Stefan Griebel has traveled the Colorado Trail many times by bike. With his inspiration and passion for the sport and the trail, he decide he would organize the Colorado Trail Race. Stefan is a busy man, him and his wife are raising three children, all while tackling an electrical engineering job in the front range of Colorado. We asked Stefan a few questions about life, the CT, and bikepacking. Age? 39 Birthplace? White River, AZ – Yep, on the Navajo Indian Reservation Where do you live now? Boulder, CO What do you do for a living? Electrical Engineering at Ball Aerospace What was your first mountain bike experience? I got my first mountain bike in 1990 before I learned to drive. It was a fully rigid Scott with “Self-Energizing” brakes, before there was a brake mount standard or front shocks. I rode this bike until 2001. Here is an early picture from ‘92 that even has a Colorado Trail logo in it! I’m the one with the Oakleys, Umbros and black muscle shirt. Oh, ummm, I mean I’m on the right. My step-brother, Colin, is on the left. What was your first adventure cycling experience? It was undoubtedly with my step-brother, Colin. Two experiences actually come to mind. The first was riding Porcupine Rim from town in mid-July during the early ‘90s. We both had TWO full water bottles, so when the lady at the Slick Rock entrance booth asked us if we had enough water, we told her we had plenty. I think we were dry before we even got to the singletrack. Then flatting, and having only 1 dirty patch and a dried-up tube of rubber cement… Man, that was more “adventurous” than most of my trips on the Colorado Trail. The second was a mountain bikepacking experience, also in the early ‘90s. We planned to ride over Cinnamon Pass, then back over Engineer Pass, Black Bear and Ophir to return to Silverton. After a mis-adjusted brake pad wore a hole in my tire, and my Dad’s 20 year-old camp stove burst into flames because of dry seals and too much white gas, Colin and I bailed back to Silverton. Good times! This is the 8th Annual Colorado Trail Race (CTR), what was your inspiration behind starting the Denver to Durango race? In 2005, I decided I need my own Homeric Odyssey before getting married in Durango, so I planned to bike the Colorado Trail from Denver down to my wedding. It was early July, and a heavy snow year, so I had to take a lot of detours. I sort of became obsessed with the Colorado Trail after that. Based on all of my studying of the CT and riding on it, I was convinced that it could be done in under 5 days. (Never in my wildest imagination did I envision sub-4!!) In 2006, I had another go at the entire trail, hiking through the Wilderness Areas while my parents shuttled my bike. This was the same year I met Scott Morris and Mike Curiak. The KTR (Kokopelli Trail Race) and GLR (Grand Loop Race) were still new and relatively unheard of. After riding both in ‘06, I knew the Colorado Trail needed the same style of race. Mike was slowly exiting the endurance racing scene, and Scott had been organizing the AZT-300 for a couple of years already. So, with much collaboration, we started the CTR. While I have become the sole organizer behind the CTR, one thing we all agreed upon whole-heartedly from the very beginning was that it needed to be solo and self-supported. No caches, sag-wagons, or pre-arranged support. Mike Curiak’s three simple words sum up the spirit of the race in its entirety: Do. It. Yourself. Did you push the start date back this year because of the Tour Divide, or was the moon cycle on your mind more so? I’d say 95% moon cycle, but I also knew it was quite hard for riders wanting to do TD and CTR in the same year. What is your most memorable experience on the Colorado Trail? Man, so many! 2005 – experiencing the unknown of Sargents Mesa in its full glory for the very first time. 2006 – bivying with only a poncho, lost on Snow Mesa in the dark. 2007 – Riding an XC race pace, from Silverton to Durango, trading leads with Jefe after every 45 minute “GU police” break. I’m sure it was far from an XC race pace, but we were both delirious and hadn’t slept for over 30 hours. 2009 – Yet again, riding with Jefe from Silverton to Durango, both pushing each other to the point of cracking. 2013 – Cataract Ridge in reverse. Freaking awesome! Jefe was an entire day ahead of me this go around. What is your favorite section of the Colorado Trail? Durango to Silverton, hands down. Coney + Cataract comes in 2nd. Have you ever considered detouring around Sargents mesa 🙂 , I hear the Colorado Trail Foundation is looking to re-route out there? Yes, I have personally considered a detour many times, but never for the race! Everyone needs to experience that piece of trail. A lot of it may be horrible, but there are some real gems sprinkled in there too. Dang, I’m giving too much away… Where is your favorite stop along route? Honestly, it’s bivying along the crest of Sargents Mesa at 11,000’. It’s always warm there, flat spots with soft pine needle beds, no bugs, and as soon as you descend either direction the temps drop into freezing. Weird, but in my experience, very true. In 2013, 48 racers finished the route, did you ever think it would be as popular as it is now? I never thought it would be this popular! I did expect maybe up to 40 starters, but the attrition rate is usually > 50%. I think the drop-out rate is lower with the Durango start though. If you make it to B.V. in that direction it’s a lot more civilized from there on out. The hardest part for me is trying to make sure everyone gets the “Do. It. Yourself.” part, and I fail at that every year. Last year you switched it up and started the route in Durango. Which direction do you think is more difficult? Since I dropped last year at Marshall Pass, I am unqualified to answer. I think the Tarryall Detour makes the route a lot more difficult just due to the boring miles. I thoroughly enjoyed Durango to Silverton and the Cataract-Coney segments in reverse. They felt easier, but maybe that’s just due to the freshness in the first 2 days. It has been a year since Jefe and Jesse duked it out for a race that is over 500 miles – what are your feelings on both of them finishing within an hour of each other? I absolutely love it!! Those two both have such different strengths on the bike that it simply amazes me they can finish so close. Jesse is wicked fast on anything under a day, and Jefe can suffer like no other human being I have ever met. Both of them are tremendously inspiring to me. What do you think is the most challenging section of the route? #1 – Tarryall Detour, #2 – La Garita Detour. Sure, call me crazy, but personally I just can’t stay motivated to push hard if it’s a gravel road… Anything that’s actually on the CT is just so fun you can’t really call it challenging. Yes, even the hike-a-bike. As the sport of bikepacking evolves, things have changed. What have you liked and disliked as this activity has become more popular? As an activity in general, I love the freedom of distances it gives people to explore the backcountry. You can cover a tremendous amount of terrain on a bike, and bikepacking opens up super-long routes in a much shorter time-span than hiking. From a race-specific standpoint, and the biggest reason I continue to organize the CTR, is the feedback I get from racers (especially rookies following the “Do. It. Yourself.” spirit) about how much of a life changing experience it is. I can relate to this, and having a small part in enabling a fellow rider to have this life-changing experience means a lot to me. My biggest dislike definitely comes from riders and spectators that just don’t get the “Do. It. Yourself.” ethos. I dislike this, yet I also don’t want to administrate anyone’s experience on the trail, so it is a bit of a conflict for me. The CTR is what you make it, and yet I know first-hand how much more rewarding it is doing it all on your own… Will you be racing the CTR any time soon? Man, I wish I could say I was racing in 2014, or 2015 or even 2016, but I’m just not sure it will happen again. Having been down the CT several times now, my obsession for it is waning. I also have this recurring issue with nerve damage / muscle control in my hands when I ride more than 2 days straight that I haven’t been able to solve. Between that, 3 kids under 6, and my (currently) great job, it’s hard to dedicate a week off to ride the CTR. And, of course, we all know that it’s not just a week – it’s practically a whole year… But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t race the CTR! Go get some!!!