One-geared off-road enthusiasts from around the globe have been converging on Durango, Colorado, during the past few days in preparation for the Singlespeed World Championships (SSWC). This year's championship happens Saturday on a 22-mile course though many are using the event as a good excuse for several days of riding and exploring in and around Durango.
Carl Decker will be on hand to defend his title from last year in the men's race, but 2008 winner Rachel Lloyd will be absent from the women's race.
After riding about half of the course yesterday, Decker was impressed. "The first part is a parade through town. Then there is a singletrack and a five-minute uphill walk. Throughout the course, there is a lot of ledge-y sandstone stuff. I think you're on rock more than you're on dirt."
"There will be a lot of walking for most people. It's really technical, especially up on the ridge, where there are trials moves required. There are many danger arrows due to the nasty exposure on one side. On your right is a death drop into the woods below."
"I've never ridden any trail like it," said Decker, who will have to contend with other favorites like local Ned Overend, Rad Ross Schnell and Travis Brown for the title. Andy Schultz, Jesse LaLonde and Barry Wicks are also on the start list.
"I think my chances are pretty good for defending," said Decker. "My bike works only with a certain gear which is lower than most people's and good for this course although some people will be on duallies (Decker will be on a hardtail - ed.), which is good for this course."
He noted an important factor in deciding the race. "It might come down to who wants the tattoo." Singlespeed worlds winners are required to get a tattoo to go along with their title, and not everyone is excited about the prospect of body ink.
Lloyd was disappointed she'd be missing the race. "I really wanted to go and I heard it will be crazy with thousands of people there, and that it'll be bigger than when a World Cup was there. I'm in school and I just can't get away for the weekend"," said Lloyd.
Her absence leaves the door open for a rider like Kelli Emmett, who is returning to racing after a broken finger sustained while racing a local event in Burlington, Vermont.
"It's my first race back. I got my cast off last week, but I was able to get out and ride a lot on my road bike while I had it," said Emmett. "I also rode some dirt roads on my singlespeed mountain bike to prepare." Emmett laughed as she recounted one unsuccessful attempt to mountain bike with the cast. "I needed my fix, but it was too hard to hold on." The Giant rider is preparing for racing much of the upcoming cyclo-cross season.
Thanks to plenty of recent rain, the course is not dusty. The forecast for Saturday includes more storms and 60-degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures.
The Singlespeed World Championships is not sanctioned by the UCI.