By Bill Plock
Oct 4, 2022–In its third edition raced between September 22-25, the Pikes Peak Apex has evolved from just a mountain bike race. Now with a couple of runs, concerts and beer gardens, it has really become an endurance festival. Mountain bike racing is still the hub with four different courses spread out over four days and a serious prize purse for pro’s and even age groupers.
This year they added a couple of new courses and runs and said race director, Micah Rice, “The new courses in Canon City and Woodland Park were a hit with the riders and everyone seemed to have a great time.”
When the race began in 2020 the goal was to create a world-class event that drives economic impact to the area in order to improve the trails and open space in the Pikes Peak region. The event is a fundraiser for the PPORA Trail Stewardship Fund which has raised over $30,000 all of which has been put back into the trails in the Pikes Peak region.
Said Micah, “Our goal is to show off all of the different types of riding in the Pikes Peak region while raising money for the PPORA Trail Stewardship Fund. A percentage of all of our income goes toward that fund and we have been able to do things like help build trail in Sweetwater Canyon and maintain trails in some in town parks. Our focus is on the experience of the rider, so we want exciting, challenging course that are achievable by amateur riders. This year we were able to shine a spotlight on an in town park (Palmer Park) and the ability to ride from downtown Colorado Springs into the backcountry in a 28 mile day (Cheyenne Canyon/Sweetwater Canyon/Captain Jack’s Trail). We were also able to bring two new communities in with the additions of Woodland Park and Canon City.”
Earlier this year organizers reached out to 303 Endurance inquiring if one of our ambassadors would like to do the race and report back. Sasha Underwood has done several mountain bike events for us and was the perfect choice. Said Micah, “We want to continue to grow our participation over the next few years for all groups, but we really want to show women that this event is doable and it is for them!”
The Apex has a robust prize purse of $25,000 so it attracts some top pro’s like Russell Finsterwald. Sasha won her ago group and got a sweet Rockshox SID SL Ultimate front shock.
Russell was a guest on 303Endurance Podcast a couple of years ago, super fun discussion about his crazy Covid ride with Kalan Beisel…Click HERE
But it’s also a race for everyone else and with such varied mountain bike terrain and some great runs, it’s got some dirt for everyone.
We did some Q & A with Sasha about her experience:
1. Overall, what did you like best about the event?
Where do I even begin! Each stage was unique and challenging and its own right. Having never ridden those trails before, I was definitely in for a treat and pushed my limits for sure physically and mentally at times. The volunteers, the race directors, the sponsors and fellow racers were all amazing. I particularly loved the Emergency Snacks food truck in canyon city! (See photo attached)
2. Talk about the overall challenges of dealing with so much different terrain.
The pre-ride meeting did a thorough job of explaining the course for each stage, what to expect, and time it would take to drive to the start of each course. I felt like I was pretty prepared in that aspect. A challenge was not having pre-ridden the course to know exactly what the terrain would be like. But the because the pre-ride meeting was recorded I was able to listen to each stage description before the start of each day. That helped me out a ton to plan my nutrition and hydration strategies based on aid station locations and just knowing the overall course descriptions.
3. What challenged you the most?
Getting lost is always a challenge for me…. In the pre-ride meeting, they highly encouraged participants to use the map that was provided for each course. I could not figure out how to download the GXP file to my Garmin and I did, in fact, get lost day one and day two. Then I started using the Ride with GPS app and all was fine! Another challenge was the descents on the final stage. Super steep downhill trails with a ton of gravel. It was like riding in a sandbox. I just reminded myself not to hit my front brake and to look ahead. Fortunately the trail angel of the day goes to Christine, a local just out riding not racing. She rolled up behind me and I asked if she wanted to pass to which she replied, “no I’m not racing” I explained I didn’t know the trail and should have pre-rode it. Then she asked if I wanted a wheel to follow. It was awesome and I rode the second half of Captain Jacks twice as fast as the first half 🙂
4. What did you learn about mountain biking maybe you didn’t know?
110 miles and 13,000’ of climbing over 4 days is no joke! I mean, I sort of new that already 😁
5. What would you encourage people interested in the event to practice, do etc to be prepared best?
I would highly recommend pre-riding some of the trails out there. First of all, they’re spectacular and the views are amazing. Second, to get to know the terrain would make a huge difference in confidence and knowing what to expect. Third use the gps/gxp map during each stage and Fourth, find Christine the trail angel and follow her wheel 🙂
6. Would you do it again and what you do different?
I will 100% do this race again! Next time I’ll follow my advice in the previous question 🙂
7. What did you learn about the Pikes Peak region you didn’t know?
That the Canon City trails were developed as a result of a fire a few years back. It had been an area dense with pinion trees and after the fire the city decided to expand the trail system through the area. I had no idea there were so many trails in Canon City. I plan to make an entire weekend biking down there. One of the trail builders was at the race and he told me that the riding is typically good all year round, even in the winter.