Ted King won the 1020-mile Arkansas High Country Race in a 4 days, 20 hours and 51 minutes, setting the FKT (fastest known time) in the process. The previous solo FTK was held by bikepacking legend Jay Petervary. Ted also was faster than Ernie and Scotti Lechuga, who rode the course earlier this year as a pair. The pure stats do don’t this race justice, impressive as they are: The course winds through the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains, with a whopping 80,000 feet of elevation gain. In metric terms, that’s 24,000 m!
Ted reports: “I’m in awe of the diverse and varied topography and rocks we found in Arkansas. Over the course of this really sinuous 1,020 mile ride, we hit a few different mountain ranges, different types of river beds, rode through red clay, sharp shale, worn smooth rocks, sharp new rocks, and everything in between.”
There are only few photos of the race as the course was remote and rough. To Ted, that was part of the appeal: “It’s also nice that the race was inherently socially distanced, just by the nature of it. I felt safe and at home all across northwest Arkansas.”
Like most bikepacking races, the AHCR was unsupported – riders took selfies at 12 checkpoints as proof that they completed the course.
While Ted King has raced in the Tour de France during his days as a professional racer, and in many gravel races, this was his first bikepacking event. He rodde his customary Cannondale Super X, now equipped with a SON generator hub on Zipp’s new Firecrest wheels. He told me about his tires: “Tires are probably the most important equipment choice in a race like this. I ran the 700C x 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass because I knew there was still a decent amount of fast-rolling paved sections, and I didn’t really need knobs to be diving in and out of loose corners, plus the conditions were overall quite dry despite the previous week of nonstop rain.
“I went with the Endurance Plus casing just for the added confidence of a more robust tire. The only tire issue I had was a very small hole after ripping through a particularly fast descent over some unexpected sharp rocks. Mind you, the bike was weighed down with an additional 15 lbs of gear, so that’s an additional burden on the entire rig. The hole was small enough that I had plenty of time to fish out my Dynaplug, plug it, and pump it back with just a few pumps of air to get back rolling again.
“The confidence I had in my tires was enormous. I realize especially later in the race how important that is, as I began to have some chronic finger and wrist weakness due to the fatigue of riding 18-20 hours in a row, day after day. I was concerned that if I had a flat tire, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to take the tire off! So those noticeably rocky sections pricked the hair up on the back of my neck, but I never had any other tire issues. That kind of durability over that kind of terrain and that kind of distance offers tremendous peace of mind.”
At the finish, Ted said: “I had no real expectations since I’m entirely new to bikepacking. I didn’t know how I’d operate on 2 hours of sleep per night, so taking the FKT was a successful part of the puzzle! I’m blown away the support I received for this race from people following online. I talked to the folks at Trackleaders, and they said this was a really well-followed event, especially given its size.”
I was one of those followers – it was fun to see the racers’ progress over this amazing course. Congratulations, Ted!
Photo credits: Kai Caddy (Photos 1, 2, 4, 5), Ted King (Photo 3).