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This past weekend I chose to skip our local 12 hour race to join the freaks in AZ for Dejay Birtch’s birthday party ride, AKA SSAZ.  This was my third and by far the best one yet.  Dejay surprised us all with a shuttle partway up Mt. Lemon so we could ride Bug Springs.  After instructions, a hundred or so riders took off up the road for a couple of miles before linking up with the trailhead.  I hung out in the top 5 or so and then we hit dirt….which went up…which meant everyone was walking…..or running in the case of some little guy with a 99% carbon full rigid rig with really narrow bars.  AZT honch Dr. Kurt Refsnider was hot on his heals and I sat back in 10th or so, waiting to warm up.  Bugs was awesome and I only dabbed in a couple of spots.  Not bad for never having been on that little beast.

After Bugs we crossed the Catalina Hwy to hit the AZT down to Prison Camp.  That section was fun and still had plenty of gnar.  When I reached the parking area at Prison Camp, I shed some clothes and tried to eat something.  Crossing the highway again we headed up to Molino Basin.  As soon as the trail got a bit techy, I saw a dropped Luna bar…nuts over chocolate…opened up but not bitten into with no dirt or ants on it.  Score!  Turns out it belonged to my buddy Mark who I eventually caught on the climb.  Thanks buddy.  It was delicious.  The decent down Molino was tougher than I remember and Mark got around me there and proceeded to school everyone in the vicinity.  After that, there was a bit of climbing mixed with techy mixed with 2-track.  I stomped a couple of climbs and found myself around 3 or 4 other riders.  I grabbed a cookie in the comfort station and headed up Bolletello Rd. to hook up with Reddington Rd.  While climbing the Bolletello, the flyweight on the 99% carbon bike came around me.  He must have gotten lost somewhere.  Eventually I made it to Reddington Rd and headed down to Chivas.  I didn’t see many tracks and doubted my route finding, but I got to Chivas without being run over or shot.

Chivas was hammered with recent rains and of course anyone with a lift kit and 4×4 thrashes the hell out of that section.  I caught flyweight again who claimed he was fixing a flat and then he passed me when I stopped for a bottle that flew out of my King Ti Cage.  The route eventually took us to the secret stash and I soon found myself looping through the woods with Robin from Grand Junction.  Headed up the sandy wash, I only saw two or three tracks in front of me.  Seriously?  Dudes must have dropped or taken wrong turns…..or stopped for bowls in the woods somewhere.

Back on the AZT, I eventually crossed Reddington again with Robin not far behind.  I was far enough ahead of him that I did solo gate duty as I didn’t see him after I got them opened.  Eventually he caught me on some descending and we rolled into the comfort station again where I made myself a nice mixer with Hornitos and 7Up.  It warmed me nicely.  I had to walk/jog about 50 yards down the wash to my bike where it had been transported by a helpful party goer.  Apparently there were only two riders ahead of us…Kurt and the flyweight.  Pleased as punch to be kind of at the front, I made my way into La Milagrosa….where my slight buzz from the tequila did not help my flow at all.  I walked more than the other two times I had been down it.  I tried to take in some of the views and not think about how tired my arms were.  At just over 4.5 hours and 42 miles, I rolled into the party/finish as the fourth finisher, signed in, and grabbed pizza.

The rest of the evening consisted of  catching up with friends, watching finishers try to find the sign in sheet, eating lots of pizza, checking out the grounds of the host’s estate, playing with the kiddo and the dog, eating more pizza, checking out some seriously amazing bikes, enviously staring at a titanium bong whose owner had a huge canister of medicinal marijuana, and trying to find something in the prize stash that would fit me.

Once again Dejay hosted an amazing ride with the raddest crew of riders around…..some who finished well after sunset.  This course had the most gnarly descending of any event I’ve ever done in the least amount of mileage.  I’d almost say it was too much gnar per mile, but then that might make me seem like a pussy….which I kind of categorized myself as since I ran a 32×21 and was kicking myself for not running at least a 21….or as the Back of the Pack Racing crew says…32xFU or 32xYM….or something like that.  I carried too much food and water and wished I had run a full sus rig like I did the last time I rode this thing.

Sorry for no pics.  If you want to see pics, go to Facebook.  I didn’t take any and I don’t feel like stealing pics and trying to credit the correct folks.

If you are wondering why I chose this over the 12 Hours of Old El Paso, I have several reasons.  1.  I’ve won the overall solo (on a SS) twice and took 2nd the first time I did it when Adam Hoppe beat me on a geared bike.  2.  The 12 Hour was never officially announced until several months after Dejay announced SSAZ.  3.  I just couldn’t bring myself to ride laps around Lazy Cow and Mad Cow when I knew a record 13 or 14 laps on that stuff wouldn’t come close to providing the amount of gnar the SSAZ course dished out in less than 45 miles.  4.  It’s SSAZ.  I got another patch and a few lessons on how to ride the gnar! ….and there were stacks of really good pizza.

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