WEND Team Rider Alex Deibold Attends Drink Water's 4th Annual Rat Race at Mt. Hood
July isn’t a month that most people in the Northern Hemisphere associate with snowboarding. BBQ’s, beach visits, and camping trips are probably more the norm. For the small group of us that do make the pilgrimage to the ever shrinking glacial snowfields in the Pacific Northwest we are rewarded with sunny, slush-filled days of summer shred. This year I decided to make the trek to check out yet another rider hosted banked slalom, the Rat Race presented by the We Drink Water crew.
Mt. Hood saw one of its worst snow years in recorded history forcing founders Austin Smith and Bryan Fox to find a new local for the event, now in its 4th year. Not to be deterred, they found a spot above the Palmer Snowfield that would require anyone interested in taking part to earn their turns and hike the course for every lap.
Rider hosted events have a unique vibe that sets them apart from other more traditional competitions. Sure there are some sponsors, most of which back the riders putting the blood, sweat and tears into pulling the thing off, but there are no TV crews, no marketing budgets, an the little press that they do get is typically putout by industry insiders that take part in the mayhem. This was just a small group of dedicated dudes with some shovels, rakes, and a couple hundred pounds of salt. Being my first time to the event and not knowing the Drink Water crew very well, I figured it would be in my best interest to show up early to help dig. These events don’t get any help from snowcats or machines, it’s all hand built chaos.
The event got its start from the pastime of the Drink Water crew when they were diggers at High Cascade Snow Camp. They would salt in a set of tight rollers next to the digger tent dubbed the ‘death track’ and see if anyone could make it through without eating shit. Unlike most banked slalom events I’ve done, the Rat Race has a handful of tech rollers and doubles to keep you on your toes. This year it was the start and finish that gave most people issues, myself included; during my first attempt I didn’t even make it to turn 1. And the two sets of doubles just before the finish line claimed more egos than you could shake a Cobra Dog at. The summer sun and 100 or so shredders help ride in some of the features to make them a little more manageable, but even still, some of the most legendary riders in the industry found themselves on the wrong side of the fine line.
[caption align="aligncenter" width="538"]
This is where dreams were either made or broken...
The Rat Race is the first event I have ever been to where they were stoked to see participant numbers smaller than the year before. It’s not about being the next must do event, it’s about getting together with a core group of people that love snowboarding and raising money for a good cause (this year they donated over $20k to water.org, a non-profit aimed at getting clean drinking water to those around the world without access).
The awards ceremony that took place at Frog Lake after a BBQ hosted by Bryan and Austin’s parents, is a prime example of what sets this event apart. They give out a handful of ‘Rat Trap’ awards to those in the field who don’t necessarily get to stand on the podium to recognize that it’s not all about the fastest time of the day. There were stories told about almost everyone who was awarded anything. They made sure to bring up and recognize all the people who helped dig and make the event possible. And there were more than a few f-bombs dropped to emphasize their passion about reducing your footprint as consumers and helping others in need.
After the Mt Hood moon dust had settled Hailey Langland and Harry “Mr. Banked Slalom” Kearney took home the top honors as well as custom hand shaped surfboards by Chris Christenson. They brought up the top 10 finishers for pro-men and at first I was a little bummed to hear my name called out for 9th, but when the next four or five names were guys I’ve idolized and respected for my whole career, I was honored to be standing amongst some modern legends. As the party wound down, hands were shook, high fives were doled out, and I left with feeling of pure stoke that reminded me of why I started snowboarding in the first place.
Top 10 Pro Men. A heavy line up to say the least. PHOTO: Nick Hamilton
The 5th annual race series, which kicks off this weekend at Alpine Meadows, features skiers or snowboarders charging down a wide-open, ungroomed course four at a time, with each hoping to be the first to the bottom. Jockeying for position adds to the challenge presented by Tahoe’s terrain. Billed as “the ultimate test of ski and riding skills,” catching air while surrounded by other competitors during the mad dash to the bottom is not uncommon.
View of the Starting Gates at Alpine Meadows, Tahoe
The Race Gets Wild
Register now for the Alpine Meadows Rahlves' Banzai Tour "Face Banzai" Feb 21-22 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2015-rahlves-banzai-tour-alpine-meadows-registration-registration-15585540772
Vista, California –October 15, 2014 – Daron Rahlves, the most decorated American Downhill and Super G skier in history, has just renewed a three-year contract with WEND Wax. Three years ago, Daron became the original member of the WEND team, which now boasts 12 Olympians and several more world-class athletes.
The alpine legend is also an avid surfer who spends part of his summers in Encinitas near WEND’s headquarters. He originally connected with the WEND family through its parent company Wax Research, which also makes the world’s leading surf wax brand, Sticky Bumps. While they had been producing snow waxes for private labels for more than 40 years, and dabbled with branding their own line, it wasn’t until Daron approached them with the idea of a Daron Rahlves Signature Series wax that they decided to move forward in developing and marketing WEND.
Since joining the team, Daron has played an integral role in the progression of the product line. The WEND Daron Rahlves HF Race Overlay Paste is one of the company’s best-selling items, and they are currently working closely together to create some innovative race waxes that will compliment his signature line. The partnership extends to event support as well, and this upcoming season the company will proudly be the official wax sponsor of Daron’s event, the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour, for the fourth year in a row.
"Over the last three years I've relied on WEND Wax products for my race skis and freeride boards on mountains around the world. And yes, it feels good gliding smooth and fast over all types of snow,” said Rahlves. “Together with its A-list team, WEND and I work to create products that make every day on snow a better experience for all of us. I look forward to using WEND and continuing our partnership while making us faster on the snow."
“It’s an honor to work with one of the most esteemed names in skiing. Daron’s contribution to WEND continues to be an integral part of our product line development. Together we strive to continually push WEND’s performance on all levels,” said John Dahl, Wax Research, President.
About Daron Rahlves
Daron Rahlves spent 13 years on the US Ski Team and has 12 World Cup wins, 28 World Cup podiums, 7 US National titles, 15 US National podiums, and 3 World Championship medals. To top it all off, he is an X Games Gold Medalist, a four-time Olympian, and was the winner of the legendary Hahnenkamm Downhill in 2003 and SG in 2004. He is also proud to have created a unique event, Rahlves' Banzai Tour, a mix of big mountain freeriding and boardercross. http://www.rahlvesbanzai.com/
WEND, a Wax Research brand, is an innovative line of Natural Meadowfoam (MF) and fluoro racing waxes, overlays, bars, pastes including a full range of tuning shop waxes and base treatments. WEND continues to redefine the way we think about snow waxes. As a leader in the global wax market, WEND unwinds traditional logic as witnessed in the performance of their trailblazing formulas. Founded in Encinitas in 1971, Wax Research is recognized by the international sport community as one of the original surf accessory companies. This family of like-minded people is dedicated to that vital spark of individualism and adventure. A grassroots manufacturer, every handcrafted bar of high quality surf and ski wax is poured in their California factory. www.wendperformance.com
"On Tuesday I attempted to ride my bike 237 miles in one day and I still haven’t come up with a very good reason why. I had plenty of time to think about it, 16 hours to be exact. It wasn’t a race, it wasn’t part of a tour or a group ride or fundraiser. It was just a route through the mountains of Colorado that my friend and I arbitrarily came up with.
With minimal planning and almost no training (Cam was pretty much straight off the couch) we headed North out of Buena Vista in the pre-dawn hours after what felt like a quick nap. We had no support and would have to carry everything we needed: food, water, tubes, and rain gear. We weren’t going to be exploring some far off mountain range, in fact we would be going though some pretty well to do ski towns, but there were some pretty remote stretches of road in between and needed to be prepared. 7 miles in I ran over a piece of discarded truck tire and got my first flat of the ride. After I finished replacing the tube and got the tire re-seated the valve stem broke and just like that, I was down to my last tube. I had gone through more tubes in the first 25 minutes of our ride than I have in the last two years and 3000 miles of road riding. It was apparent early on that it was going to be truly epic.
Independence Pass was our first of 4 major mountain passes and we quickly realized that the lack of oxygen was going to be one of the biggest challenges of the day. The rain that greeted us as we descended down into Aspen had held off longer than expected so we donned our gear and settled in for what looked to be a pretty wet day in the saddle. 7 hours and 90 miles in we pulled over in Carbondale to refuel before the longest and most difficult leg of our planned route. Cliff bars and Gu-packets were never going to cut it for an outing like this and we wanted some real sustenance. After we powered down full sized meatball subs we stopped in a used sporting goods shop to try and find a tube and some extra layers; even in July the mountain summits were colder than expected and we were now soaking wet. As much as I try not to be, I am a bit of a bike snob. I was riding a bike that is worth more than twice what my car is and wearing a kit that isn’t available to the public yet – taste I had acquired after working along side Cam for the past 3 summers. I never thought I would see the day when he would be so stoked to pull on a pair of used motorcycle rain pants, but we were willing to do whatever it took to stay warm and finish the ride.
The rain let off a bit as we rode south into the small town of Redstone and the mountains poked out from behind the low laying clouds. At this point we were around 115 miles in, just about half way, and our bodies were reminding us how hard this was actually going to be. I’ve lived in Colorado for almost 10 years now, Cam 3 times that, and we were both still easily amazed by the beauty of this incredible state. There were certainly easier routes we could have chosen, but we were reminded of why we had picked the hard way, there is something almost inexplicable about being out in these remote sections of nature with nothing more than a bike and your own two legs to get you there. That John Denver is most definitely not full of shit.
McClure Pass was relatively short but the 9% gradient certainly felt like being kicked while you were already down. We tried to coast and enjoy the next 16 miles of downhill knowing that Kebbler Pass leading into Crested Butte would be one of toughest sections of the entire route. Cam and I had split up near the start of the climb when he pulled over to shed layers and I had wanted to just keep moving, agreeing we would regroup in Crested Butte if we didn’t pass each other sooner. The views were absolutely amazing, with one of the largest Aspen tree groves in the world spreading out as far as I could see, and I tried to enjoy the solace of the Gunnison National Forest. It wasn’t the highest or the steepest, but Kebbler felt like it just kept going up and up. To make it even tougher, almost the entire 30 miles from its base to Main Street in C.B. were dirt. The rain that had soaked us earlier made the usually well-maintained road just muddy enough to cake my bike with what felt like a few extra pounds of grime. Just past half way up the pass and around 150 miles into the ride I ran out of water. When the mountain kicked up yet again, my tired legs could barely turn the pedals over, I found myself walking my bike; I didn’t want to sit down and take a break for fear that I wouldn’t have the will power to keep going. Looking back, this was definitely tbat moment; I was having internal dialogue telling myself I just had to get to CB to refuel and then it was the home stretch.
When I rolled into town I headed straight for a shop to wash off my rig and get some extra tubes for the final 70 miles. At the suggestion of one of the guys at the bike shop, I headed down the street to get a burrito. Just as I was sitting down with my much needed fuel, Cam rolled into town. We traded stories about the previous 3 hours over Mexican Coke’s that tasted like they had been crafted by the hand of God and tried to work up the courage to get back on our bikes. Finally, we walked outside to remount and ride into the evening. Looking South we saw ominously dark clouds and could hear the distant sound of thunder. We agreed that our safety was more important than finishing, Cottonwood Pass had 4 miles of road above tree line and the risk far outweighed the reward.
I took a shot in the dark and called a friend I knew used to live in town that I hadn’t seen or spoken with in several years, and by some miracle she not only answered but insisted that we come over to shower and spend the night. In hindsight, she really saved our asses. The storm that rolled through brought heavy rain, lightning and thunder that would have had us bivied under a tree out in the wilderness. We were able to shower, wash our disgustingly dirty kits, and borrow clothes to sleep in. It’s in moments like these that I am reminded of how important friendships are and I hope that down the road, I can do the same for one of mine in need.
As we got back on our bikes the following morning, we gained a massive amount of new found respect for the riders that make up the majority of the peloton at events like the Tour de France. They may not have leg hair, body fat or sweet tan lines but the amount of pain those guys endure on a regular basis makes them true hardmen. Rolling past Taylor reservoir we looked off into the distance and could see our final and major hurdle: Cottonwood Pass. 14 more miles of dirt up to 12,126 feet, then it was down hill all the way back to the car. My knees hurt, my legs ached and my sitsbones were rubbed raw. Even with all the suffering, I was still able to look out across the valleys and appreciate how lucky I was to be out just riding my bike.
When we finally got back into town and rolled up to the car, there was no finish line, no friends or fans to greet us, just a the 3 hour drive looming a head. And that was just fine with me. I didn’t agree to join for a bike jersey or ribbon that would tell fellow cyclists what I had done. I did it purely for the sake of trying to do something that I wasn’t sure was possible. If you don’t ever try to push past your limits, you’ll never know what you’re fully capable of. I don’t know if I will ever finish the loop, I may or I may not, but either way I’m not left with a feeling of disappointment I didn’t accomplish the goal I set out to do. I was proud that I tried. Failure is inevitable on the road of life. As any true hardman of the peloton will tell you, that’s okay as long as you keep riding.
Big thanks to Sports Garage, Ritte Cycles, Capo Cycling Apparel, Stages Power Meter for their support."
Thanks for sharing, Alex!