by Jason Mahokey
I wanted to share a pint and talk with Garth Prosser about his Hilly Billy Roubaix win after the race this past Saturday, but dealing with some dehydration and a tight schedule got the best of me. But through the magic of the Internet, Garth was kind enough to take time away from his hippie/baller lifestyle and answer my questions via email.
Congratulations on the win at the Hilly Billy! What lead to your decision to run your Specialized hardtail 29er pretty much “as is” for the race while most folks were bastardizing their bikes into monstercross rigs or running straight up cross bikes? Laziness or master plan? Can you tell us a little bit about your setup?
The bike was a 2012 Shimano XTR 2 x 10 equipped S-Works Stumpjumper hard tail, riding on 1.8 Specialized Renegades, 24/38 up front and 11/36 rear, on some hoochie carbon Roval wheels. I had some ideas I was mauling over, but basically got busy with out of town work on Friday and decided to leave the cassette alone, the one change I was mauling. I had my concerns about the smallish gears, then looked at my smallish quads and said “fuck it, 38 x 11 will do.” It worked at Southern Cross. My tire choice SUCKED at Southern Cross, so I did some research and asked some questions and found that Specialized makes a perfectly light small MTB tire in the 1.8 S-Works Renegade. This is the way to go at these races, it rolls like a CX tire, with less chance of flatting. I had 4 or 5 nasty flats at Southern Cross thanks to the wimpy CX tires I tried to run.
At what point did you know you had good legs and realize you were dropping riders in the lead group?
I felt good getting to the mud hole early on with only 10 or so guys, Steve Cummings said we needed to stay on the gas and get there with a small group to avoid a melee. We did, and managed to move through it without any incidents. I could tell after that that my wussy gearing was giving me a huge advantage climbing the rough stuff and I didn’t see any thick roadie legs sitting in the group, so I started getting confident we could stick it out. We would drop one or two guys on each downhill segment after that to Aid #1. Then there was a particularly nasty hill that took us down to 4 riders by the end of the run out on the downhill and that was it, maybe mile 30ish? I think there were several flats on that one that helped.
What lead to your decision to not stop at Aid Station #3 at mile 58? Was it a gut reaction once you got off the front?
I smelled some blood on Gerry Pflug on some of the later climbs, he was breathing hard, whether he knew it or not, and I thought either he is a great tactician, or the tick poison is working! There was a hot little gravel climb in the sun about 5 miles before Aid #3, I had no idea that the aid stop was coming, but I had just asked Todd Latocha what mileage he had and he said 58.5. We had just come through a really dry run of false flats after the gravel pit wash area, so everyone was really dried out. I went a little harder on the gas and at the top and there was a sizable gap but I couldn’t tell how much, as there was a curve and they were still behind the trees, so I just kicked a little bit and the next thing I knew, I was making a 180 turn onto pavement and I couldn’t see them.
After that I soon saw the aid station, and I checked my bottle; it was still at about half, so I kept going. It wasn’t a decision, I knew we had covered at least 60 by then, so 10 miles with 10 oz. on the road is not even a question for me. I planned from the start to slam 20 oz. right before the start, take 40 with me and get 44 more at Aid #2 where I dropped 2 bottles. I knew it was about 4 hours of racing, so 20 oz. per hour… I didn’t even think about stopping. Same as Aid #1.
After Aid #3, where did you realize that you were all alone and what were those last 12ish miles like for you?
I chanced a glance back after we crossed under the Interstate and saw no one, but you can never discount a group of 3 that late in a race. So I kept going as hard as I could without blowing up. The last few grinder climbs were hell! I couldn’t decide whether to stand and kill it or use the creeper gear and spin up. Near the top of each I would kick it the last few meters knowing I could recover on the down side. I was feeling a twinge in my thigh too after going really hard up the pavement after the road crossing where a fire truck was parked, so I did get a bit worried. I only relaxed when I turned into the school area and could see all the way down the hill behind me and no one was coming.
Photos from the finish (see above) show you crossing what appears to be the signs, salty, frothy dehydration around your mouth. What that indeed what was happening or did you put on some new age, hippie lip balm during the race? Ha!
A bit of both. I didn’t bother to wipe my face to save energy after getting away, and I had applied some waxy lip balm at about half way.
How would you describe this race and this course to someone who has never done it?
Good times, man, just plain good times. I think the Barry Roubaix in Michigan comes off as a bit more of a roadie event, whereas Southern Cross and The Hilly Billy have those grinder climbs early on that settle everyone down. Plus, that race up north disfigured me for life two years ago! (Editor’s Note: A hard crash at the 2011 Barry-Roubaix left Garth’s shoulder in less that perfect health since).
Do you plan on doing more races in Ultra CX series? Or even out of the series, it looks like there’s going to be an interesting one down in Pisgah (The Pisgah Monster Cross Challenge)?
I am already signed up for Pisgah Monster Cross Challenge on September 15. I have a great relationship with Eric Wever of Pisgah Productions who puts it, along with the Pisgah 111, Double Dare and a few other acronyms I can’t recall off the top of my head right now. I started doing some of his events about 10 years ago, always a good time from Pisgah Productions. I might do the Gap race as well. Depends on how I feel that late in the year.
Congrats again on the win and good luck with the rest of the season.
Any chance to ride some dirt, whether it be road or trail and pass the pint with my buddies from XXC and areas afar, count me in.
xxcmag.com thanks Garth for taking the time to chat via email with us and thanks Fred Jordan for the photo used here You can see more of Fred’s photos from the race on his gallery page [HERE]. Mucho thanks! For more information on the Hilly Billy Roubaix and the American UltraCross Championship Series visit ultracx.com.