Photos by Carl Anderson
The Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400 is a mountain bike race traversing some of Idaho’s diverse geography on two-track, forest service roads, challenging singletrack, some hike-a-bike, and a few paved roads. This 400ish mile loop features nearly 41,000 feet of climbing with expansive views. The route was tweaked slightly this year, promising to be “more scenic and challenging,” and according to some of the finishers so far, it lived up to the hype.
Boise local Jeremy Ward took an early lead in the race, riding nearly non-stop for 200 miles before a ride-ending mechanical stopped him in his tracks. Tim Root fell into first place heading to Redfish Lake and Stanley, resting a few hours at the lake before pressing on. Around the 280-mile mark, both Tim and Lucas Muniz scratched from the event, and Dan Kelly snuck into first place. Dan rode neck-and-neck with Mike Atkins right up until the last few miles of the route but finished first around might on Friday with a time of 2 days, 20 hours, and 14 minutes. According to Smoke ‘n’ Fire organizer Norb DeKerchove, Dan is the first person to win the Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400 on a singlespeed. Mike finished just 11 minutes later! Third and fourth-place finishers Michael Mcnutt and Tyler Rumburg came into Boise around 6 a.m. Saturday morning with a time of 3 days, 2 hours, and 5 minutes.
Sarah Konefal took first place for the women with a time of 3 days, 15 hours, and 48 minutes. Karoline Droege took second, and Cassidy Howard finished in third. There were a total of 17 women signed up for live tracking this year, which included an individual time trial and Laura Heiner, the mastermind behind the Idaho Women’s Bikepacking Group, who rode the route in reverse (Fire ‘n’ Smoke) and finished around five hours ahead of Cassidy. Congrats to everyone who has finished so far!
2023 Smoke ‘n’ Fire Route
By Norb DeKerchove
This year, there were two significant enhancements to the 10th edition of the Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400. My goal is always to find incredible dirt, both singletrack and two-track, and eliminate as much road as possible. With the new route for 2023, we are nearly 90% off road. Elevation increased and so did the hike-a-bike. When I was doing recon, it felt like a cross between the Tour Divide and the Colorado Trail. Two other riders who finished the race thought the same thing.
The first “new” section was added due to a road closure, and we call Cape Reflection. Although if this section stays in the race for 2024, it may be renamed Cape Rejection! This soul-crushing section is brutal and beautiful. It did not add any more miles, but pound for pound, this is a tough 17-mile section featuring stout singletrack, rocky steeps, and lots of hike-a-bike. But it’s worth it in my humble opinion. This revision eliminated about three miles of pavement.
The second “new” section is Scott Mountain, and this year, riders continue climbing another four miles to the Scott Mountain Lookout. The reward is some fine singletrack off the backside, affectionately named The Ail Trail. This area is also rigorous, and riders are on and off the bike. There’s some unwanted vegetation, generous rocks, off-camber trail and such, but it is truly a super cool descent all the way into Garden Valley, with a final long and fast rip to the highway. This revision eliminated roughly 12 miles of the Banks-Lowman Highway.
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