Keystone Uphill bike race "one painful clog’ |

Keystone Uphill bike race "one painful clog’

Shauna Farnell

KEYSTONE – All is lost without the second wind. Especially when it’s seven miles, 2,400 feet and no breathing windows.

Many riders in Saturday’s Fourth Annual Keystone Uphill Mountain Bike Challenge feel the race is the toughest of the season because the course, which is seven miles and a 2,400 elevation gain, just doesn’t give you a break.

“The hardest part for me was, I didn’t know how long it would take,” said Phil Hackbarth of Colorado Springs, who finished second in the beginner male 30-39-year-old category with a time of 55 minutes, 17 seconds. “You never really knew how to gage your effort throughout the event. We were thinking it would take like 40 minutes or something, which it did for the fastest guy, but it was a little longer than anticipated.”

Eric Jones was the fastest overall finisher, completing the race in 40:27. Joan Orgeldinger was the fastest woman to finish, with a time of 52:15.

“I would say it’s the hardest race of the season,” said Annie Black, one of Summit County’s strongest riders, who finished Saturday’s race in 60:46, taking third for the 40-plus sport females despite losing her chain three times during the race.

“It’s relentless,” she said. “It’s so early in the season and you just never get a chance to recover. I’m not a downhill terrorist or anything, but at least most races give you that chance to recover. I never felt like I recovered.”

My feelings exactly. I didn’t even recover enough to put any trajectory into my spit about halfway up the course, where I finally found … not a second wind, but something that gave me enough strength to avoid tipping over and at least get the ball of what felt like entrails out of my mouth. Which gives me a convenient excuse. I blame my sluggish pace on the force field of saliva hanging off my bike. Yup. I just wasn’t aerodynamic.

I have to hand it to those who found a true second wind, though. Not just because it would have been great to have a tow rope while so many riders were blowing by me in the last mile and a half or so, but because it’s essential in any sort of cardiovascular competition.

Some riders, however, denied finding any such thing. Like Matt Larson, also of the Colorado Springs group, who, finished first of the 30-39-year-old beginner males with a time of 52:14.

“I thought it was pretty hard,” he said. “We thought we were almost finished until we saw that aid station that was only halfway. I didn’t feel like I ever got any faster. It was one, constant, painful clog.”

Whatever, Matt. Cloggers don’t finish first. Then again, I suppose some people’s “painful clog” is faster than others – a lot faster.

Levi Hensel, also of the Springs posse, finished first in the beginner male 19-29 category in 52:55, and was the only one I talked to Saturday who described the race as “fun.” It was also his first-ever bike race, so maybe he just doesn’t know the beauty of being able to fill your lungs with air or give your legs a break in races with downhill portions – or even flat portions.

“We’re all like aerobic machines,” said Hackbarth of he and his friends. “But we live at 6,000 feet. I thought the constant uphill was hard, because there was nowhere to take a rest. I’m used to going uphill for maybe 20 minutes, then taking a break, or having it flatten out.”

The Keystone Uphill is an event to make riders appreciate other races. And before the race, I heard more than one racer say they were only in it for the free beer and barbecue that followed. But beer and barbecues always taste better after a good, painful clog. And, painful as the ride might have been, everyone was smiling afterwards, maybe out of sheer, exhausted delirium, but possibly because they’d felt they accomplished something.

And it’s funny the way the mind forgets pain. We all might just be fool enough to put ourselves through it all over again next year.

Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at

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