BT Epic race report time! About a month ago I stumbled across this event on the internet randomly. BT stands for Berryman Trail, which is a retired IMBA Epic trail system in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. I'd actually ridden the IMBA Epic twice over the years and I knew it was an extremely high quality and fun trail. My girlfriend Linnea and I hopped in the car on Thursday and drove the five hours west to Steelville, MO. We decided to camp for free in the National Forest right at the Berryman Trail campground which the race passes through. Camping is something I have done a lot more of this year and it really adds a fun, different aspect to an event.
On Friday I pre-rode the last 16ish miles of the course. It accidentally turned into a 2.5 ride which was not what I intended prior to a four-hour race. However, it paid dividends on race day since I had plenty of intel for the KOM prize as well as when/where I attacked.
On Saturday morning I was up at 5 am to fuel properly for the 8 am start. It was quite chilly when I hopped out of the tent in the dark! Then we rolled to the race venue to get dressed and warm-up. They started the race with a revolver and we rolled out slowly. As we got into the first gravel climb things started to heat up. With a few rollers left in the start climb, I attacked hard. I was able to stay away and made it into the single track at mile three in first place, securing the $100 KOM bonus.
From there I needed to recover from that hard start effort and Jimmy Smith, an enduro world series rider took the lead. Our group shrunk down to three people and Jimmy stayed on the gas. At mile 23 we went through the Berryman Trail campground where Linnea was waiting for me with a bottle hand-up. I also dropped my Camelbak Chase Vest and arm warmers there. I planned that specifically to carry my water and food for the first two hours, in my Camelbak. I kept my flat repair stuff/tools and my gels for hours 2-4 in my jersey pockets.
From there we kept rolling fast. Nate Kullborn yo-yoed back and forth a little bit and around mile 27 he disappeared for a few minutes. Simultaneously Jimmy started to slow down a little bit and seemed to be tiring. I had just taken a caffeinated gel, was feeling good, and we were approaching the part of the course I knew well, so I decided to hit it! I attacked hard up a long-ish climb and established a gap. From there I was all in. Full gas for the win or die trying. Thankfully it worked and I was able to grow my gap slowly throughout the next 1:45 minutes of racing to win by six minutes and beat the course record by over five minutes. It was without a doubt one of the hardest races I have done. 50 miles, 3:52min of race time, and 5400ft of climbing. I had to dig incredibly deep to finish it off because I didn't really know how close second and third place were to me. It turns out they were not right on my wheel, but I wasn't going to risk it!
On Sunday Linnea and I went for one more beautiful ride on a different part of the Ozark Trail. It was truly gorgeous and so much fun to ride rural, seldom used backcountry singletrack. I'm grateful to be able to spend more time in the woods racing my bike and camping with Linnea.
All in all, this was one of the most fun race weekends I have done in a long time. It was just such a rad and fun event. Great people, tasty food/drinks and an all around amazing atmosphere. Thank you to Scottie and his team for hosting such a phenomenal event.