The racer’s edge: Local cyclist returns to Power of Four
On Aug. 3, one of the most grueling and sought-after local cycling events of the season will commence once again here in our backyard. Returning for a third year in a row, the Power of Four Mountain Bike Race beckons competitors to conquer pieces of Aspen, Snowmass, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands on 33 miles of top-rated singletrack with more than 11,000 feet of vertical gain and 9,000 feet of vertical drop — all while challenging the endurance of the fittest riders in the sport.
Consisting of solo racers and relay teams (of two or four) from the bike community of Aspen/Snowmass and beyond, racers start at the base of Snowmass as they come face to face with diverse terrain demanding double-track ascents over four mountains before ending at the base of Aspen Mountain. Fair enough to say it’s one of the most taxing races in the valley, let alone the only event of its kind, the Power of Four Mountain Bike Race warrants only those brave enough to tackle the punishing terrain head on.
Seeking the scoop on the overall race experience and the training leading up to it, I sought out resident Rachel Hadley, who took first place for the ladies solo two years ago and stole second behind ex-Olympian Tammy Thomas last year. As a competitor for the elite cycling team Basalt Bike and Ski, Hadley plans to test her skill once again for this year’s Power of Four, this time riding with a teammate for a half-race.
Snowmass Sun: How would you describe your introduction to cycling? Is it a sport that came naturally to you?
Rachel Hadley: I started biking when I was a kid but really didn’t start racing until about four years ago. For the most part, I have always been pretty athletic, so I would say yes, in many ways it was natural. It wasn’t until I joined the Basalt cycling team and started racing, however, that I began to take it seriously.
SS: What turned you on to the Power of Four Mountain Bike Race? What was it like taking first place your first time competing?
RH: It was new to the valley two years ago, and so I thought I would take a shot at it to feel it out. I liked the fact that it was literally in our backyard and attracted the attention of so many local cyclists. I had no idea I would win first place; I was dying out there. It’s a hard race. But I was happy, and from there it just pushed me to go further and seek out more races.
SS: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of the race? Do you feel you have an advantage over other racers because you are in many ways accustomed to the terrain?
RH: Probably the aspect of sustained climbing, especially on Midnight Mine Road. You have just finished Castle Creek Road, and the climb makes you feel like you are dying. Having an advantage might be true, especially for those who come from out of town. But for the most part, it’s a locals’ race, so you are often side-by-side with riders who know the terrain just as much if not more than you do.
SS: What made you decide to ride with a teammate this year and only do a half-race as opposed to the whole?
RH: I have some pretty big races coming up post the Power of Four, so I really want to save my legs and be in the best shape possible for them. On the other hand, I am still training for it like I would if I was competing for the full.
SS: What does your training consist of? Do you have any advice for first-time competitors?
RH: My training is different every day. I have a coach now, and he has helped increase my power 18 percent from last year. Some days I’m out doing short sprints; others I’m out doing easygoing, long rides. Nutrition is important as well as spending time in the gym lifting. I would say my advice for first-time competitors is to start out slow. If you start out trying to sprint your way through, you will be regretting it in the last half. In the end, though, everyone should try to have as much fun as possible; after all, the race is in our backyard.
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