Based in Colorado, the summer Grand Traverse is a 2-day ultra extravaganza across some of the most impressive mountains in the USA. This race provides participants the chance to compete in both a run and a bike ride from Crested Butte to Aspen (and vice versa, depending on whether you’re running or biking).
Whilst completing one of these alone is a huge achievement in itself, some of those competing have already conquered the time-honored ski version of the race earlier in the year. By completing all races this time around, they will claim the coveted Triple Crown glory title (read our write up to find out more about this!).
Returning to take on the bike race this year is #TeamMontane athlete Jessica Yeaton. Keep scrolling to find out why and what she loves about this beautiful yet challenging race through the heart of the Rocky mountains…
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where I work as a Physical Therapist. Steamboat is an absolute paradise for all things outdoors; I spend my summers mountain biking, trail running, and open-water swimming and my winters cross-country, backcountry, and downhill skiing. I absolutely love the freedom of exercising out my backdoor- it’s the most important thing for me in life!
My background is primarily in cross-country ski racing, and I’ve competed in the past two Winter Olympics. Over the past five years, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring new places/ trails on my mountain bike, and I started competing in cycling ultras too.
I love the challenge longer races provide, and the fact that these events take me on routes I wouldn’t do otherwise. I have competed in a number of 50+ mile races this summer, and will compete in the Leadville 100 MTB race in a few weeks, which will be my longest yet.
What’s the appeal of the Grand Traverse?
I first heard about the Grand Traverse race from other friends who had competed in the past (across all 3 disciplines), and I was immediately enticed hearing about how awesome (and challenging!) the route is.
Last year was my first year competing in the mountain bike race, and it was my favorite race of the summer. It was also the hardest - but that’s something that I really enjoy. I loved the epic climb out of the start up Aspen mountain, the beautiful scenery/terrain, and the fun, technical descent down Star pass.
Completing the race was an accomplishment in itself- and taking the win was a cherry on top! It's the race I am most excited about this season, and I feel more prepared than last year as I am able to spend more time training at high altitude living in Colorado - I learned last year that 12,500 ft isn’t something to take lightly!
How have you approached this year's race?
I learned a lot last year during the race, which I feel will make me a lot more prepared going into this year - and hopefully help me break my time (I’d love to go under 5 hours!). I have been working on improving my fueling and being more calculated about drinking and eating x amount/ hour during these long races at altitude.
I didn’t realize how much of a tough climb it was right off the start last year, and I think I can pace myself better early on. I am also more prepared for the hike- a-bike sections; I knew it would be a long time on the bike, but didn’t realize how much time I’d spend off the bike too! I have been doing longer training sessions and have competed in a few more 5+ hour races this year, so I feel better prepared from an endurance perspective as well.
Best cycling advice you’ve ever received?
“Boobs over bars!”. I used to think that I needed to get really far back when descending, but it's actually really important to keep a forward position so that you don’t get caught in the back seat and lose control of the bike on a techy, fast descent.
I also like to think about keeping my elbows bent and not gripping the handlebars too tightly. I think keeping body position in mind is especially important when descending during races when I’m tired, as I’ve had a few bad spills on downhills.
Do you have a favourite piece of Montane gear?
The Fireball Lite jacket! This is my go-to jacket for all things active in the winter as the Stretch Thermo Grid panels/underarm are perfect for ease of movement. It's breathable, so I cross-country ski in it and always have it in my backpack on a back-country ski day. It's great to wear while skinning if it's cold out and, on a warmer day, it's perfect to throw on for the downhill.
It's a great mid-layer that is lightweight and takes up barely any room in my backpack. The Fireball Lite is also perfect for summer peak-bagging (it gets cold and windy at the top sometimes!) and to have on hand while camping. Not to mention it's made from recycled insulation so it's good for the planet, too!
Keep up with the Grand Traverse Action
The GT returns on 02 and 03 September. Head over to our official event hub to find out more.