Words by Bobby Kennedy (@saltyandstupidcycling), photos by Sam Rice, Cason Carroll, Jackie Baker, Tim Tait, and Jeff Sumsion
Against all odds and in defiance of common sense, the second inaugural Stupid Pony took place on Oct. 2, pitting riders against their own better judgement in a race/ride from Eagle Mountain, UT, to Wendover, UT, on a 220-mile route on nearly 95% “gravel.” Did it hurt? Yes. Was it a good idea? No. Hell no.
Everyone gathered at the Pony Express Memorial Park in Eagle Mountain in sub-freezing temps to kick off the insanity. Riders picked up their plates in puffies and tights, huddled in their cars for warmth, or fiddled with straps on all manner of frame bags. After a rousing cheer of our motto – “Nobody dies!” – the first socially distanced flight took off.
Unlike the 2019 edition, the route dove south through Cedar Valley after the Camp Floyd monument before turning west over Twelve Mile Pass. In the predawn cold, the massive clouds of drought-leavened dust fell flat onto the valley floor, spreading out like pools of water. The gravel started immediately and claimed underinflated tires just as quickly. Over Twelve Mile, the road surface deteriorated into liquid dust; riders raised cyclones of silt.
The washboard became general through Faust. The drought had turned decent road into the exception. The washboard was particularly bad across Rush Valley, growing less fearsome on the long climb to Lookout Pass. Lookout Pass feels like the entry to the West Desert. From the winding, loose descent into Dugway Valley, riders could see nearly to Simpson Springs some 20 miles away, the land falling away to the ancient seabed.
Grinding to the aid station at Simpson Springs, 73 miles in, the road ran the gamut from hardpack to loose gravel with occasional sandtraps. The antelope and horses that hide in the wide nothing of the valley greeted the riders. North of the aid station, a massive burn scar stained the bottom of the valley black, a blot neatly circumscribed by the straight lines of dirt roads.
Turning West from Simpson Springs and the luxurious mercy of buckets of Hammer HEED and bunches of bananas served from the back of a Ford F-150 King Ranch, the riders faced a seemingly more manageable 40 miles to the Fish Springs station. That 40 miles hurt. As in the previous year, the crux of the ride sat squarely at the top of Dugway Pass. To get there, riders crossed the remainder of Dugway Valley – 30 miles with nary a bend and dozens of washes, sand traps, and “poofers,” silt beds covering hard gravel. Combined with a 15-mile false flat uphill to the summit, which kicked up to 20% in its final pitches, the road over Dugway wrecked riders willy-nilly; some took quicky naps on the summit before bombing toward the geode beds.
The final 10 miles to Fish Springs were buff compared to the carnage of Dugway Valley but still alternated between washboard, bedrock, and stretches of sandy hero dirt. The massive wetlands and flocks of birds were otherworldly after miles of rabbitbrush and drought-blasted dust. The Hyperthreads official adventure van waited for riders with Chex Mix and Cokes. Many riders chose to hang out at Fish Springs in the precious shade of the van before wearily sauntering along the base of the hills toward Callao.
The low oaks and irrigated fields of Callao stood out at the valley bottom after a hundred miles of juniper and sand. Riders had to cross the dead-straight dusty valley to get there, but the relative shade was refreshing. Finally, after winding along the one and only road through Callao, riders turned north toward Wendover, still 70 miles away.
Shortly after the northern bend, the Pony Express cut upward into the Deep Creek mountains, climbing Overland Canyon. The canyon was a new addition to the route that led everyone up the sinuous, sometimes steeply rolling, but blessedly firm road beneath the watchful remains of the Pony Express’s Canyon Station. The canyon opened onto the massive Clifton Flats above Gold Hill, where the route finally departed the traditional Pony Express.
As night clamped shut, they descended the ripping mining road toward Gold Hill, which was firm as a rumble strip. Karen and Randy Shepherd, patron saints of last year’s Gold Hill station, were waiting with its new owners and a tent substituting for last year’s indoor shindig. Hooch, snacks, Hammer Nutrition HEED waited for utterly exhausted riders, whose ranks by now had thinned severely over 150 miles of dust and washboard. Several riders called it quits immediately after reaching Gold Hill, diving or dragging themselves into the SAG wagons after a battering day on the bike and as the nighttime temps fell back toward freezing.
The final 60 miles from Gold Hill to Wendover also changed from the previous year, this time skirting north along the eastern edge of the Deep Creeks above the floor of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Riders were treated to forgiving sandy hardpack for the majority of the route to Blue Lake, a mildly geothermal pond in the middle of the desert (i.e., don’t drink the water). After Blue Lake, constant use and drought had produced truly wicked washboard and moondust on the final climb of any significance. Even here, with only tens of miles left to the promise of pizza and the succor of a hotel bed and shower, several riders called it quits. If the riders made it to Hwy 93, though, it was literally all downhill into the bright lights of West Wendover and the somewhat-less-bright lights of the Wendover Airfield Museum.
All told, only 12 people crossed the line under their own power. Some of the SAG vehicles barely made it back under their own power. Tim Tait pulled into the newly lit finish line first, clocking in at 13h 46m. Jackie Baker, the very model of stoicism and snack-aptitude, crossed the finish line first in the women’s category for the second time in two years at 20h 29m.
Baker and Tait pulled on the traditional used/abused T-Shirts of Glory as the winners the next morning. Ashley King and Jeff Sumsion (who by then was already out riding the Salty Lizard 100 century to win the Stupid Lizard) went home with spiffy new CCC gravel wheelsets from new sponsor Boyd Cycling. At noon, a complimentary Le Bus shuttle picked up the remaining riders to drag their bones back to their cars in Eagle Mountain.
It was big, needlessly difficult, and brutally stupid, but no one died, so we’re doing it all again next year!
Jackie Baker’s “Lil G” Breadwinner G-Road
- Bike: Breadwinner G-Road
- Wheels: 650B WTB Frequency i23 wheels
- Power: Schmidt Dynamo SON front hub
- Light: Sinewave Beacon light
- Drivetrain: Sram Rival 1×11, 36T Wolftooth Chainring, E13 9×46 cassette
- Saddle: WTB Silverado saddle
- Handlebars: Easton EA70 AX bars
- Brakes: TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes
- Tires: Kenda Small Block 8 tubeless 650×2.1 tires
- Bags: All custom from BroadFork Bags
From Jackie: “I wore an Osprey Dyna 1.5L hydration vest and also carried a 3L bladder of water, which I used to refill the vest and my on-the-bike water bottle, which had my hydration/electrolyte mix. Even with the “frequent” water stations, it got hot enough that I used most of the 3L back-up water. Revel Gear Day Tripper power bank to be able to charge both my iPhone and Wahoo Roam GPS simultaneously with the Sinewave if needed. It’s also a super bright light, should another light fail. Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp on my helmet for back-up lighting, digging for snacks, etc. Kit was IRIS jersey and chamois with a rear clip for easy pee-sies. I used leg warmers and had a light and heavy set of gloves. Also, a wind vest and windproof Rapha jacket that was warm enough for this year’s temps. In fact, I only wore the leg warmers in the morning. I took 1 tube, 1 small bottle of Stan’s sealant, a small bottle of Dumond Tech lube, Stan’s Darts, and a few CO2s and didn’t have to use anything but the lube–and only once (as you might be able to tell from the pics). Of course multi-tool, hand pump, etc.”
Tim Tait’s Ibis Hakka MX
- Bike: Ibis Hakka MX with Boltcutter Adventure Fork
- Wheels: Enve AR 4.5 Aero wheels
- Tires: Specialized Pathfinder tires (42 front/ 38 rear)
- Drivetrain: Sram Rival 1×11, 44T chainring with a 10-42 cassette
From Tim: “3L water capacity: 2L in pack and 1L bottle in frame bag. 1L bottle had 1,000 calorie solution to start as it was too cold to consume calories any other way. I took about 1,200 calories in gels, plus the 1,000 bottle, plus a few clif bars. In total I had about 3000 calories as we rolled out of Eagle Mountain. Each aid station I just refilled on water, discarded trash and picked up a few more snacks. In and out of aid stations in less than five minutes. Repair kit had two tubes, bacon strips, flat patches, RD hanger, quick link, tire lever and the best high volume frame pump I could find. Glad I had the HV pump as I quickly had to reinflate some slow leaks roadside, about 10 times. I did not bring any chain lube, and didn’t need it. I’m using that SCC slick stuff and it is no joke all day desert stuff. Emergency Bivvy, just in case. Clothes (outside of base gear) – arm warmers, leg warmers, light jacket, buff and winter gloves. Even with a good set of gloves, my hands were numb for the first 2 hours. should have tucked some hot hands in there to start. It was fucking cold! I forgot sunscreen, and paid dearly for it.”
Stupid Pony 2020 Results
In the men’s category, Tim Tait finished first with a time of 13 hours, 46 minutes, 25 seconds, followed closely behind by Evan Lunt with a time of 14 hours, 35 minutes, 31 seconds. Jackie Baker took first place in the women’s category with a time of 20 hours, 29 minutes, 26 seconds, followed by Leah Genth at 21 hours, 8 minutes, 4 seconds. Congrats to everyone who participated!
The 2021 Stupid Pony event is already scheduled for October 8th. Learn more here.