Tackling Park City’s Point 2 Point endurance mountain biking race.
Park City, Utah is a mountain biker’s dream destination (look for more on that in our Summer 2016 “Mountain Towns for Mountain Biking” cover story). With more than 450 miles of trails accessible from the center of this one-time mining town, Park City is the only gold-level Ride Center on the planet—as classified by the International Mountain Bike Association. From Main Street, point your bike in any direction, and you’ll hit a mountain bike trail in a mile or less.
If there’s one event that celebrates this golden network, it’s the Park City Point 2 Point, a 78-mile singletrack mountain bike race with 14,000 vertical feet of climbing, held annually on the Saturday before Labor Day. Looking for a challenge that would demand a season of training, I signed up for the race back in February. It’s lucky I was prompt, as the 400 or so spots were filled in less than five minutes.
As the riders gathered in the sagebrush hills of Round Valley just before dawn, their excitement was palpable—or maybe that was just my pre-race heartbeat. The start gun fired at sunrise, and the field rolled quickly on a bike path for a few minutes before the dirt smorgasbord began. We covered 13 miles of Round Valley’s fast, flowy singletrack in less than an hour, and then the climbing started.
The course follows a roughly clockwise route through Deer Valley, Park City, and the Canyons. There’s quite a bit of trail variety. Think loose, rocky switchback climbs; cool loamy dirt in evergreen forests; giant roots in birch groves; crazy-fast descents; and ski-slope traverses among tall grass. Boredom was never an issue.
What was a problem, for me anyway, was the altitude. I travelled to Utah from Vermont, fit, rested, and ready. Everything was going great until somewhere around mile 35. Well above 8,000 feet for most of the race, my stomach started gurgling and I could feel my power draining rapidly. I pushed on to mile 60, and the middle of what otherwise would have been a fun climb along the uphill-only Armstrong Trail. Feeling weak and a tad delirious, I pulled a U-turn and rolled back to town as a DNF. Thankfully, my accommodations were close by.
The oxygen-carrying limits of my sea-level blood aside, I rode for six hours on some of the best singletrack I’ve ever experienced, with grand vistas and the company of other riders letting out whoops of joy. I didn’t finish the Point 2 Point, but I sure had a good time. And that’s the point anyway, right? —story by Kirk Kardashian | photo by Emma Burke