Silver Rush 50 Race Report, Part 1: A Fool and His Tool

07.19.2018 | 10:01 am

I recently interviewed Kimo Seymour (SVP at Life Time over the Leadville race among many other things). At some point, we started talking about the Silver Rush 50, and he asked me what I think of the way it begins.

Not prepared to have the tables turned and be asked questions, I forgot to be diplomatic and was instead bluntly honest. “I think it’s stupid,” I said.

See, the Silver Rush 50 begins with a mass start, with everyone pushing or carrying their bikes up a steep sledding hill (watch this video someone made to get a sense of the start). Which is ridiculous. And that’s…well, stupid.

But I mean that in a nice way. Honest.

Proper Attitude

With the shotgun fired and the race started, my pre-race nerves magically evaporated, as they always do. It is so weird how that happens. Somehow the transition from future to present makes all the difference in my head.

The Hammer and I shouldered our full-suspension Specialized Epics and trudged up the hill, losing each other almost instantly. That was OK, though, it was never the plan that we’d start together — although we had a fallback plan that if I wasn’t having a banner day I’d let (ha!) The Hammer catch me and we’d do the race together.

The important things were, in this order: we’d stay upright and uninjured, have fun, ride hard, and finish well.

Most of these things, you’ll eventually see, would in fact happen.

Together Again

With hundreds of people marching dozens across up a hill, it should be no surprise that when you get to the top of the hill and it funnels into a downhill doubletrack (which narrows to singletrack!) back to the bottom of the hill, things really slow down.

Somehow, The Hammer and I wound up right in the same place in this funnel, and — as nice as could be — The Hammer let me go first. Which is good, because I was fully prepared to elbow her out of my way to get pole position, if necessary.

We got down the trail to the bike path — slower than walking speed — then went briefly along the bike path (at more or less walking speed) and then got onto dirt road.

And then the real race was on.

Sounds and Sensations

I felt good and wanted to see if I could (maybe?) finish this race close to five hours. Maybe even under five hours! So I passed often, moving forward in the field, until I finally found a group where passing would have meant going deeply into the crimson-red zone. I settled in and did my best to hang.

And then I felt a weird sensation — not new, and certainly not welcome.

A “squish.” A certain vagueness to my sense of the trail. I’ve felt it when I’ve ridden on loamy soil or pine needles. I’ve felt it when riding on sand or deep gravel.

And, of course, I’ve felt it when my rear tire has started going soft.

“Well, there is sand here, and the ground is soft, and there are pine trees,” I told myself, unconvincingly. “It could just be that.”

Then there was a new sensation, and honestly it’s not easy for me to say whether it’s a sound or a feeling transmitted through your sit bones, but it’s pretty clear what it is: the thunk feeling of when you go over a rock or root or anything hard and your tire bottoms out, so the rim hits the ground.

I pulled over to the side of the jeep road, put a foot down, pivoted around and pinched my tire.



The Big Question(s)

Back in the old days, when you got a flat, your to-do list was simple and obvious. You get out your spare tube, find what had caused the flat, fixed the offending part of the tire, and replace the tube.

Nowadays, it’s a more complicated question. Or, really set of questions. Plural.

Where is the flat anyway? Is there a hole in my tire? Is it obvious? Or did I just burp my tire? Will sealant plug this if I just put some CO2 in? Did I bring enough CO2 that I can take that risk?

In the heat of the race, I didn’t even ask those questions, though. I just got off my bike, got out my multi-tool  (necessary since my axles need a 6mm hex wrench to be removed) and started removing the rear wheel axle.

And then the possibility that this might self-seal while rolling occurred to me.

“I’ll just leave the tool in the axle while I add some air to see if it holds,” I thought, very very sagely. “That way if it’s obviously leaking I’m all set to finish removing the wheel.”

The Hammer rolled by. Mel (my stepdaughter, not the middle aged character from the diner sitcom, and not the actor with anger management issues) rolled by. Neither acknowledged me (or — so they both claim — saw me).

I got out one of the three 20g CO2 cartridges I had loaded into my (wonderful!) Camelbak Chase vest and inflated the tire. It looked good. I didn’t see any sealant bubbling out of a hole anywhere on the tire.

So I got back on my bike and started riding. I was back in the race.


When you have Shimano Di2 for your drivetrain, you shift very, very often. Because it’s super easy to do, and because your shifts always happen perfectly.

So of course within twenty or fifty feet or so, I shifted. I don’t remember whether it was up or down. But I do remember that it mis-shifted. Which just doesn’t happen on this bike.

Instantly, I knew what had happened. I had loosened my rear axle before deciding not to take the wheel off. And I hadn’t tightened it back in place.

Nor had I — I realized with a perfect blend of embarrassment and horror — put away my multi-tool. Which meant it would still be hanging from the axle.

Except, of course, it wasn’t. It had — sometime during the 50 feet or so that I had been riding — fallen out.

Without that tool, I couldn’t tighten my rear wheel axle. Without my rear wheel axle properly tightened, I couldn’t  ride.

So, I walked my bike back against the flow of cyclists, staring down intently, hoping I’d see that tool before I got to the spot where I’d taken it out.

I did not see that tool. So I laid the bike down and began walking up the trail again. Desperately looking for this tiny little tool without which I could not ride my bike.

“Are you OK? Do you need anything?”

“No, I’m fine,” I replied at first, when I was semi-confident I’d find the multi-tool. “Just dropped something.”

I did not find  the tool. I walked back toward the bike, slowly, scanning left and right. Mortified that I had maybe ended my race just a few miles in…because I had made a stupid STUPID STUPID absent-minded goof.

I’m very good at hating myself when I need to.

To The Rescue!

As I walked back and forth looking for this multi-tool, my friend Kevin Brooks rode by. “Are you OK? Do you need anything?” He asked.

My pride finally and utterly gone, I told him. “I was changing a tire and managed to lose my multi-tool and without it I can’t finish putting the wheel back on and get riding again,” I said.

Without hesitating, Kevin stopped and pulled out his own multi-tool and handed it to me. “Catch me and give it back,” he said. And rode on.

I was astonished by his generosity. Kevin’s wheel setup was like mine — through-axle wheels that requires a hex-wrench to loosen and tighten. He was giving up the ability to change his tire so I could change mine.

“Thank you,” I shouted, and ran back toward where my bike was.

I quickly found the largest hex wrench on the tool, opened it, and inserted it into my axle, ready to tighten this thing up and finally get back into the race.

It was too small.

I started laughing. Or maybe it was crying. Probably a mix. My fun with wheels wasn’t over. Indeed, it had only just begun.

Which seems like a perfectly miserable place for me to pick up in the next installment of this story.


  1. Comment by Boston Carlos | 07.19.2018 | 10:28 am

    that is the dumbest race course start I’ve ever seen.

  2. Comment by MattC | 07.19.2018 | 10:38 am

    Fatty, I’m laughing (with you of course) about your needing a hex wrench to undo the rear axle (Note to Specialized: that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard). My 12mm thru-axles on my gravel bike and mtb all have a QR type lever…no tool required, yet still a burly thru-axle. THAT. IS. SMART. Great story, really missed your cliffhangers the last year or so…if I haven’t said it before, it’s GREAT to have you back!

    Thanks for the kind words! It’s good to be back and telling stories.

    I have axles with handles on order. – FC

  3. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 07.19.2018 | 1:26 pm

    The Silver Rush start does have one really big plus, at least for one racer. The first racer up Dutch Henri hill gets a Leadville 100 entry coin, and this year a young guy from Holland MI was the fastest up the hill. A testament to his desire to gain entry and his athletic ability.
    I don’t feel so bad that he regularly dropped me on rides last summer.

  4. Comment by Bad Dad | 07.19.2018 | 3:54 pm

    i seem to remember an early Leadville story where a rollamajig was your undoing. That led (at least partially) to singlespeeding. What does this failur lead to? Unicycling?

    And yeah. You need tool-free skewers. Or skewers that are all tool.

  5. Comment by Corrine | 07.19.2018 | 9:28 pm

    What a start to a race! It has to get better from here on out? Right? Can’t wait to hear more.

  6. Comment by Tominalbany | 07.20.2018 | 5:27 am

    @Bad Dad: I’m loving that bright, anodized aluminum. It’s like the ’80s are back!

  7. Comment by MattC | 07.20.2018 | 8:02 am

    @ Bad Dad…WOW! That thru-axle/multi-tool is the BOMB! It’s freaking BRILLIANT!! Too bad my thru axels are all 12mm…what a great idea, thanks for posting the link! (I’ll pass this on to my 15mm thru-axel buddies). I will add a note to Industry Nine that it would be good to have a hex bit extension somehow included…many bolts are hard to reach and need a bit of extension. But other than that it’s an amazing invention!

  8. Comment by MattC | 07.20.2018 | 8:09 am

    Or maybe my “note” to Industry Nine is not necessary…maybe I don’t fully understand the tool…does it have a bit extension? I can’t really tell from the drawing…do you put the bits in the end of the axle? If so then I am stupid and it’s a PERFECT tool.

  9. Comment by MattC | 07.22.2018 | 2:47 pm

    Just a shout out to our own Yann Bertrand….a long time FOF…he did an Everest on Saturday (climbed 29,000+’ in one ride). Yann…you averaged 197 watts over 15 hours in the saddle (a bit over 18 hours cumulative time)!! Never knew anybody strong enough to do one of these before! WOW! Here’s his Strava link:

    Most impressive ride I’ve ever seen Yann, WELL DONE seems so lame! You are SO THE MAN!!


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