This entry does not have as much to do with the 16th annual Banana Belt mountain bike race, as it does the town of Salida. I arrived on Saturday the 11th of September on a clear Salida afternoon. I drove to Otero Cyclery with questions about camping, local riding and eats on my mind. I can't say enough about the helpfulness I received at Otero. They gave me local camping information, which happened to be in the heart of the mountain biking areas and information about the race course. I felt like a special visitor. I ended up participating in their year-end sale with a purchase of some sweet Trek baggies. Off of CR 200, which is about 150 yards from the trail head to rainbow trail off of HWY 50, was the entrance to my FREE camping area. The dirt road is smooth and easy to travel. The view is amazing. Below the road is a small stream that curves through the valley. I was surrounded by peaks. I parked my car. The cycling jitters were impossible to contain. I took a ride to Marshall Pass. A slow, gentle ride was about all the pre-race exercise I could tolerate. The area is so beautiful. Following my ride, I made dinner and looked up at the stars.
I woke to a very chilling and frosty sleeping bag. The Colorado winter is definitely on the way. A small fire, breakfast and some journaling filled my morning in the mountains. The race was to begin in downtown Salida. I wanted to get a good look at the competition. The 15 minute drive to Salida seemed very quick. I was a little worried about the course, because I did not pre-ride. I was totally unprepared for what lay ahead. The race started promptly at 10. The mass start was a little precarious as there were signs and planters in the middle of the street that I was not totally aware of because of the crowd of racers around me. Our police escort left us to enter the trail. The push was powerful. A couple of the lead riders and I took the pack forward (why do I do that?). I proceeded to almost burn my legs out during the first five miles. Our raging speed took us to the beginning of one of the most difficult climbs I’ve ever experienced. For an hour we struggled up a National Forest road. The top seemed to be getting farther away. Finally, at the top of Bear Creek, we descended on to some of the best single track in Colorado. However, there was still some additional climbing to deal with and I had barely any legs for it. The trail opened up to another forest road and descended sharply. The race course took on a very interesting change. We seemed to go from alpine forest to desert. The next thing I realized I was riding in sand. The race had a very strong sprint finish. Unfortunately, I was unable to maintain my sprint and ended up placing 3rd. Overall, the race was wonderful. Furthermore, the town of Salida is a must visit. I plan to make this race part of my race season every year!