I jumped on the bus outside the airport, and of course I’m scanning the new territory for lines. Pyramidal peaks rising and falling as the bus zips along. Scott Bikes has been running their annual ScottWeek press camp for a few years out of Sun Valley, Idaho, introducing people like me to the local trails on their upcoming models.
Inviting peaks at every turn in Sun Valley.
This year is a special one in Sun Valley and its neighbour Ketchum, though, as the USA Cycling XC National Championships are going down right here in town this week as part of the larger Ride Sun Valley Festival. Scott is fully on-board with the Nationals, sponsoring a new category in the XC championship, the Sun Valley All Mountain. Racers who compete in both Saturday’s XC race and Sunday’s Super D can enter to win a separate prize purse.
As a popular local brand, Scott’s involvement in the festival was inevitable.
On the media side, ScottWeek is happening as usual. Twenty-plus journalists and other industry types have descended on the town to check out Scott’s new gear for 2012. Myself and a couple others arrived later than the rest of the group, and were promptly whisked away by our guides at Western Spirit to join the gang at a camp site in the Sawtooth National Forest just a short drive out of town. Tim and Simon asked if we had been to Sun Valley before — two of three hadn’t, including myself. “Well, it doesn’t suck” was their response.
New carbon bikes, freshly tuned and waiting to be thrashed.
Now, if there’s one way to get over 3 hours sleep and two plane rides, it’s a ride on some wicked smooth singletrack! The rest of the group was still out for their full day ride when we got to camp, so we grabbed whatever bikes were left and hit the trails for what would be the smallest group ride of the week.
My trusty steed for the past couple days, an aluminum Scott Spark 29er.
My riding mates were equally as stoked to get on the trails, and after Scott’s mechanic Bill set us up with our 2012 Scott Sparks, we headed up Red Warrior. “I hope you like creek crossings” was the first thing out of Tim’s mouth, and he wasn’t joking: 26 creek crossings on the 1000 foot ascent, every single one long and deep enough to soak your feet. With the dry interior air, the creek crossings weren’t really a problem — but they just didn’t stop!
Nothing like topping out on a new ridge to see what’s on the other side…
Since we only had time for a quick spin before dinner, we chose to stop when we reached the top of the trail and an expansive view toward the 12000 foot peaks of the Pioneer Mountains to the north-west. At this point we were only at 7500 feet, but that was enough for me to notice a shortness of breath due to the altitude. When combined with the breathtaking views, I had the fleeting thought about how nice it is to get away from your everyday — no matter how awesome that normal is — and see things from a different perspective. The ride back down was a pinned flowy grin-fest, and I really got into my 29er’s groove. I’ve never really liked cross country race bikes, but the trails here were soon to change that.
Sunshine, warm air, beautiful surroundings, and smashing through 26 water crossings on someone else’s bike. Excellent.
We arrived back to a keg of Stella and a bunch of riders amped after carving Sun Valley’s butter-smooth singletrack. Western Spirit cooked up an awesome dinner of chicken and steak burritos, and encouraged everyone to eat as much as they wanted. I retired relatively early to catch up on sleep, with a long day of riding to look forward to. I’ll leave that for another installment, though.
The fireside banter went from bike spec to trail tales as expected, from Scott Markewitz recounting the story of staging Dave Watson’s road gap over the Tour de France in 2003 to Tom Ritchey nerding out about tire and rim size and availability in the ’70s. Photo ~ Scott Markewitz
Back in town Thursday evening, the MTB Nationals were in full gear with the streets of downtown Ketchum closed off for the fat tire crit. Think mountain bikes with slick tires, racing through closed streets while the whole town cheers them on. Scott’s marketing director, Adrian Montgomery, reserved some track-side seating right at the finish line where we would heckle the racers and consume delicious pizza and beer from Wiseguy Pizza Pie.
The true meaning of fat tire crit is embodied with the team racing Salsa Mukluk.
Things started off with a team relay — very obviously beer-fueled — which was ridiculously entertaining. Most of the teams were in hilarious costumes, and everyone was having a great time. Following this were a number of mass start racing categories around half an hour each. This had to be the oddest sanctioned racing event I’d ever seen, but the crowd was really into it and it was a great way to kick off the weekend’s events. Friday will see Junior and U23 XC races, Saturday is the Elite, Single Speed, and Masters XC, and Sunday is the Super D and Short Track XC.
Bikes of all shapes and sizes raced the crit, at times causing the USA Cycling commissaires to cringe.
For those of us attending ScottWeek, though, we’ll miss the race for another guided ride through the hills on Friday. I’m looking forward to another day on the trails with Western Spirit!
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