There was a collapsing, cramping competitor at the finish line brought back to his feet by a frosty beverage, a finisher who had to jump on a borrowed bike right before the race due to a flat in warmups, and comparisons of the flesh markings caused by wicked roots and crashes in the sticky mud.
Yep, Psychocross 2016 at Tsalteshi Trails was a complete success.
Now in its fifth year, the mountain biking event, put on by the Tsalteshi Trails Association, continues to grow.
In 2012, the event was nine miles long and had nine finishers, while those numbers were 10 and 19 in 2013, 14.4 and 19 in 2014, 14 and 18 in 2015 and 19.5 and 23 this year.
The event is a finale to the Soldotna Cycle Series, which had nine races this year and wrapped up at the end of August.
“We were able to feature the new singletrack Tsalteshi put in this summer,” said Mark Beeson, who organized the race. “Anecdotally, cycling is definitely growing out here. I’ve noticed a lot more people out doing it.”
About six miles of the 19.5-mile course, which had 2,400 feet of elevation gain and loss, was singletrack. A solid portion of that was new trail zigzagging down the massive hill that drivers encounter on the climb from Soldotna to Skyview Middle School.
Repeat winners Nathan Kincaid, 29, of Kenai and Angie Brennan, 42, of Soldotna, both raved about what the new singletrack added to Psychocross.
“The new singletrack put in by Ptarmigan Ptrails is phenomenal,” Kincaid said. “You can’t do it and not grin.”
Brennan said the roller-coaster downhill ride actually gives her incentive long before she reaches it.
“It’s so fun, and I’m actually pretty fast on it,” she said. “I try to get past everybody I can before the top of the hill so I can go down as fast as I can.”
Kincaid finished in 1 hour, 45 minutes and 34 seconds to defend his title from last year, while Eric Thomason, 42, of Kenai was second at 1:47:44 and Brian Beeson was third at 1:51:23.
Kincaid started racing bikes last summer when his uncle, Carl Kincaid got him into it.
“It took me the first week to love it,” he said. “Racing bikes is awesome.”
Despite holding a steady lead throughout the race, a recent incident kept him from feeling safe until he crossed the finish line.
Kincaid said he was “bit by the Squirrel” loop while doing some recent training.
“I was being a bit aggressive on an easy trail and lost a bit of skin,” he said.
With nine races in the books heading into Psychocross, most of the racers knew one another. But Thomason, dressed in black and riding a fat-tire bike, was a relative unknown as he took his place near the front of the pack and eventually passed Beeson for second.
“I got a new bike a few weeks ago, so now I can come out here and race,” he said.
Thomason is a big road biker, putting in 100 to 150 miles a week. He also is training for the Kenai River Marathon.
“Endurance is what did it for me,” he said. “This is an 18-mile race. I’m sure most of these guys could beat me in a sprint.”
Brennan won for the third straight year and was the lone woman to complete all three 6.5-mile laps. Her time was 2:03:47, good for ninth place overall. Jen Showalter was second amongst the women.
There was a time cutoff that riders had to hit in order to complete the last lap.
In previous years, Psychocross was just one massive lap. But Brennan remembers the long hours organizers had to put in to flag such a massive course, and said the new format is a good idea.
“This was hard,” she said. “Eighteen miles plus of riding out here is hard. That’s 2:03 of riding.”
Trevor Slaughter was the lone youth rider to complete all three laps, while Dylan Hogue was second amongst youth.
While Beeson credited racers during the awards ceremony for getting through a monster cycling season, cyclocross, which is another bike-racing series at Tsalteshi, is just around the corner.
The Chainwreck Cyclocross Series begins Thursday at 6:15 p.m. at the Wolverine trailhead. Check Tsalteshi’s Facebook page for more details.
19.5 miles at Tsalteshi Trails
1. Nathan Kincaid 1:45:34; 2. Eric Thomason 1:47:44; 3. Brian Beeson 1:51:23; 4. Tony Eskelin 1:52:01; 5. Tyle Owens 1:53:19; 6. Eric Willets 1:58:09; 7. Tommy Kobylarz 1:59:15; 8. Matt Neisinger 1:59:28; 9. Angie Brennan 2:03:47 – 1st Place Womens; 10. Kevin Lauver 2:05:06; 11. Scott Huff 2:05:36; 12. Jamie Nelson 2:06:05; 13. Will Morrow 2:12:44; 14. Peter DiCarlo 2:16:43; 15. Trevor Slaughter 2:27:42 – 1st Place Youth; 16. Rob Carson 1:29:51 (2 Laps); 17. Carl Kincaid 1:48:03 (2 Laps); 18. Dylan Hogue 1:48:48 – 2nd Place Youth (2 Laps); 19. Landon Showalter 1:48:48 – 3rd Place Youth (2 Laps); 20. Jen Showalter 1:52:55 – 2nd Place (2 Laps); 21. James Showalter 1:54:21 (2 Laps); 22. Ashley Tonione 1:59:48 – 3rd Place Womens (Some Laps); 23. Ethan Hogue 2:06:32 (2 Laps).