Sometimes you’re trying to finish a sentence–or even a thought–and you get cut…
And so it was as I stared at the photos streaming in from Epic Rides’ Whiskey Off-Road. My thoughts turned to stone–which for the record is the root meaning of ‘astonished’: being jaw-dropped, stopped-in-your-tracks… a-stoney. Initially I was thinking about how Whiskey attracts some of the best bikers in NA to Prescott, AZ for a Fat Tire Crit on Friday followed by a 50-ish mile backcountry race on Sunday. The riders come for the racing and the party-like atmosphere. You get beer when you finish and the bands are always good. Epic Rides know how to put on a show.
Curious what kind of power it took to establish yesterday’s winning breakaway? Here’s a look from inside the race. pic.twitter.com/syhETkoSYA
— russell finsterwald (@finsty) April 28, 2019
And then I noticed what Travis was wearing at the Fat Tire Crit. I haven’t asked why he did it. I don’t need to know. I’ll tell you this: he calls them his “Daisy Dukes”, as if that tiny pair of cut-off shorts have their own special drawer in a dresser that’s probably covered with one of those creepy crochet runners and strange momentos… like a barbie doll head with twigs in its hair, a couple rusted paper clips and an unused beer ticket. I’m making this up but I’m allowed. He’s the one who wore the cut-offs without explanation! Travis is from Prescott and I can only guess the cheeky hometown boy wanted to have some fun and show a different side of himself.
Regardless of the reason, Travis wore the shorts and–hear me out–this is why he’s such a great cyclist. Yes, he wins races and was recently selected to lead the US team at the Amgen Tour of California–so he has ‘race cred.’ But he also has a great time cycling in general and wants to put on a show. He’s not afraid to embrace the festival-like spirit of the Whiskey Off-Road and wants to have fun with friends and family at a tough mtb event. His “all-in” spirit has rippled through our team. Nick Zukowsky was at Whiskey with Travis and every time I talked to him about it he was chuckling quietly while telling me things like, “Yeah in the backcountry race, Travis attacked from the gun and was leading until we hit the single track… then, well, things changed.” In other words, they duked it out but ultimately got spanked by the experienced MTB pros.
Just to show you Travis’ reach: the same weekend as Whiskey we had two of our youngest riders racing at Canada’s Paris to Ancaster race on their Full Tilt Boogie gravel bikes. Carson and Noah told me so many other riders asked them if they were going to race through the cold and mud of an Ontario spring in cut-offs too.
Gravel and mountain bike racing is keeping things loose on our team, as is the veteran leadership of Travis, Jonny and Serghei. They each have their own way of leading, and their own style of irreverence. I’ve called it “irreverence with a purpose”, trying to capture our more laidback, cheeky approach to winning bike races with a focus on the big picture–not marginal gains. So far it’s working. After Whiskey Off Road, Travis and Zuke swapped their Van Dessel “Jersey Devil” MTB bikes for their “Motivus Maximus” road bikes and drove to Silver City, NM. A couple days later they finished 1-2 on Stage 2 at the Tour of the Gila. Serghei would win the TT the following day.
The trick now is to keep