By: Stew Gross For those of you who are not familiar with the Colorado Trail Race, it can easily be summed up with one word: Unyielding. Consisting of 550 mi, and 90,000 feet of climbing (no that was not a mis-type!); self supported, meaning no hand ups, no stashing food, no help. It is you vs. the state of Colorado. This race is the real deal. This year the race started outside of Denver in Ken Caryl and ended in Durango. I caught up with two-time CTR finisher, Dave Stewart to grab a pint, hear his tale and ask a few questions. SG – Where are you from? DS – I am originally from Georgia but have been in Boulder for 12 years. I have been biking for 3 years. SG – What got you into bikepacking? DS – It seemed like the right mixture of fun and misery. My buddy Stefan had done it before and got me into it. SG– What is the draw? DS – I just love being out there. Enjoy the scenery. SG– In 2013 you finished the Durango to Denver route in 6 days, 22 hours, 16 minutes, what was your time this year? DS – 6 days and 7 hours 5 min. SG – How helpful was it to know the trail ahead of time? DS – Super helpful, it made everything go way better, more efficient. Knowing where the next way-point was, where the next store was. Knowing to go hard or just cruise. Not having to look at the GPS, that was a huge time saver! After doing it this year it makes last year’s finish seem less probable. The first time was pretty hard and considering I did not know what I was doing, or what was next, I was happy to finish last year. This year I knew what I was doing and where I was going so mentally, it made it more bearable, if that is possible. SG – What was the most important thing you learned last year that helped you this year? DS – Knowing the course. Knowing how to pace myself. I knew where the bad spots were, and I was able to mentally prepare myself. The funny thing was that I did not remember some parts of the course. It was like I had trail amnesia. SG – Did you have a strategy for the race? DS – My plan was to ride till midnight, then back on bike at first light. SG– What was the toughest part? DS – Fooses Creek. That was the toughest part. It is a climb that is off of hwy 50 near Salida. It was just long and hard. SG – You also have completed both directions, which way do you think is more difficult? DS – Equally hard. Both directions are hard. They are totally different, but the same in difficulty. SG – What bags were you using? DS – I was using Revelate bags. I also had a back pack from Sierra Designs. SG – How did they hold up? DS – Well – no complaints. Those things are strong! Only a bear could rip them off. And a bear did, during an attempt of the Grand Loop. SG – What happened with that? DS – Well I was training for the CTR by trying the Grand Loop earlier in the year. There was SOO much rain that the clay build up got out of control. I could not move my bike, or the wheels. There was so much clay that my bike weighed about 80 lbs. It was near Paradox. I made it about 200 mi, but then I had to walk out about 10 miles. It was sketchy, I had to ditch my bike and hitch 3 separate times to get back to my van and come back 4 days later ! SG – What bike did you race on? DS – Diamond Back HT overdrive carbon pro (Miss bullet is the name I gave her!) , Fox RL Fork, and a SRAM XO 2×10 drivetrain. SG – How did it hold up? DS – The bike and drive train were great, the lock out on my fork got messed up. In Leadville the road was just tarred and it got all over me, I was covered! It totally gummed up the fork. The thing only worked at half capacity. SG – Any bike differences from last year to this year? DS – Totally new step up! New bike, bags everything. SG – What type of shoes? DS – Pedestrian/bike shoes made by Shimano. SG – How did your feet hold up? I hear that can be a painful part of the body. DS – My feet were ok. I changed my socks a lot. Whenever they got wet I put on a new pair that were dry. Then I dried the wet ones on the Revelate handlebar bag. SG– What was the best part? DS – To be done! There were so many awesome times. The thinking about it was awesome as well, it was an accumulation of thoughts from last year. I have not stopped thinking about this race since finishing last year. Everything I did this year was to prepare for this race. My personal goal trying to do it successfully, I did! Just having completed the whole thing was awesome. Man, I was happiest when done. SG – Do you have any other upcoming races? CTR again? DS – Maybe Vapor Trail. Probably not the CTR again though. It was a great time but some of the sections hurt. It just hurts!! About the Author: Stewart Gross is an endurance cyclist from Colorado. Stew grew up on the east coast and moved to Crested Butte, where he started taking cycling seriously. Stew currently balances his race life while working at Wright Kingdom Real Estate in Boulder.