Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Race Report: Whiskey 50!

From Natalie Luhtala (team WW/Fuentesdesign from the beginning!):

The Whiskey 50 represents a milestone for me as the first time I ever raced on my single speed. Even though I had the single-speed with me at the 24 hours in the old pueblo, I chose to run gears for that entire race. So lining up at the start, I looked around to see how many single speed women their were and only spotted one other! It was Rebecca, whom I know from riding here in Tucson, and I know how fast she is, so I figured, at least I don't have to worry about trying to win.

The race starts with an extended climb on the pavement. In the beginning, I held back, watching the eager geared riders hammer up the road. Once the grade steepened, the other riders began to downshift, but being on a single speed, I just stood and kept climbing at my pace, passing big groups of riders who cheered on my single speed efforts. After about 20 minutes of climbing, the course changes to beautiful single track as it winds through pines and crosses creeks. Unfortunately, with so many riders on the course, there were mandatory dismounts as steep log steps and loose granite brought many people to a standstill.

After many miles, the climbing relents, and the trail starts to drop. I had fun passing guys on full suspension bikes, bouncing by with my rigid steel single speed. The 29 wheels roll over everything, and the rigid fork, while rough at times, really sticks to its line. After miles of downhilling capped with some fire road climbing, I arrived at the first aid station. One of the volunteers at the aid station told me I was 2nd ss female through which really boosted my spirts. From there, the course drops 12 miles of dirt road to the bottom of skull valley. I watched as a number of the geared riders I just passed went by me, but I still didn't see any other single speed women. The bottom had a nice aid station where my friend Christine and her baby Aesa were cheering me on. Aesa's enthusiastic giggles and some food and hydration fueled my spirits for the long climb back up Skull Valley. Once on the road I passed a number of geared riders as my slow single speed climbing tempo was still enough to keep me moving quickly.

Finally, after miles of climbing, the course turned back to single track for the long descent back into town. I had a lot of fun zipping along the single track, despite my fatigue. Only one climb, called 'cramp hill' by other riders, got me off my bike. One more road spin then the finish. My goal had been under 6 hours for the 50 miles and I was ecstatic to see 5:08 on the race clock. I had held second place to the finish, with two other female singlespeeders finishing behind me. While this was not a deep field, I was proud to have placed so well for my first race on a singlespeed.

Thanks, Walt, for building such a great bike, and letting me paint it pink!

- Natalie


Anonymous said...

I think this post deserves a picture of said pink WW singlespeed. Pink is the old black.

Anonymous said...

Let's see the bike!