Sarlacc Attack (May 11, 2024)

Fun hurts. And dumb fun hurts twice as much.

My buddy Tim caught me at the “right” moment. I already had my entire racing season planned out, but it didn't hit me (yet!) that I might be trying to bite more than I can chew. But the second weekend of May was still open, and he suggested we do a little trip and race Sarlacc Attack 50K MTB in Fruita, CO. I said what my son always says to me when we ski together: “If you send it, I'll send it.” The man can not unring the bell, can he?

Today's Thursday, May 9th, two days before the race. I can't wait to finish the work for the week and get away for a few days to ride bikes, have fun, and enjoy better weather than we currently have here on the Front Range. Hey, I'm even thinking about hitting the slopes of A-Basin on Sunday on the way back home. It's still snowing out there! Sounds cool, right? Yeah, except one thing. The race. I didn't quite feel excited about doing it. Don't get me wrong, I'm always happy to ride a bike, no matter how hard or easy it will be. And I told my buddies (and myself) multiple times that I was going to Fruita to have a good time. Racing is secondary. It's my C-event. I'll approach it with curiosity and no expectations. Whatever. The truth is – I was looking for a way to make it special, unique, and worth doing, but I couldn't find it.

But a few days ago, I needed to make an equipment choice. The thing is, my son now rides my full-suspension bike, and it's all dialed for him. Pedals, suspension settings, saddle, stem, levers, and whatnot. Every single one isn't a big deal, but together, they add up. Changing everything back to my liking, and then back to his once again... Too much work.

Well, I've built my single-speed to be fully ready for SRAM Transmission for a reason. This may be the time to add 11 more gears to the one I already have. I searched for the components and didn't like what I found. Apparently, the price point of T-Type groupsets is beyond reasonable. Well, what other options do I have?

Bingo! Do nothing, spend nothing – that is the way. Laziness to the rescue! Just go ride your damn bike. Don't take it seriously. Don't even give yourself a chance to take it seriously. Rip yourself of everything that's not essential. Go single-speed and embrace the suffering. Now, it all makes sense, doesn't it?

Oh, and one last thing: Before I leave the house, I need to check the snow forecast. Six inches of flurries on Saturday night? I’m not saying, “Sign me up,” but I would like to keep my options open. A pair of skis won’t take up a lot of space in the trunk.


I left my house early in the morning, and around 9, I was already driving by Copper Mountain. I swear, if I didn’t have other things planned for the day, including some work I had to do in the afternoon, I would’ve sent it. That would completely screw the upcoming race for me, but the temptation was nearly impossible to overcome. But my plans for Sunday were now clear as snow-pow.

Saturday (race day)

8 o’clock, off we go. I must say I didn’t appreciate that at the moment. But now, when I’m writing this after a few other races in the books (I’m talking about you, Mad Gravel), I want to praise what a great rollout this race course has. About two miles of a wide paved road with a solid 5-6% steady uphill before we enter the single track. Congestion problem — solved.

I personally felt like quitting the race while going up this first climb. Not that I was seriously considering that, but the fact that such a thought even crossed my mind kinda shows. That feeling dissipated very soon, so I guess I should do a better job warming myself up.

A lot of riders were ahead of me, but I wasn’t racing the most of them. I saw only two other cog-deficient dudes going up that road, which meant I was sitting in third place. Given that it was my first big ride on a single-speed bike and my first time ever on this course, my current position pretty much determined the whole pacing strategy for the day: Ride your own race unless someone on a single-speed passes you, in that case — bring the fight on. No, I didn’t know that only three of us were out there that day. Perhaps for the better.

After a little bit of a single track and an easy climb up Coal Gulch Rd we entered Sarlacc Trail — the first major climb of the day. I’m curious to know how other single-speeders did there, but I hiked almost the entire thing. Which is a part of the game we’re playing. The winning strategy is to stay on the leftmost side of the trail all the time with your bike to the right. You do that to ensure that everyone who passes you has an unobstructed view of your drivetrain. Prevents a demoralizing effect of embarrassment.

When the climb is over, you get to the ridge. That one is a doozy. 7.5 miles (12km) of undulating single-track with 360-view of the desert around you. Beautiful, rolling, relentless, and fun. Wait, everything else is fun, too, right? Um… It depends. Normally — yes. For me, on a given day and with some of my life choices — not so much. Ridge was amazing, but by the end of it, I was pretty cooked. I even took a moment at the aid station to recollect myself.

And into the second major climb we go. The old course (pre-2024) perhaps would’ve suited me better. It used to be a long stretch of a service road where I could grind and recover at the same time before we hit the creek bed. But a new route goes through Cicada — a newly built single-track. And as nice of a trail as it is, I simply didn’t have what it takes to keep it up. It was just a slog, full of little mistakes caused by mental and physical exhaustion, which only made it longer and even more miserable. I might be exaggerating a little bit here because it’s not like fifty people have passed me (maybe one or two did, at most). But that’s how it felt.

It’s a weird feeling to have during a mountain bike race when you’re happy that a single-track is over and you hit the service road again. It shouldn’t be that way. For better or worse, it was not for long. As soon as we entered what I believe is called Lipan Canyon, the feeling of relief was exorcised. That downhill section is a total-body annihilation. Maybe it’s better on full suspension. But I guess I’ll never know.

We drop into a creek bed, which is not a very technical trail (except for a spot or two where hiking down the rocks is unavoidable), but I was already all beaten up, and to be honest… Now, when I write this, I don’t even remember this part that well. Except for one funny moment where the guy passed me right before a little kicker, then realized he was now obligated to muscle up that thing (which was only 6-10 feet tall but steep as hell), and he cramped so hard that he literally fell off the bike at the top of it. That was not the funny part. 5 minutes later, he caught up with me, passed, and said, “Don’t make me cramp again!”. Dude…

Anyways. A few more miles through the valley, and it’s finally over. And your boy is taking the last stand on the podium! Just a quick double-check of the printed result sheet… Yep, we’re in the money today!

Final impressions

It felt more like a boxing match rather than a bike race. A punch after a punch. You block one. You block ten. You block a hundred. But they keep coming at you. And if the bell rings (i.e., you cross the finish line) — you win, course loses. But if it doesn’t ring just yet, but you can’t cover the next one coming — you’re done, you’re on the ropes, and no one’s gonna stop the beating until it’s over. I didn’t have enough, and I think I lost this battle. Today, I was a bag, not a glove.


Maybe skiing itself didn’t bring as much joy as the fact that I was having the best combo weekend one can ever wish for. Riding bikes on Saturday, skiing on Sunday. You can’t beat that, period.

Rinse & repeat?

Coming back next year? Probably, yes. Single-speed again? Most likely, yes to that as well. Why? Because I want to do better. But how would I know if I did or didn’t if conditions are different? So, I guess I’m now bound to even more suffering than I was before this race.

A few things I might do differently:

  1. Training. I’d prioritize this event, and I’ll do more anaerobic intervals than I did leading into this race. That’s what this course demands.
  2. Gearing. I might either stay at the same 32/20 ratio if I feel stronger and better prepared, or I can dial it down to 32/22 and see if it doesn’t wear me off so fast.
  3. Nutrition. Classic: when the ride does not go perfectly, we tend to lose focus and make it even worse by not staying on top of our fueling plan. Guilty. Can do better.

It’s still fun, guys. Especially when it hurts.