Steamboat Springs The temperatures hung in the mid-20s — so cold that bottled water turned to slush before riders could finish the 13-mile lap; so cold that cyclists buried themselves and their spandex team jerseys in puffy down coats, even while they rode.
The wind blew so hard that Steamboat Springs mountain biker Bec Bale said her eyes dried out immediately, and the sand blown by that wind stuck to those tearless eyes like an insect on flypaper.
“I couldn’t see,” said Bale, recalling the most miserable moments of the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow endurance mountain bike race last weekend in Hurricane, Utah.
“It was (like) skiing on the foggiest day you can imagine, except I was riding in it,” she said. “I had no vision left. I could make out shapes, and I could tell the difference between the sagebrush and the singletrack, but I couldn’t see what was on the singletrack.”
The weather forced Bale to bike through some of the most difficult conditions she could imagine and take several hourlong breaks. It didn’t, however, prevent her from winning her division, taking the women’s solo title with 14 laps.
And somehow, it didn’t prevent her from having a good time.
“It was the support crew,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them making me laugh, I’d probably have quit.”
As bad as the weather was, it could have been worse. Snow fell during a pre-race riders meeting but stopped before the race start.
Then, an hour after the race had finished, the skies opened up, and rain drenched the course.
Bale and two other Steamboat riders took part in the massive race. Mike Sharkey, for Honey Stinger, was fourth in the men’s solo category, and Rob Peterson, for Honey Stinger/Trek, was seventh.
Bale, who rode for Yeti, Lupine and Honey Stinger, finished one lap ahead of her nearest competition, surging with the Sunday sunlight that finally allowed her to see again and to retake the lead she had lost in the night.
“The course was great. There was a long road climb and beautiful views of Zion National Park, then the payoff was wicked fast — a fun, flowy descent with technical sections,” Bale said.
That, combined with the joy of winning and the companionship at camp, made a truly miserable race into a very memorable one.
“That’s the longest I’ve ever ridden in cold, cold weather,” Bale said. “I had a really great support crew helping me out through it all, keeping me safe.”
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com