Words and photos by Eszter Horanyi (@ez_gone_coddiwompling)
For someone who hadn’t done a bikepacking race in the lower 48 before this summer, Ana Jager of Anchorage, Alaska, made a mark on the bikepacking world. After winning the women’s Tour Divide and placing second at the Colorado Trail Race earlier this year, she capped off her season by winning both the Arizona Trail 300 and 800, finishing the border-to-border route in 12 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes. At the finish, she was quick to remove her shoes and socks, revealing blisters and sores, feet thrashed from the previous 800 miles.
To get to the Utah border from the border of Mexico, she’d pedaled through the hot temperatures, overgrowth, and spiky plants of the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona, ridden through the pinons and mountains of central Arizona, dealt with below-freezing temperatures up on the Mogollon Rim, and then carried her bike on her pack 26 miles through the Grand Canyon. And to top it off, the race finished with 75 more miles of trail, some of which was snow-covered. Finishing the AZTR800 after completing Tour Divide and the CTR makes Ana the second woman ever to finish the Bikepacking Triple Crown after Alice Drobna completed the challenge in 2015.
The final outcome of this year’s 800-mile race never felt certain, with highly experienced Alexandera Houchin riding within half a day Ana for most of the northern part of the route. The two women, incredibly well matched in speed as could be seen by their very close finishes in the Colorado Trail Race earlier this year, rode close to each other for the first two days of the route. Alexandera then chose to take the Lemmon Pusch Alternate, taking trails up to the top of Mount Lemmon north of Tucson instead of the highway. The extra trail put about a 13-hour gap between the two women, and while it looked like Alexandera might be able to close it, Ana kept on with her relentlessly steady pace through the central part of the state, ensuring she never got caught.
A lot has to come together to be able to finish the AZTR800. Even more has to come together to finish the Triple Crown. And for the casual observer, Ana made it look easy. In June, she rode away with the Tour Divide win in 19 days and 54 minutes. Then, in July, she showed up to the CTR on a borrowed bike and put together a strong challenge for Alexandera, the two women getting to Silverton, the final resupply just 84 miles from the finish, together. Ana would roll in to the finish at Junction Creek just a few hours after the new women’s CTR course-record holder to finish second, also breaking the old course record. Then, to cap off an amazing year, she took all of her skills, and a new Spearfish compliments of Salsa Cycles, down to the Mexico/Arizona border and proceeded to put on a masterclass on bikepacking. All three were incredible performances to watch, especially given that prior to this year, very few people in the bikepacking world had known the name Ana Jager. After this summer, it’s fair to say that that’s changed.
There’s still lots of trail left for those out on course. Head over to the event page to follow along live. Eszter’s website, TheTownBicycle.com has more women-focused coverage from the event as well.
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