Whiskey 50

The Whiskey 50 is a staple in marathon mountain biking. My first time at this race was in 2018 and it was my first “long” mountain bike race as well. I finished 17th, completely bonked and exhausted. It took me almost a week to recover from the race. But once I finally felt “normal” again I knew I would be back for me. The next year I finished 13th and the year after that I finished 7th. With each attempt at this race I learned more about myself and more about what it would eventually take to stand on the podium. With each attempt I began to race rather than just survive like I did on that very first try at the Whiskey 50. This year, I was once again a new rider standing on the start line and I knew I had what it takes to be on the podium, but at the Whiskey 50, nothing is guaranteed, it is relentless. 

Fat Tire Crit: 

The Fat Tire Crit at Whiskey 50 is the most bizarre, exciting, and painful event I think I do all year. The course is about a 1.5-minute climb straight up the road, then a 30 second descent down the road before doing it again. We race for just under 30 minutes and it’s pretty much full-gas the entire time. 

On Friday night in Prescott, the roads are lined with spectators, cheering, heckling, and just having a grand old time. While many of the spectators are cyclists, I’m always impressed by how many “non-cyclists” make their way out to cheer and witness our glorified suffering. 

As usual, the race started hot and every time I would think we were about to lull and gain some recovery, a $200 prime was called which meant that the first person around on that lap would snag that money. It was pretty much constant fireworks at the front with people attacking and reeling in attempt to push the pace or even make a solo effort for the win. 

Positioning is also incredibly important because if you enter the descent as the last in the group then you start the climb the last in the group as well and you’ll be playing a never-ending game of catch up. 

Photo: @eddieclarkmedia

With 5 laps to go (approximately 10 minutes left in the race) the big attack came right when I least expected it. I was climbing up the road thinking “ok, if we just recover this lap then I’ll be ready to light it up next.” It’s almost like my thoughts were broadcasted, because at that exact moment one of the women shot up the side and the full chase was on. With so much time (relatively) left in the race I thought that if I just responded to the attack with consistent and solid speed that I would ultimately catch those who went flat out and blew up. I think 10 minutes isn’t quite as long as it seems when you’re cross-eyed riding up Union Street so I ran out of real estate but still managed to cross the line in 5th and hungry for more in the Backcountry race on Sunday. 


Energy was high at 8:30 in the morning in Downtown Prescott. As they counted down the minutes toward our race various spectators asked to take photos with me at the start line. It is such a joy to have the opportunity to interact so directly with the spectators and riders in this sport. 

When the race started, we rolled out of town and the cheers slowly got quieter and quieter until all you could hear where the whooshing wheels, tread on tires, and breathing of your competition. 

The Whiskey 50 roll out is always a slow burn. We start as an easy pace and ever so slightly ratchet it up. It happens so gradually that you might catch yourself wondering why you’re suddenly breathing hard only to discover that you’ve increase the pace 50 watts in the last 5 minutes. The pace increase all comes to a head when we make the last turn before the singletrack, the fire road kicks up, and it’s a sprint for the “whole shot.” The need to go so deep so early in a race with little to no intention of maintaining that pace throughout is and always will be such a uniquely complicated and fun aspect of mountain bike racing. 

Photo: @eddieclarkphoto

I entered the singletrack in 3rd place and felt really solid about my start to the race. My satisfaction was short lived though as Alexis began to slowly pull away up front and there was no room to pass on the trails. We were all forced to in patiently wait until the trail opened up and when it did, it was another big sprint around. Sofia, myself, and one other rider made it around before the next singletrack. Sofia put in a big dig to get back up to Alexis right away and I consciously decided to make a steadier approach back to her wheel. Whiskey 50 is infamous for late race implosions so I thought I had time. This was probably my biggest mistake of the entire day. 

After the first 8 mile climb of the day we descended down a loose, sketchy, twisty, turny trail and then we were already back climbing again. With Sofia and Alexis up the road, Deanna and I were chasing. I continued my steady power and as we crested the next big climb at mile 14 I thought I had played it extremely smart as the 1st and 2nd were easily back within sight. 

As if I still didn’t learn my lesson the first time, I was playing a game of patience. I rode the next section of the trail very conservatively knowing that we had a 45 minute climb ahead. 3rd place gapped me a little bit, but I was more than confident I would close it again. I was playing the long game. As we U-turned and began the climb out of the Valley my race “began.” I was on the hunt. I focused on consistently holding about 220 watts on my Stages Power meter as we climbed up Skull Valley, but to my surprise the gaps were not closing. With about an hour and a half left in the race someone yelled to me “3 minute gap.” There was no more “patience” to be had. I had been pounding my First Endurance gels and mix so I had lots of fuel on board and I put it to the test. I was absolutely smashing the last 20 miles of trail, straining my neck around every corner to see who was ahead. It wasn’t until the final turn on the course that I could finally catch a glimpse of 3rd place. I had taken the 3-minute gap down to just 20 seconds, but I didn’t have enough room left in the race to finish that job. I finished in 4th, just barely off 3rd and 2.5 minutes down from 1st, which in a race of this length, mathematically equates to 1%. 

I celebrated my first podium ride here by slowly down in the finish chute and high fiving every spectator and kid with a hand out to greet me back in downtown Prescott. What an absolutely joy! Thank you, Whiskey 50 for being such a wonderful marker of improvement for me over the years. I’ll be back again, and I think I know what my next goal is…

Photo: @eddieclarkphoto

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