The 2020 Pinyons and Pines brought in over 20 riders, 13 of whom scratched from the event. Find reflections from the women’s and men’s first place finishers (and current record holders), Rylee Sweeney and Brendan Heinig, below. Photos courtesy of Veronika Hewitt, Michael Krause, and Elizabeth Sampey.
Highlights of Pinyons and Pines, by Rylee Sweeney
I got really excited about a little ticket that Dana, the race organizer, gave out that promised a free wood-fired pie from Pizzicletta if riders finished the route. As with most things after about six hours of cycling, the idea of my free pizza took on a disproportionately important role in my need to finish the route. Personal time goals and aspirations of cutting back on sleep disappeared, and all I could think of was a slightly blurred thin crust with goat cheese, sausage, and green onions dangling in front of my bicycle for the next two days, beckoning.
Passing ATVs on chunky dirt and then swooping up and down Sedona singletrack with riders Hannah and Liz, two women who know their gosh-darned way around a bicycle. Laughing, chatting, riding phenomenal trails with other ladies. What more could you ask for? A few hours before our resupply in Sedona, we had all stopped at the top of a hill and simultaneously finished the last of our water through our respective hydration hoses, making loud straw slurping noises and looking at each with wide eyes and incredulity at the coincidence. A few hours later, we ended up in Sedona, all trying to talk whilst gulping down deliciously cold Gatorade. I think my tongue is still bright purple.
Pinyons and Pines, when ridden during the fall times, isn’t an accurate description of the route because it omits the all-star MVP tree species of Populus tremuloides. The aspens created a tunnel of gold up Waterline Road that made me half-believe in vortexes. The yellow gold flitting leaves with the occasional crimson tree stole the show from its coniferous cousins. Perhaps “Aspens, Pinyons, and Pines, Oh My!” will be considered if the race is run in fall again.
Some of the more technical riding on the Arizona Trail, in and out of the canyons south of Flagstaff, was enough to cut two sidewall tears in my rear tire and a small rip in the nether region of my cutoff floral stretchy pants. The rip progressed over the next two days to expose my entire right butt cheek, which, if you’ve met me, is a sizable feat. After trying and failing to duct tape my spare surgical mask to my exposed right cheek, I started apologizing to folks I passed on the trail for my lack of modesty with something like, “Hey, have a good day! Sorry about my butt!”
Brendan Heinig’s Thoughts on the 2020 Pinyons and Pines
After accepting that the Tour Divide was not going to happen in 2020, I set my eyes on the fall season in hopes that some racing would be possible. Pinyons and Pines was delayed to October and I had heard good things about the course, so I left Colorado a few days before the race for my first visit to a very dry Arizona.
The race started with a neutral roll-out, some singletrack, and a well-maintained gravel road. The following doubletrack and singletrack was rougher and much slower than I anticipated. I ran out of water somewhere in the Sedona red rocks but eventually made it into town. Dana Ernst, who was in the lead, was just leaving the gas station as I rolled in.
After resupplying, the route climbed Schnebly Hill Road where I approached a badly cramping Dana. He had slowed his pace in hopes of recovering. After we talked for a couple of minutes, I pulled ahead onto some faster dirt roads. I spent the next ~55 miles solo until slashing my rear tire on a particularly chunky section of singletrack. I inserted a plug and while pumping the tire back up, I saw headlights coming down the trail. It was Dana! He was still hurting but the cramps had subsided slightly in the cooler night air. For the next 20 miles, he served as local trail guide and I was grateful to have a riding companion through the dark and unfamiliar terrain. We parted ways at mile 157 as Dana turned to finish the Pinyons Loop.
The next five hours of night riding were a blur. Dana had checked the tracker at the Conoco resupply, so I knew Cookie Mike was only a few miles behind. I focused on keeping stops short and my pace consistent. I reached SP crater at dawn. As the sun began to illuminate the landscape, I was blow away by its beauty.
The route turned west into a strong headwind after the crater. There were few good lines to follow on the wide washboard road but thankfully, after the AZT cache, the route turned onto tree-lined doubletrack. It was rough but the trees offered some respite from the wind. I attempted checking the tracker at the Parks General Store but had no cell service and had to assume that Mike was still close behind.
Twenty miles of dirt road later, the course turned onto the loose and deeply rutted Peaks Moto Trail. The hike-a-bike sections required carefully placed toeholds and the descents were exciting, to say the least! Dana warned that we might dislike the moto trail and he was mostly right! But looking back at it now, I can’t help but smile.
After another 20-something miles of singletrack, one minor flip over the handlebars, and nearly getting lost in the waning light of dusk, I rolled into Flagstaff. Katie Strempke, who had cracked her downtube near mile 150, was waiting at the finish. We enjoyed a beer and free pizza, courtesy of Pizzicletta! Thanks to Dana for putting together an amazing course and to Katie for the finish line celebration!
Congrats to everyone who participated in this year’s Pinyons and Pines. Find the official results for the event here.
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