Mountain biker riding on a trail in Park City, Utah

The Park City Point to Point: What it is and How to Prepare

Every Labor Day weekend, mountain bikers from all over the country descend on Park City to participate in the Park City Point to Point (PCP2P) mountain bike race. While not as famous as the Leadville 100 in Colorado, the PCP2P is arguably the hardest organized mountain bike ride in the country, and unlike the Leadville 100, the PCP2P is a true singletrack race, with over 90% singletrack in a whopping 75 miles. A true point-to-point race, riders will never cross the same trail twice and the course has just about every singletrack feature you could ask for: steeps, rocks, technical roots, fast and flowy sections, huge climbs; the PCP2P truly has it all. As a finisher in 2017, I can say from experience that the PCP2P is one of the hardest organized rides you can do. I’ve done countless organized road centuries, gravel rides and mountain bike rides, but none have taken me 10:45 hours. Not even close. I am not doing the PCP2P this year because you really have to be in the mood for this sort of punishment, but before you decide if this event is for you, let’s talk about this years course and what riders should expect.

The Course

If you are looking to get the best one-day sample of what it is like to ride in Park City, then the PCP2P is a great choice. Starting in Round Valley and ending in Kimball Junction, this ride traverses almost all major mountain biking areas in Park City, including the entirety of Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort.

The race starts in Round Valley, a low elevation haven of easy, smooth singletrack; a perfect place to get some easier miles in as the ride ramps up. After doing a loop in Round Valley, riders slowly make their way up and down Lost Prospector, Gambrel Oak, and Snowtop to the bottom of the Pipeline trail at Deer Valley. From here, it is a long 1,500 foot plus climb to the first aid station at Silver Lake.

After the first aid station, the ride really begins. A brutal climb up Team Big Bear is like a kick in the pants, while a descent down John’s trail is bone-rattling and is not as restful as a typical descent should be. Near the bottom of John’s, the course begins arguably the hardest and steepest climb of the day: up upper Jennis, Steps, Three Candles, Keystone, and Shadow Lake trail. After Shadow Lake, the ride descends the rocky CMG trail to the second of three rest stops.

Once you’ve had your fill of the wide selection of snacks and drinks, Armstrong trail awaits. Armstrong is a Park City classic, and arguably the most popular mountain bike climb in town. Armstrong is uphill only and has mellow switchbacks for 1,300 vertical feet until its intersection with Mid-Mountain trail. From Mid-Mountain, Ironman and Goldfinger trails take you back to Mid-Mountain and the final stretch of this juggernaut of a ride.

All said and done, the PCP2P is 75 miles (90% singletrack) and somewhere between 11,000-12,000 vertical feet of climbing. Ouch! The top pros will finish this race in just over 6 hours, which is truly unbelievable. For us mere mortals, times of 8-11.5 hours are more realistic. Preparing for a race of this size can be intimidating and seriously time consuming. Below are a few tips to help you be as prepared as possible.

How to Train

Training for the PCP2P is a big commitment that should take the better part of a spring and summer. This ride is long and technical enough that training is essential to make the cutoff and enjoy the ride.

If you live in Park City or Northern Utah, one of the best ways to prepare is to ride the race in segments. When training for my PCP2P ride, I broke the race into three sections based on the rest stops. Each section came in somewhere around 20-30 miles, 4,000+ vertical feet of climbing, and around 3:30 hours. Riding these segments helped me become familiar with the route so that there were absolutely no surprises on race day. It is important to know exactly where the big climbs, descents, and tricky sections are so that you can ride accordingly. If you do not live in Park City, you can create similar rides (20-30 miles, 4k climbing), and alternate them.

Riding the three race segments is great, but a few times per month, it is wise to ride two sections at a time, which makes a ride somewhere around 50 miles and 6,500-8,000 feet of climbing. While the shorter rides will generally make up the bulk of your training, bigger rides are important due to time on the saddle and the amount of climbing. Simply being on your bike for 8-11 hours is hard, and these long rides will help prepare your body for such a long day.

Finally, it is important to dial in your nutrition and have a plan for how you will fuel yourself come race day. The aid stations are great, but only eating every 30 miles or so will not cut it, and it helps to eat food that you know works for you in consistent, small quantities. When I got to the second aid station below Armstrong, I was so hungry that I ate an entire 12-inch sub. Bad idea. Being strict about your nutrition and having a plan is a major step towards success.

Can You Do It?

The PCP2P is an absolute epic of a mountain bike ride and takes riders through some of the best mountain biking terrain in the country. An all-day event, the ride will test your limits of endurance and mental strength, and it will take the better part of a Spring and Summer to prepare for. It can be hot or freezing cold, and one bad crash could end your day. So why do it? The PCP2P is a beautiful course that will test you as a rider and as an athlete in general. Completing the PCP2P means you’re part of an amazing group of people who are dedicated to their craft. Training for the ride will take you to beautiful places and will get you in the best shape of your life. So consider leaving your next Labor Day weekend plans open, and come ride the Point to Point in Park City!

By Cal Perfall, Content Writer, jans.com

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