The Comstock Epic took place last weekend. The 2nd year was bound to be even better than the first annual. Only 5 folks started in 2015, with only Blake Bockius and Kurt Sandiforth finishing the rain and mud infested event. This year’s ride looked to be different, and in a good way. Rain was not forecasted to be a big issue, and temperatures were cooling as the weekend went on. Things were aligning nicely for the riders who would start at the Utah Nevada state line, just outside of the world-class Border Inn and Casino.

I am always blown away by the positivity within this niche of cyclists. It was particularly special this go-round with such a small field. There was ten of us taking off from the Utah Border, and almost all of us knew of one another. Having dinner at the restaurant the night before with everyone reaffirmed why I love this crew of people. Even more so after some of the ridiculous things people had to go through this year makes me appreciate everyone that lines up, but also reminds me that these races are no joke.
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(Photo/Matt Reynolds)
I think it’s safe to say we really put ourselves out there during times where 99% of people would rather be drinking a cold one on the barcalounger while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, or something like that. But when shit does hit the fan it makes you take a step back and assess what went wrong and how you can avoid it next time. There is no better way to learn than to experience. What could go wrong on a route where you have to travel over 15 mountain passes?

Shorts of the route
Mile 46 – I reached Cave Lake, just before Kurt and thought to myself, I wonder if there is a spigot, “Man, I should have done my research. Should I wait for Kurt? Should I get water here? Probably.” I ended up going down to the lake, just next to some fisherman, and a dog, dropped both of my bottles in to fill them up and quickly hopped back on the road. Not 200 feet later I saw a spigot and a dish washing station. Noted.
Maybe a mile or so in, it was a beautiful morning.
Maybe a mile or so in, it was a beautiful morning.
Mile 96 – I arrived at the Lund Coffee store, and thought to myself, boy do I smell bad. Sure enough a huge group of people arrive and the store was jam packed. I tried to get around everyone as I was trying to hurry before Kurt showed up. On top of that, my mind was all clustered and I couldn’t decide what I wanted. Typically before I arrive at a resupply point, I try and decide what I want to get, so I can be prepared. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Kurt showed up and all my planning and preparation for the store goes out the window. We basically left the store and rode to Green Spring together.

Mile 120 – I told Kurt I was feeling like a bag of d****. He replied, “yeah, just no energy,” I said, “something like that. Maybe these long sustained climbs were getting to me, I just don’t know.” I somehow recovered and stuck with him, a pivotal part in the race for me, as it is always degrading when someone passes you and takes you over. It’s more mental than anything, and I avoided that mental defeat.

Mile 147 – Kurt and I both noticed this green oasis in the middle of nowhere, “is that it?” I asked him, referring to Green Spring. He said he thinks it might be. If you are in the middle of nowhere in a desert, need water and see a small but lush area of vegetation, you might just be in luck. That is exactly what happened to me. I needed water, and that mental checkpoint after a hot and painful day. We both filled up on water and rode into a beautiful bright orange sunset before night settled in. Comstock-0080 Mile 192 – Antelope rainwater cache – We arrived at the last reliable water source before Ophir Creek and took a look at the water. I have seen worse water sources but this may have been the most disgusting one I have ever had to use without a filter. There was way too many microorganisms living in this tank, and it was disturbing that I did not have a filter. Kurt used his Sawyer filter, and suggested I use some cloth to filter out the floaties. Luckily I decided to pack a pair of boxers instead of leaving them behind at the start. I used my bottle to fill up water, placed the boxers over the top and poured the water into my MSR hydration bladder, using my boxers as a filter. I then added some Aquamira tabs. It worked but I hope I don’t get sick here soon. Kurt ended up staying there for almost 5 hours getting plenty of sleep that night, I pushed on.

Mile 209 – It was roughly 12:30am and I approached a cattle gate. It was dark, and my head light hit something that looked like an animal in my peripheral vision. It was a rotted out cow. Then I saw another animal, a bloated horse, and right next to it was a living Mustang. Typically the Mustangs would move, but this one must have had a connection with the deceased horse. I felt very small and scared at that moment. I made sure to get as far away from that spot as I could before I bivvied up for the night.

Mile 215 – Before the ride I made the plan to sleep about an hour each night for the two nights I would be on route. The sleep monster never really took over that night, but I knew if I wanted to feel good the next day, I should lay down. So around 1:45am, I got out my bivy and got a restless and very chilly hour nap. I woke up shivering. The cool air had settled just after I went to bed, and I was freezing. I ended up being stopped for roughly an hour and 45 minutes all together, a bit longer than I wanted, but I was still feeling pretty good about the quick stop in general. Comstock-0072 Mile 246 – I sat down for my daily breakfast as the sun rose. It was just about 5am and I had been traveling on a rather boring road for miles now. A lot of times in the morning, I get really tired, especially if it’s a bit chilly. I cracked my morning Red Bull and ate some coconut oil rice crispy treats, breakfast of champions right there. I noticed the sun was blocked by some thick clouds. The night before the race I watched the weather report on the news and it showed that the eastern portion of the state would see isolated showers today, and I was right on the cusp. I was really hoping I would not get rained on like they did last year.

Mile 260 – I crested Charnock Pass, and had a descent of a lifetime. Not because of vertical drop but because of brakeless descending, I don’t think I ever had to touch my brakes, cruising all the way down to state Hwy 376. The majority of the 15 passes we had to climb were like this – super fast, and super straight descents all the way down to the valley floor. That is certainly one thing that stood out to me that I’m not used to. It was wicked fun. Comstock-0061
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The Cornice that stood in my way, with me a little spec on the road. (Photo/ Trevor Oxborrow)
Mile 289 – As I climbed Ophir Creek Trail and was about to ascend the pass, I approach a snow field where a huge cornice had formed. I had two options: climb the cornice with my heavy bike, and hope for the best. If I fell, I would likely fall a long ways. Or option 2, basically scale the mountain around, and certainly give myself more work. I opted for option 2 as it was the smart and safe decision. I was happy I had the sense to do that, and not even consider climbing on the snow. I finally reached the 10,000ft Ophir Creek Trail Pass, an 8 mile climb that took me roughly 3 hours. NO, this was not the Nevada I had envisioned, this was Colorado-esk, and I was pretty excited for the descent down the other side.
This climb and the area was the crux for many people. Kurt dealt with more flats on the descent which would ultimately not allow him to finish, Alex got rain then snowed on, climbing through the night, becoming hypothermic, but he pushed on. And others like Forest Baker had to wait out a thunderstorm near Lone, which in turn induced nearly severe hypothermia, and he too had to bail. I was very luck to beat the precipitation in this section, and because of this, I ended up with a large lead, and a happy bike and body.
Comstock Epic
(Photo/Trevor Oxborrow)
Mile 321 and many more – I came to a realization regarding Nevada, and a few things, while I was riding there. Hands down Nevada’s state beer is Bud Light – can, bottles, and everything in between. The other thing about Nevada is their recycling policy, It is clear that it is fine to toss bottles and cans on the side of any dirt road in the state. I just wonder how often they collect the bottles. If it’s any indication as to the amount of Bud Light containers on the side of the roads, I would say it’s not very often.

Mile 347 – After a long stretch of relatively flat riding, I finally make it to Middlegate Station, which is basically a historical town in the middle of nowhere. A lot of people bike tour HWY 50, and Middlegate is an important stop for them, but it is also an important stop along the Comstock. It consists of a restaurant/small store/bar that has a pretty awesome vibe to it. I arrived around 5pm and I could smell the fried food being cooked from a mile away. I asked the cook how long it would take to make me a burger, he said 3 minutes, I said perfect. I sat and ate a burger and onion rings at the bar, purchased some extra food, packed up my bike and got on my way. The goal was to get to Fallon before the gas station and Dairy Queen along the route closed. Comstock-03439 Mile 376 – After traveling on HWY 50 for a good while, and over some steep paved passes, I turned off towards Salt Well Basin. Before I turned off, I thought my travel from Westgate to Fallon would be rather quick, but then I got into the basin. Salt Wells is a geothermal area that hosts a geothermal Power Plant. It’s a strange area, and not much fun to ride on. The basin surface was a mostly hardened clay, but you could tell it was a little spongy. If it were wet, it would be a serious mess. My trip to Fallon would take much longer than anticipated, but that’s the name of the game.

Mile 402 – Well I missed the boat on convenience items at the gas station as it took me 5 hours to travel from Middlegate to Fallon. Lucky for me the doctor had ordered up a Butterfinger blizzard, a banana, and a turkey BLT sandwich for the morning from Dairy Queen. I really don’t like going off route. It is time consuming and adds extra miles on your legs, but I could have easily biked to the Maverick gas station off route if I needed food.

Mile 417 – When you ride nothing but dirt roads, you become tired. Technical sections are great to have because you stay alert, and awake. Outside of Fallon I was becoming very tired. I put some caffeine mix in one of my bottles and started to drink that, but it was not helping. One thing was keeping me going. I passed a sign that said, something like “Stay on road, Naval Bombing Grounds” and I sure didn’t want to take a nap on those grounds. I eventually found a sandy clearing basically on top of the small pass outside of Fallon and slept for another hour.

Mile 438 – I arrived at the Forest Churchhill State Park at roughly 4:00am. It was early, but not too early for an old man and his dog to walk up to me and ask, “is there a problem?” I said, “excuse me,” and I walked toward the spigot to fill up on water. “Is everything alright?” He asks. “Oh, you bet, I’m just riding my bike, it’s a gorgeous night” I replied. I pet his dog and we part ways. It’s always strange to see people in the middle of the night, especially non-bikepackers, but it certainly keeps things interesting. After this point I dealt with a lot of washboard roads and kamikaze rabbits, fun stuff. Comstock-0054 Mile 462 – Virginia City. Wow. What else can I say? This town is like a fantasy dreamland, or something you would see at Disney. Virginia City was built off one of the first major silver deposit discoveries in the U.S. Today it sits as a tourists destination with hundreds of shops and restaurants on their main street (C Street). I went through around 8:00am, and the place was completely dead, just beer cans and bottles on the side of the road. I really would like to go back on a Saturday night and see how different the atmosphere is.

Mile 471 – My first mechanical came after descending a rock garden. I hit my rear tire really hard on a rock and I heard the tire spewing Stans. I quickly got off my bike, saw a small sidewall gash and turned the tire over so the Stans could hold the air in. Luckily I had some plugs, and one plug did the trick. I used my Co2 canister to fill the tire back up and I was good to go the rest of the race. Comstock-0059
Mile 484 –  Ash Canyon to Kings Canyon trail is downright awesome. It climbs a lot but you really wouldn’t know it, and the descent is spectacular. The trail is wide, bermed, and super flowy. If there is one trail that trail organizations to should use as an example, it’s this one. However, it must have taken a lot of work with building it on steep hillsides, and cutting through some difficult terrain. Whoever put time into building this beauty, I thank you. Comstock-0047
Mile 507 – After leaving the sweet singletrack section I was slogging up more roads again. I was just about ready to be finished. You can do as much research as possible, but you never will understand what is ahead of you until you are out there experiencing it. Once I arrived at Spooner Lake I thought I still had a ways to go, but in reality, it was only about 20 more miles. When I turned the corner and split from Marlette Creek on the Flume Trail, my jaw dropped. I had no clue I was in store for these stunning views of Lake Tahoe. It was truly a beautiful way to see this area for the first time. Mile 520 – After 2 days, and 9 hours on the dot, I had made it to the Nevada/California State line. In fitting fashion, it started to rain just as I arrived. The one and only time I got rained on during the route. The Comstock Epic was a fantastic experience, Nevada is a fantastic state, and I had a fantastic time. Thanks to Trevor for developing a beauty of a route.
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Blake and crew meeting me at the finish. (Photo/Trevor Oxborrow)
I learned a lot about myself, and how I react to heat, and again, the cold. I learned that Nevada is way more than just high desert. I learned that Bud Light is the official beer of the state, and the recycling program can be found on either side of any dirt road. I learned that Nevada is a special place, and one that I am going to recommend.

8 Comments

  1. Really inspiring race report! Thanks for posting.

  2. Neil, just wanted to let you know that the Carson City non-profit biking and hiking group called Muscle Powered built the Ash to Kings Trail. Master Trail Builder and mountain biker, Jeff Potter, received the 2015 American Trails Association’s Trail Worker of the Year award, and the trail itself received the Coalition for Recreational Trails award for outstanding use of the Recreational Trails Program funds in the Community Linkage category. Needless to say, all of us at Muscle Powered and in Carson City are very proud of the work Jeff and all of the other volunteers have done to put Carson City trails on the map. Thanks for mentioning the trail in your piece.

  3. Congrats on the win really inspiring article. I’ll be doing this route later this summer. Can’t wait.

  4. Neil – awesome write up, thanks for using such detail. Inspiring writing like this keeps fuel on fire for this little niche corner of the industry!

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Thanks Carl, I highly recommend the route for it’s versatility, and there are a lot of easy miles out there. Fun to be apart of this positive corner.

      Happy Trails,

      Neil

  5. Really enjoyed reading your article. The Great Basin of Nevada is an incredible place. Hope you had a good experience – it can be unforgiving. Blown away by your finishing time. It is a little surreal reading about individuals mountain biking “out there” – hope to see you return. Congratulations.

  6. great read glad I stumbled across the article .

  7. Pingback: Blizzards in the Desert: The Comstock Epic Part 1 - Bikepacker

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