Dirty Kanza, and Adrian responded with a list of videos of other epic gravel/mtb races. I was watching the the video for RPI and thought, wait, is that… Trail Creek Pass? It’s a one-lane gravel road, with a steep eight-hundred-foot drop on one side, no guard rail, and it goes over the Pioneer Mountains to connect Sun Valley to the Lost River Range, near my parents’ house. It also happens to be my dad’s favorite terrifying shortcut and I flat-out refuse to drive on it. So, I decided that I wanted to bike it?
There are actually 2 races, the 94-mile Big Potato, and the 54-mile Small Fry (oh Idaho). They both do a nearly 2000′ straight climb up the pass, cross over into Big Lost River Valley, then the Big Potato drops into Copper Basin to do a loop with some more climbing, while the Small Fry diverts into Wild Horse Creek before turning around, and they both go back up the pass again. I was super intimidated by the whole thing, and about having to race at elevation (race starts around 6000′ and climbs from there), so I did the 54-miler.
But, it actually wasn’t as awful as I expected! Unlike Hilly Billy, I never actually wanted to lie down on the side of the road and die. Luckily (?) there were a bunch of rockslides this spring, so they re-graded the road and it was probably in the best condition it’s been in for years. Weather at previous races has apparently included 30 degrees and wet; snow at the top of the pass in early September; fierce headwinds; and looming forest fires; so 55-85 degrees, sunny and only a little smoky during the race was pretty great.
The race starts out on a few miles of slow-climbing roads before you hit the steep KOM/QOM section, which took me a god-awful 40 minutes to climb. I don’t actually have a garmin because I would just stare at it the whole time and think about how many miles are left, so I was really grateful when a dude from Alaska rolled up next to me and yelled “we’re halfway up!” And then pretty soon, we were somehow at the top of the pass! The aid station at the top had roasted potatoes (of course) made by the Ketchum Fire Department & Rebecca’s mom, a campfire going (because it was still chilly in the morning), and a ton of snacks. Then we got to bomb down a short descent into a beautiful open river valley with a view of the mountains, rode around on some low rolling hills, and then started back up again.
Honestly, the initial big climb sucked and all, but the absolute worst, most discouraging part was the 10 mile false flat, in a headwind, leading back up to the pass. Luckily I caught on behind an older dude as we were starting back out of Wild Horse, and he said I could tag along with him as long as I did my share of pulling, and hopefully we could pick up some more people as we went. It worked out super well: we got going at a pretty good pace, eventually picked up a train of seven people, everyone thanked each other when they took a turn at the front, and they even slowed down to wait for me when I dropped off the back once. We hit the short steep climb back up the pass together, and as we were cresting the top again, one of them commented that, as the only one in the group on a mountain bike, I was going to eat up the gravel descent. AND I DID, AND IT WAS AWESOME. On the final, paved section, I hopped in behind a fast lady on a cross bike who was flying the whole way to the finish, which was of course next to a gun club where they were skeet-shooting. It turns out I placed 16 out of like 110 women, which was seriously way better than I expected. Now I have to do the full race next time?
Then, there was a massive party, and honestly, the only downside to this whole race was it was kinda lonely and I missed y’all. Some dude from Kansas claimed they were the biggest partiers, and I was like, NO, TEAM BBC IS, THANK YOU V. MUCH.