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We arrived at around 9pm to the Fountain Hills recreation area and headed towards the infill camping since all the main sites were full. We started to set up our tent in a clearing as the hyenas howled nearby. Then the sweet camp host cruised over in his golf cart and told us that we could pitch our tent on the Ramada for that night and then head the site across from the race track which was significantly cheaper per night, but no fancy bathrooms. We threw down our tent on the freshly groomed Ramada and were stoked that it was a clear night- and not too cold.
We woke early the next morning to the sun rising and looked out on a hot day in the desert. Fountain Hills was the real deal- massive barrel cacti everywhere, no trees, dry sandy soil, clear starry nights, and hot sunny days. I was pretty amazed by the terrain as I’d never really seen the desert before, and pretty intimidated by all of the massive, spiny, cacti.
We checked in at reg and scoped out the pros cruising around in their brand new team kits on shiny bikes. We headed out for our pre-ride fairly early to scope the course. The XC was definitely different than anything I’d raced for. It’s mostly flat and very fast. The course winds and dips through the desert with a series of swervy turns at the beginning. Then you hot the back side of the course where there are some short climbs followed by a rocky descent. The entire course (more or less) is lined with evil, menacing barrel cacti and jumping choya cacti- which break off by the handful onto the trail and will destroy your tubes and your skin. I could tell it was going to be a race like no other.
We also checked out the Time Trial course, which was significantly more interesting than the XC. You do the same twisty, flatish start, but you then make a tun off and head over the drop-off, which doesn’t look very intimidating, but I never conjured up the guts to do it. You then climb a rocky technical climb, descent some more, and head home up a quick hill. It was pretty taxing so I decided to rename it the TITT (Technical Individual Time Trial).
After all of our pre-rides, we headed into the town of Fountain Hills. The town itself is really creepy. Obviously, the whole area is very fabricated (it is in the middle of the desert), but Fountain Hills took it to the extreme with their 250 foot waterfall in the middle of town. This thing was so massive that you could see it from our campsite 5 miles away! Keep in mind, it’s the middle of the freakin desert! Not to mention the only people we saw the entire time were old white people- I guess it really is a retirement community! And the Safeway- out of control! There was a Jamba Juice, Sushi bar, and a nut bar inside this place. It probably took up 1 square mile! We grabbed some camp food and high tailed it back to the solitude of our new campsite.