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Photo: John Vargus

The Dirt: McElveen hopes White Rim record ignites FKT craze in MTB

Welcome to The Dirt, the weekly news round-up on what is happening in the worlds of gravel, mountain biking, and all things rough and dirty. McElveen rides 100-mile White Rim trail in 5:45 Blazing through the Moab desert at an average of 17.3mph, Payson McElveen (Orange Seal) rode the famous White Rim trail in 5 hours, […]

Welcome to The Dirt, the weekly news round-up on what is happening in the worlds of gravel, mountain biking, and all things rough and dirty.

McElveen rides 100-mile White Rim trail in 5:45

Blazing through the Moab desert at an average of 17.3mph, Payson McElveen (Orange Seal) rode the famous White Rim trail in 5 hours, 45 minutes. That’s 100 miles of rocky Utah desert with a little more than 6,000 feet of climbing on a mountain bike. With that impressive feat, McElveen believes he set a new record for the route, beating the time set by Andy Dorias in October 2016 of 5:59.

McElveen hopes to bring the “Fastest Known Time (FKT)” trend to mountain biking.

“We’re having an official FKT trophy being made, so if you go beat my time using the same start and end point, I’ll ship it to you,” McElveen said. “Records are made to be broken, so I hope the trophy exchanges hands many times!”

In the worlds of trail running and mountaineering, FKT has become a way to benchmark popular routes, giving elite athletes a target and fans and enthusiasts a source of inspiration. Mountain runner Kilian Jornet is one of the most prominent athletes to use FKT to highlight his exploits. In 2017 he set an FKT on Mount Everest — 26 hours.

Six years ago, another Red Bull-sponsored athlete, Rebecca Rusch, set an FKT on the Kokopelli Trail from Fruita, Colorado to Moab, riding the 142-mile route in 13:32:46.

McElveen

In the world of mountain biking, it isn’t as simple to determine how to set records on popular trails like White Rim. McElveen’s project required some research. He also had to decide which direction to ride the loop, settling on counter-clockwise.

“One of the goals of the project was to standardize an FKT loop,” said the U.S. national marathon mountain bike champion.

“The way [previous record holder] Andy [Dories] routed his, by starting at the bottom of the last major climb, is undoubtedly a faster way to do it. However, I believe that way is logistically prohibitive for a lot of people. We wanted to start and end at the most commonly used parking lot.”

However, mountain biking does have a valuable technology at its disposal to make FKT more common: GPS head units and Strava. There will still be course records prior to these high-tech innovations, but going forward, it is easier to catalog times.

McElveen said that anyone hoping to beat his record will need to be careful with their pacing, as it was almost his undoing.

“The first four hours really weren’t too bad. I started falling apart in the last hour, and that was unequivocally the toughest hour I’ve had on a bike to date,” he said.

“The 2,200-foot climb out of the canyons broke me physically and almost mentally. I had to dig deeper than I ever have. I was using every mental strategy I’d learned, and the support of my team, dad, sponsors, film crew, and spectators that had shown up helped lift me to the finish.”

Although he credits his team for buoying his spirits during the ride’s most difficult parts, McElveen rode the entire White Rim loop self-supported.

Have a look at his impressive ride on Strava. (And yes, he set a bunch of KOMs along the way.)

Kabush and Nash sweep Moab Rocks stage race

Also in Moab, Utah, Geoff Kabush (Yeti) and Katerina Nash (Clif Bar) won the Moab Rocks stage race in convincing fashion over the weekend. They won each of the three stages in their respective races to wrap up overall victories on Sunday.

The race began with a stage climbing out of Moab to Porcupine Rim trail, which then descended to finish before the singletrack at the bottom. Kabush won ahead of Cal Skilsky (CZ Racing) by 1:18. Marlee Dixon (Pivot-Pearl Izumi) was second to Nash in that stage, 7:50 back.

For stage 2, they raced 25 miles of singletrack at Klondike Bluffs, where Kabush extended his lead by 24 seconds. Nash came home more than 10 minutes ahead.

And finally, Kabush and Nash put a cherry on top with stage wins in the 28-mile stage 3 around the Mag7 trail system. In the end, Kabush won the overall by 7:37 ahead of Skilsky. Justin Lindine (Apex-NBX) was third overall in the pro men’s race. Nash won the pro women’s overall by 15:12 ahead of Karen Jarchow (Topeak-Ergon). Dixon finished third overall.

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