FIRST THINGS FIRST: MEET CHRISSY!
Chrissy is the latest Saddle Slinger! She’s been preparing and training for the event in the past few months on the down-low but was stoked nonetheless to come out and rep the Saddle Slingers in the Grodeo gravel race. Since we haven’t had the chance to give Chrissy a proper introduction, here’s a little bit about her.
Since our readers haven’t heard much from you in the past couple of weeks, tell us a little about yourself and your experience/relationship with cycling.
Chrissy: I’m from Poughkeepsie, NY where I was primarily an MTB-er starting at the age of 14. I work as an LVT in Emergency / Critical Care Veterinary Medicine. I moved to Utah 6.5 years ago. I am still an MTB-er but more of a roadie these days.
I bought my first gravel bike this past winter only because my BF has one and I wanted one more avenue to ride with him. I love the combination of road and dirt and am signed up for the Wasatch All-Road later this summer. YIKES.
You joined the Saddle Slingers recently, what was that like in terms of getting involved and training?
Chrissy: Madi, KJ, and I all have different schedules and techniques to get ready, but luckily all 3 of us are about the same pace on gravel and it worked well to keep us motivated and to keep us together as the mileage and elevation got up there.
Just for fun: favorite riding snack?
Chrissy: Gummy worms!
KJ’S TAKE ON THE GRODEO:
THE GRODEO! It feels like it’s been a long time coming! We have been talking about this event since before I got home from Army training back in February. We spent countless hours in the saddle earning the fitness necessary to tackle today’s course. There were a lot of ups and downs on our roadmap to this point. There were many good days and some really not-so-good days. Alas–the day had come.
June 25th, 2022: We woke up early and took Madi’s Subaru Forester to get the packet pick-up on time. We were some of the first people to arrive, which bode well for our preparedness leading into the ride.
With time to spare, we got out of the car and shut the doors eager for a leisurely start to a highly anticipated day. To our dismay, we realized that the keys were locked in the car. With 45 minutes till the starting gun, time was no longer our ally. Not looking great.
So we started asking everyone around us if they had something to unlock a car with. No one had ANYTHING. Not even the police who were to escort riders up Ogden Canyon. I called Alison, who snapped into action and called Ronnie, the U.S. commercial director at ENVE and a good friend of the shop. He graciously offered to drive us to the top of the canyon so that we could do the rest of the Grodeo once our spare keys arrived. Luckily this fiasco only shaved off about 12 miles from our original route. This was fine, but we still had a long hard road ahead of us.
By the time we got to the first feed station, we were with the rest of the group. The atmosphere was boisterous. People were stoked to be out riding. The first feed station featured pickle shots and an endless heap of snacks. The riders cheered each other on in fun party shirts from atop a unique array of bicycles. After this first feed station, we started up a pretty technical climb with lots of chunky rock gardens called the Gun Smoke Grind.
Coming from a mountain bike background definitely gave me the leg up on this particularly technical section of trail. Lots of people walked, and a handful took a tumble. I felt right at home and had a lot of fun trying to climb up the technical parts. At the top of the techy climbs, there was an unofficial stop.
We went down into this little oasis, there was shade, Axe throwing, and some Roulette to be had. It was super fun! We continued on and then made it to aid station two right before we dropped into the Wellsville / Paradise portion of the ride. I really enjoyed being there; a lot of the Grodeo course was similar to Ragnar, which I had done a few times prior to this, so I felt at home.
We found ourselves riding through Paradise (Utah!) with a solid, diverse crew of riders. This group was composed of a few people from Colombia, South Korea, California, and the Greater Salt Lake area. Adam, who had previously worked at Rotor – a company best known for power meters that has their U.S. headquarters here in Salt Lake City – happened to be a part of this group. It was super awesome to ride with him and was a real morale boost on the really long climb up a section called The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
This section doesn’t seem all that hard on paper, but it felt like the hardest part of the Grodeo. Fortunately, there was an aid station at the top! This aid station featured hot dogs and more food, a Ronnie sighting, and our very own mechanic Steve Smock was also at the aid station! It was so great to see them again. They both made sure we were well taken care of and had everything we needed for the next part of our ride.
The ride down from the aid station was an easy downhill. Or it was until it wasn’t. After a small descent and a tour de neighborhood, the course transformed into a steep uphill single track in which the grade maxed out at an evil 13%. On a normal day, it would not have been that bad, but after all those miles, it was hellish. I am not ashamed to say I had to walk some of those sections out of pure fatigue.
Then, in the distance almost like a mirage, there was someone cheering me on at the top of the hill telling me I was “almost there,” to which I responded, yelling, “don’t lie to me!” I had heard that phrase before and anytime someone said that they were lying. This guy wasn’t!
I got to him and he took my bike, parked it in a safe place, handed me a cold drink, and gave me a fist bump to congratulate me! It was Rotor, the fourth aid station’s sponsor.
Adam was also waiting there at the top chilling in their pop-up lounge. Everyone there was so friendly! I had met most of them, and their dogs when I went to pick up parts for Contender from their U.S. headquarters. We sat down to pet a cute dog and enjoy a drink and the pleasant ambiance. Soon, we pressed on with the finish on the horizon.
We were on the home stretch and were itching for the finish! Aside from a few difficult singletrack climbs, and a nice descent, the end stretch was relatively straightforward. At times I definitely wished I was riding my mountain bike, but I was really grateful for my 45mm tires. My hands definitely went numb from the jarring vibrations, but completing technical descents on a fully rigid bike is a reward of its own.
We finally got out of the canyon and raced on the bike path all the way back to the ENVE complex. It was the quintessential final stretch; I could smell the finish line and the atmosphere was electric. We crossed over the finish and everyone cheered when we came in! They had food and drinks waiting for us. The sense of accomplishment was sweetened by the Belgian waffles.
Overall, the Grodeo was TOUGH, but so rewarding. The amazing people who volunteered for it, and the awesome cyclists riding in it make the event an unforgettable experience. Thank you to ENVE for having us. Every mile was an adventure.
MADI’S GRODEO WRITE-UP:
WOW, the Grodeo! I can’t believe it’s already come and gone after so many months of anticipation and training. We’ve been working towards this event since February. What a day it was, and it was nothing short of an adventure! Of course, it wouldn’t have been a true adventure had everything gone according to plan. After our early morning drive to ENVE, KJ and I arrived with plenty of time to get ready for the event. Aaand then, I locked my keys in my car. There we stood, staring into the car with all of our gear staring back at us through the windows: so close, and yet so far away.
Fortunately, my fiance, Mike answered his phone and drove all the way to Ogden at 6:30 am to bring my spare keys; Mike is an absolute gem and my hero for that! With the help of Alison and Ryan, we got in contact with our ENVE connection Ronnie and he shuttled us a little bit ahead of the group. The shuttle was key considering that by that point we had missed the start by about 15 minutes and were 10 miles behind.
From the drop point, the two of us rode about 5 miles to the first climb and aid station. We were greeted with red vines, pickle juice shots, water, soda, nutrition, and bathrooms; a dream for any cyclist! In the midst of our quick break the rest of the group caught up and the entirety of the morning mishap was behind us.
Waiting ahead were all the technical climbs of the ride. The uphills and downhills featured loose rock that, although fun, was just challenging enough for me to justify walking bits of both. After the technical section came to the oasis rest stop. There was roulette, ax throwing, and water fill-ups to get us through to the next station. After our fun at the oasis, we took back to our bikes to keep making headway. The next section of our ride took us around a reservoir and up Highway 89. The climb was challenging but gradual with the promise of the second aid station at the top, filled with snacks and water refills. When we got to the top, there was a larger group resting and getting ready to descend. It was then that we found the group we would ride with for the remainder of the day.
We descended down the highway with our new pod, an eclectic group with folks from all over: Columbia, South Korea, Texas, California, and another Utah local! I loved getting to know these people and chatting about all of the different paths that brought us to the Grodeo. The group kept a good pace and was really kind, always waiting if someone needed to stop for any reason. It was motivating to have a bigger group because the climb to the third aid station – called The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – was a grueling one.
We began the gradual 6-mile climb, unenthused at how it only became steeper the closer we got to the station. It was HARD. For the first time on our long ride, I started to feel a little cranky. It took a lot of willpower and gusto for me to not stop, sit down, and rest. Just when I was second-guessing this choice, the third aid station appeared! This stop had hot dogs and all the good snacks to keep you rolling for the last 20 miles.
We knew that the next haul was not going to be an easy feat. Waiting for us 10 miles down the road were the hardest climbs of the event, all on singletrack. The singletrack climbs were absolutely the hardest part for me. I was exhausted and the climb was narrow, so staying on my line was difficult. I kept wobbling off into the bushes that brushed my pedals as I rode past. I ended up walking a decent amount, feeling like my climbing gears were not small enough. When I finally got to the top and my feet hit the ground, there was a beer in my hand and a lawn chair right next to me.
This welcomed drink and rest was courtesy of the fourth and final aid station. I couldn’t believe it, we had made it to the final push. Leaving the aid station we began our descent down the single track. By this point, I was so exhausted. Trying to pull my brake levers while flying down a sharp-turned rocky descent felt nearly impossible. My hands were only saved by the timely shift in the trail to a flowy section. Shortly after, we were back on the road for good. The sketchy-feeling singletrack was behind us and we had a nice bike trail to the finish. KJ and I pushed through with the group and made it to the finish where we were greeted with cheers and claps from the other riders.
Finally, we had made it to the finish, where there was water, food, and comfy shaded chairs to sit on. We did it! KJ was a great riding buddy, it was fun to push through this adventure with her! Thanks ENVE for the fun day, I really did have a blast and I hope I can ride again next year!
CHRISSY’S GRODEO WRITE UP:
Coming into this race I felt nervous. In only its third year, the Grodeo has already made a name for itself as a big, hard ride with a lot of heavy hitters in the industry. Having come off a podium finish in a gravel race the week before I felt a lot of stoke.
I didn’t feel much in the lead up other than excitement to represent Contender.
After the race was over, I felt relieved. None of us crashed or had any mechanicals, and I was so proud of myself for finishing before the party tents were taken down so I could enjoy a beer and free food. My fitness and nutrition felt great, but when you WILLINGLY subject yourself to ride the Grodeo, you mentally go through all the emotions. Some are great. Some are not so great.
High points: in the morning at packet pick up, I asked somebody where my plate number was. The person working the registration desk looked me dead in the eye and said “It’s The Grodeo, just finishing means you won”
Secondary high point: at mile 70, aid station number 3, I ate the best hot dog I ever had in my life.
Did you feel prepared?
KJ: Yes definitely felt prepared!
Madi: I did feel prepared. This was one of the first events that I felt good doing, and felt like I could go decently fast the whole time I was riding, give or take a few of those hills we had to climb.
How did your training rides compare to this event?
KJ: The training rides prepared us by showing us that we can go longer distances. After completing rides like our century ride, we knew Grodeo was very attainable for us.
Madi: The century rides I think were more helpful than I thought they would be. The rides got me a lot of miles under my belt which helped me keep pushing through to each aid station. Even though they were all on the road, they helped my mentality a lot.
What were some of the mental challenges in the middle of the ride and how did you overcome them?
KJ: The biggest mental hurdle was knowing that we still had a long way to go when my legs started to feel heavy. A mid-ride nap and a break from pedaling would have been greatly appreciated. My mom always says, “how you eat an elephant is by taking one bite at a time” and that’s exactly how I approached the ride. I powered through the rest of the ride with one pedal stroke at a time.
Madi: The mental challenges came more so on the home stretch for me than anywhere else. It was that frustration of being so close to the end but it felt like it was so far away. It got really hard to keep pushing even when we were less than 10 miles away. It took everything I had left to push all the way through to the finish line. Just thinking of sitting down and not having to get back on my bike was enough to push me to the finish line.
How do you think you’ve changed as a cyclist from this experience?
KJ: I feel like we became stronger endurance athletes after this.
Madi: I’ve learned as a cyclist what kind of events I should be signing up for and participating in. I LOVED the vibe of the Grodeo and I enjoyed how excited everyone was and how we all pushed each other to the finish. Of course, there are always people who are motivated to race everyone else, but for the most part, the attitude of participants was collectively to just have fun. It’s that fun, positive atmosphere and energy in an event that I enjoy and get excited to train for.
Words by Madi Larsen, Kjerstin Phillipps, and CL Fairbanks. Imagery by Madi Larsen, Kjerstin Phillipps, CL Fairbanks, and Carter Hall.