More then Sage

This is the year of new races, starting with Whiskey and continuing with the Growler. We've heard good things about the Growler from all our riding friends and finally decided this was the year to give it a try. And that meant a weekend escape to Gunnison to pre ride the course. We wanted to know what we were in for! Any time the course description starts with "say, do you like trail riding?" And goes on to say no beginners, Nick gets excited. That means there's some fun riding and probably some rocks. Well, Nick is super excited about the upcoming Original Growler. Me? I'm a little apprehensive, but ready for a long day on the bike.

Perfect weather for some fun on the rocks in the sage - we managed to avoid all the rainstorms
We got to Gunnison mid morning and headed for the base area of Hartman Rocks. Armed with a nice 11x17 color print out of the course map, we loaded up our Osprey packs and headed up Kill Hill. Yikes. What a way to start a race! Straight up a wall! Nick was bummed that he didn't get to ride more single track to start, but the easy street road was a good way to get the field opened up. We would have enough single track as the miles added up. Our pre-ride was serving a few things, besides just some fun riding. Nick wanted to check gearing and I wanted to see what bike to ride. I was hoping I would be able to get away with my Fate, but had a feeling it would be an Era type course. After the road, it was time hit the single track. Josh-O's - super fun, a few little rock gardens and some steep climbs. Nothing super fancy. Another short road section - one we are very familiar with after countless laps during 24 Hours in the Sage, and the fun descent of Sea of Sage. I was thinking Fate as we started on Skyline. The. The first really major obstacle. Got it one of the three times I tried - uh oh. That was followed by a few more big rock gardens and my initial confidence was dashed. This might be a little harder then we thought!  There was some more road and a loose, sandy descent down to the black top. I was still thinking Fate as we climbed up Bambi's back into the sage of Hartman Rocks. Two more sections of moderate single track - Back In had some fun sections and Nine-0 was just fun. About 1/3 done with the lap and we were having fun. A few re-dos on some of the rock sections, but mostly flowing and smooth riding through the sage.

On Rattlesnake - two seconds later I would be unclipping....
Then we hit Skull Pass. Skulls seem to be a theme in my races this year, but this skull has a few more consequences then the last one! Wow. Steep climbs, rocky descents - all ride-able and mostly fun. Did one thing twice, opted out of another and let Nick talk me into a third. Yep - not a HT course for me! At the bottom of Skull Pass, we met a local rider - Mike. He was just out riding the course, getting a hang for the lines. After seeing Nick and I studying the map, he offered to ride the rest of the lap with us. Awesome! No more staring at the map! He was going a little faster then I could, but was more then happy to dial down the pace. I think he was was just excited to have company - even slow company that wanted to try the rock gardens over again every time I bobbled! Enchanted Forest, Dave Moe's, Dirty Sock, and McCabes - all more fun and speedy sections through green sage. Super fun single track riding. There were plenty of little sections to keep me honest (and riding my bike) but it was again the classic Hartman Rock's riding we know from Sage.
Another rock on Rattlesnake - fun following the crack all the way down
That would all change then we hit Josie's. The rock gardens and technical sections started coming fast and thick. Through Gateway and I knew the last half of the lap would be the killer - ride too hard on the easy stuff and I'd be walking. My impression was solidified on Top of the World and Ridge. Again, wow. Lots of rocks, with some pretty good consequences. I redid a few sections - watching the lines of two different guys helped me pick where I wanted to go. Ridge was great, but with some serious drops off to the left. There would be plenty of chatter during that section! I'm already going to apologize to anyone around me on that last third of the lap. I will be talking to my self, frequently and loudly! Gonna be the only way I will survive not one, but two trips around Hartman Rocks!

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