Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Comstock Epic - Bikepacking write up by the RGJ.

Here are the final times / pace results from the Comstock Epic Tracker site.  So the current record is 3 days 6 hours and 29 minutes by Black Bockius.  The "race" course is open so anyone can have a go at any time to beat this years time and be the "winner".  With the holiday weekends weather the races head to deal with a lot of mud, hike a bike, and delays so there's definitely room for someone to lower the time.  What do you think folks?  Any takers?

And here's the write up by the RGJ:

By Benjamin Spillman, RGJ 6:24 a.m. PDT May 27, 2015

Five started, two finished. After 550 brutal miles rider says, 'I'd like to ride it again'

(Photo: Jason Bean/RGJ)

It was calm and sunny with 60-degree temperatures Tuesday when Blake Bockius pedaled through Incline Village and rolled to a stop at the California state line.

To passersby Bockius, wearing bright blue kit and white helmet, wouldn't have looked much different than the countless other cyclists who ride through the Lake Tahoe resort town for exercise and to take in scenery.

But the small group of people along the road cheering and clanging bells to welcome his arrival knew better.

They knew Bockius, 53, of Truckee, pedaled, pushed and dragged his bike more than 550 miles in three days across some of the most remote and brutal mountain biking terrain in the lower 48 United States.

When he crossed the finish line at 12:29 p.m. he became the first to finish the Comstock EPIC, a bikepacking race from Baker to Incline Village that's about as tough as any course the sport has to offer — at least according to the only two who managed to finish it.

"I think it is just epic to be able to say you mountain biked across Nevada for sure," Bockius said. "I just kept trying to move, that is the key to these, just forward motion, whether you are walking your bike, riding your bike, whatever."

Two hours after Bockius crossed the finish line Kurt Sandiforth, 40, of Carson City became the second person to complete the race. There won't be a third. At least for awhile. Three other riders who started Saturday morning dropped out within the first 100 to 150 miles.

Blake Bockius of Truckee pushes his bike through mud near Fallon on the route of the Comstock EPIC, a 552-mile race across Nevada. (Photo: Trevor Oxborrow/Contributed to RGJ)

"I really underestimated the course," Sandiforth said at the finish line. "I hit three different spots yesterday that just had me dragging the bike, wheels completely clogged up, going nowhere."

Bockius and Sandiforth were the most accomplished bikepackers in the race. They left Baker Saturday around 6 a.m. with Josh Billings, Jesse Reeves and Ted Oxborrow.

Although they were the first to complete the course as part of the Comstock EPIC race there could be more. Under the guidelines of the race, anyone could ride the course at anytime. Whoever posts the best time this year would be the 2015 winner.

The race is unsupported, which means in addition to having no organizer and no prize money, riders can't accept any outside help along the way. Not even a glass of water. Each rider has to procure his or her own food, water, shelter and other necessities during the race.

That means when the going gets tough the riders have to endure it with whatever resources they can carry with them.

Endurance athlete Blake Bockius gets a hug from his daughter Emma after completing the Comstock EPIC backpacking race at the California/Nevada border near Lake Tahoe in Crystal Bay on May 26, 2015. Bockius completed the 550 mile route across Nevada, from Baker to Crystal Bay, in just over three days. Bockius' friend Todd Huckins is seen on the right. (Photo: Jason Bean/RGJ)

Oxborrow, 73, an avid bikepacker who helped draw the course and make the race possible, got waylaid by storms and was stranded for hours in Cooper Canyon, just east of Cave Lake State Park in Ely.

Billings, 38, of Santa Cruz, Calif., and Reeves, 31, of Reno got bogged down in mud near Sawmill Canyon south of Ely and bowed out around Lund. They're riding home via a different route.

That left Bockius and Sandiforth as the only remaining competitors from the group. Sandiforth led the race early but fell behind Bockius around the remote Monitor Valley in central Nevada between Eureka and Austin.

He said soggy conditions, the result of a relentless battery of storms pushing across the state over the past two weeks, contributed to knee pain that slowed him down on much of the course.

"We were having to fight so much resistance," Sandiforth said.

Rider Kurt Sandiforth in Kings Canyon in Carson City. Sandiforth, of Carson City, and Blake Bockius of Truckee were the first riders to complete the Comstock EPIC, a 552-mile race across Nevada. (Photo: Trevor Oxborrow/Contributed to RGJ)

In addition to battling mud the riders had to endure days without adequate sleep. Bockius estimated he slept about two-and-a-half hours the first night, 90 minutes the second and 20 minutes the third.

"There is nowhere to go to avoid the mud," said Bockius who, like Sandiforth, had neither a sleeping bag nor a tent. "I found a juniper tree and curled up under there for an hour-and-a-half."

Sandiforth had similar troubles trying to find places to sleep at night.

"The first one in a little shack, the second one in an old truck, the third one I just laid down on the side of the trail for 20 minutes," he said.

Endurance athlete Blake Bockius talks to the Gazette-Journal after completing the Comstock EPIC backpacking race at the California/Nevada border near Lake Tahoe in Crystal Bay on May 26, 2015. Bockius completed the 550 mile route across Nevada, from Baker to Crystal Bay, in just over three days. (Photo: Jason Bean/RGJ)

Sleep was an issue because Bockius and Sandiforth had planned to complete the course in less than three days. But weather conditions slowed them down and forced them to spend a third, sleepless night in the backcountry.

"This is probably the most sleep deprivation I have done, "Bockius said. "Kurt was pushing me, I had no choice, I had to keep moving."

The course crossed 15 mountain passes and included more than 35,000 feet of elevation ascent, in addition to the rain, snow, hail and mud that bedeviled riders.

The tallest pass on the course was in the Toiyabe Range and reached just above 10,000 feet in elevation. Riders reached it via Ophir Canyon from the Big Smoky Valley.

Endurance athlete Blake Bockius gets a hug from his daughter Emma after completing the Comstock EPIC backpacking race at the California/Nevada border near Lake Tahoe in Crystal Bay on May 26, 2015. Bockius completed the 550 mile route across Nevada, from Baker to Crystal Bay, in just over three days. Bockius' friend Todd Huckins is holding his bike. (Photo: Jason Bean/RGJ)

To get over it they had to ascend more than 4,400 feet over about seven miles and cross a snowfield. To make matters more difficult they were crossing the range at night, which meant navigating the steep, slick terrain in the dark.

"Going over that pass was a lot more difficult than even I thought it was going to be," said Sandiforth, a longtime bikepacking rider who was the first to complete the Triple Crown of the sport. "That wasn't a hike-a-bike, that was a heft-a-bike-overhead."

Bockius said the most challenging part was staying warm. The riders were often going through rain, and even hail, during the day and coping with colder temperatures at night.

"I always feel like if my hands and my feet are cold I will survive, it is when my core gets cold it is really hard to warm it up," he said. "And I had that both nights."

Despite the challenges, or maybe because of them, Bockius and Sandiforth were in good spirits at the finish line. Each said he enjoyed the experience, particularly traveling by bike through remote backcountry areas other people rarely visit.

They also got to be part of a race enthusiasts hope will elevate Nevada in the eyes of the bikepacking world.

Endurance athlete Blake Bockius is all smiles after completing the Comstock EPIC backpacking race at the California/Nevada border near Lake Tahoe in Crystal Bay on May 26, 2015. Bockius completed the 550 mile route across Nevada, from Baker to Crystal Bay, in just over three days. (Photo: Jason Bean/RGJ)

In recent years Oxborrow and his son, Trevor Oxborrow, helped identify the route as a race course. It's a combination of the Nevada section of the American Discovery Trail and the Great Basin Bicycling Route.

They're also working to identify another route that uses some of the course but includes more towns, so more casual riders could get the backcountry riding experience without having to sleep on the ground.

The race could help raise awareness about biking throughout the state, especially if it catches in with more riders.

"The scenery was just amazing," Sandiforth said. "It made me really fall in love with Nevada."

With some modifications to his bike setup and less mud Sandiforth added, "I'd like to ride it again."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Weekend.

Summary in the fewest words possible:

Friday.....blissful quiet solitude on the couch with a book and a beer.

Saturday....a dinner party for 4....that morphed into a Reno bicycle party.  However, the unplanned party was super fun!

Evidence of attendance...piles of bicycles in the back room.

Sunday....the original bike to work week "planned" party.

Regardless of hangover status, several of us opted to ride the 30 mile round trip down to the Hunter household in Northern Mexico South-east Reno.

Monday.... Some chores followed by reviving the book/beer/couch option.

Hope your weekend was as entertaining.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Comstock EPIC Spot tracker....the race is on!

Click to go to the page

If you're bored on this kick off to a rainy Memorial can always sit with your cup of coffee (as I am) and keep hitting refresh on the spot tracker page to see these guys make you look bad!

This is offically on my list with the Oregon Outback on a must do ride!

Friday, May 22, 2015's happening everywhere.

This weekend is the kick off for both the Oregon Outback (Klamath Falls to Deschutes State Park) and the Comstock Epic (a ride across Nevada).  I had serious intentions of doing the Oregon Outback but some scheduling issues came up in the group I wanted to do it with.  It's still going to happen...just not on the mass start that happened this morning.

So while I should be rolling along some cattle trails in Oregon I'm sitting in my office (and obviously working hard).  To that end, I know some of your are ready for another local bikepacking trip.  The chatter has been about doing something out of Dog Valley the last weekend in June.  So if you're thinking it might be do your first've got a month to get prepped. 

For some motivation check out the Oregon Outback write up from last year here:

Or follow the Comstock EPIC right here:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nevada's Toughest Race You've Never Heard Of!

Ok, how have I not heard about this!?  I found this article over at RGJ (totally their write up) and it sounds awesome.  Please excuse all the formatting issues on the hack job of cut and paste.  It's a good read and sounds like a ton of fun (well to me anyways).  There's also a link where you can track their progress.  Anyway....enjoy!

On Saturday a ragtag group of riders will pedal west out of Baker to start the Comstock EPIC, the toughest Nevada race you never heard of.

By Monday the fastest among them could be rolling into Incline Village.

Competitors who make it that far will have covered more than 510 miles, summited 15 mountain passes and climbed more than 35,000 vertical feet during the race.

And one more thing, it's unsupported. That means riders are forbidden from accepting any assistance along the way.

Even on the most remote stretches, such as one portion of the Comstock EPIC which could be as long as 90 miles without water, riders are forbidden from accepting anything at all.

"It puts you out there on your own," said rider Blake Bockius. "That is the draw, especially a new route. I haven't even been there, so it is like a discovery."

Rider Kurt Sandiforth contrasted the raw nature of the Comstock EPIC bikepacking race with downhill and other, more popular, forms of mountain bike competitions.

"That style of racing it is so built up, with all the licensing and all the big promotions," Sandiforth said. "I love this kind of grass roots style racing, just get a bunch of people together who like riding bikes and go for it."

Ted Oxborrow rides along Toquima Range Road in central Nevada. The road is part of the Comstock EPIC bikepacking course that crosses the state. (Photo: Trevor Oxborrow/Contributed to the RGJ)

Most people have probably never heard of Bockius and Sandiforth. But within the cross country and bikepacking world they have somewhat of a celebrity status.

Bockius, 53, of Truckee, has competed for years at the highest level including the Leadville 100, Stagecoach 400 and the Arizona Trail Race.

Sandiforth, 40, of Carson City is the first rider to have completed the Triple Crown of Bikepacking which includes the 750-mile Arizona Trail, the 2,800-mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Race and the 500-mile Colorado Trail Race.

They're expected to be joined by at least two or three three other riders at the starting line Saturday morning, each with his own reason for attempting the grueling, backcountry race.

Ted Oxborrow hikes his bike up the Ophir Pass in the Toiyabe Range. The steep pass is part of the Comstock EPIC bikepacking course across Nevada. (Photo: Trevor Oxborrow/Contributed to the RGJ)

"I love that feeling when I roll into town or roll into wherever I am going to camp and am completely exhausted," said rider Josh Billings, 38, of Santa Cruz. "I get that to a certain extent to in day-to-day mountain biking, but I have a feeling that it is just going to be even more so."

Jesse Reeves, 31, a bartender from Reno, said he's racing in part to remind people about the importance of public land in Nevada.

It's a topic that's been in the news lately with the Legislature considering a resolution that would urge the federal government to give control of about 7 million acres to the state, a move outdoors enthusiasts fear would lead to property being sold to private owners which could reduce access.

"The solitude of it all, the desolation of it all really appeals to me and the fact it is all public, it is our land," he said of the route. "In this day and age when everything is so bureaucratic and commercial and corporate they are trying to strip it out of our hands."

A group of riders ascend McClellan Peak via Goni Road. The road is on the Comstock EPIC bikepacking route. (Photo: Trevor Oxborrow/Contributed to the RGJ)

Although the competitors come from different backgrounds and possess different skill levels, there's one thing they have in common. None of them will enter the Comstock Epic for the money.

That's because there isn't any. Nor are there any prizes. In fact, there's not even a true organizer.

Like other long-distance, bikepacking races, the event is more of an unofficial agreement on a route people can choose to ride. Although five are expected to start the race Saturday, someone else could come along later and ride the course.

Whoever posts the lowest time for the course by the end of the year would be considered the 2015 winner.

The course itself is the brainchild of Ted and Trevor Oxborrow, a father and son bikepacking duo.

The concept grew out of their involvement with the American Discovery Trail, a coast-to-coast hiking route from Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Del., to Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco.

Ted Oxborrow is the state coordinator for the Nevada section of the trail. Through that role he and Trevor became more involved in taking people out on the trail. But the trail was designed as a hiking route which means it goes through several wilderness areas through which bikes aren't permitted.

A group of riders in Nevada’s White River Valley, which is located on the Comstock EPIC bikepacking course. (Photo: Todd Whear/Contributed to RGJ)

As avid bikers, Ted and Trevor decided to identify a parallel route that's entirely ride-able. Well, mostly ride-able.

At one point where the course crosses the Toiyabe Range south of Austin it climbs about 4,400 feet in elevation over seven miles, topping out at more than 10,000 feet at the crest. The riders will most likely be carrying their bikes through that stretch.

"We'll probably hit some snow at the top," Trevor Oxborrow said.

In addition to the American Discovery Trail the route incorporates portions of the Great Basin Bicycle Route, a route established in the early 2000s.

The Oxborrows say the route is a nod to their deep roots in Nevada. Ted's great grandparents, Mary and Joseph Oxborrow, helped found the small town of Lund in the late 19th century.

Bikepacker Trevor Oxborrow on the Marlette Flume Trail near Lake Tahoe. The trail is part of the Comstock EPIC bikepacking course. (Photo: Ted Oxborrow/contributed to the RGJ)
He says the route, which he and Trevor have traversed numerous times, is a reminder of hardships early Nevadans faced. It's also inspiring to travel in their footsteps.

"It is very rewarding to experience what those first pioneers must have experienced," Ted Oxborrow said, describing the experience of promoting the concept of a remote race few have heard of and even fewer are likely to attempt.

"It is kind of romantic," he said. "Other than that I don't think there is any other reason, one would be stupid to do this volunteer for too long. I'm obviously stupid in that sense."

Trevor Oxborrow of Carson City rides across the Railroad Valley on the route of the Comstock EPIC, which is a bikepacking course across Nevada. (Photo: Ted Oxborrow/Contributed to the RGJ)

Follow the Comstock Epic online

Riders in the Comstock Epic are wearing Spot tracking devices that allow anyone with an internet connection to track their progress online. Use this link: