Race Diary: Geoff Kabush Details His Steps to the Podium at the 3 Day Moab Rocks Stage Race

Apr 4, 2019
by Geoff Kabush  
rider Geoff Kabush won Stage 2.
The top of the Alaska Trail at Klondike Bluffs has some beautiful rock features Moab is known for. Photo: John Gibson

TransRockies Moab Rocks 3-day Stage Race was the perfect way for me to kick off my mountain bike season this past weekend. Moab, Utah was, a pretty mythical mountain bike destination when I started riding so I’m always excited to find an excuse to go visit and ride. After reading about it in old magazines and hearing about friend’s spring road trips I only finally got a chance to visit Moab for the first time about 5 years ago. After that visit, Moab Rocks Stage Race came up on my radar three years ago and I’ve really enjoyed attending the event ever since. I’m still blown away by the scenery every time I drive into the town.

Photo Myke Hermsmeyer
Absolutely spectacular scenery this year with the La Sal mountains covered in snow. Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Moab is quite the popular spring destination and it was fun to randomly bump into so many other friends and acquaintances there just for a visit or on spring break with their families. I arrived a couple day’s early to do some fun rides and shoot some photos on the stunning terrain with my old friend John Gibson, aka Gibby. I did my first ride on my new SB100 on Captain Ahab which was a fun one to break in a new bike and make sure all my bolts were tight. It was nice to see Colin Meagher looking good and heading out for a hike with his family as we exited the trail. I also bumped into former XC Olympian, now long hair van life freerider, cruising down main street at the end of what looked like a fun filled three weeks hanging out with the Moab locals. It was also fun to see some friends with a forty strong Spring Break group down from Bend with the next generation of tiny kids out on the trail.

The Iconic scenery in Moab keeps people coming back for more. Photo: Jean McAllister

I started racing back in the 90’s, driving to every event in my friend Aaron’s old split window ‘66 VW bus. One of the guys that regularly loaded up with me in the van to go to the races was Robin Dutton. Robin now runs Coal City Cycles over on Vancouver Island and it was cool to see him so many years later at another bike race with a whole crew down from the island. This year I also road tripped down from Canada; full pull down to California first, then out to Utah for Moab Rocks, and now I’m back out in California on my way to Sea Otter. Luckily cars go faster than the old ’66 bus as I’ve already logged over 4500km since I left Squamish a couple weeks ago. Luckily on the drive out and back from California, I was able to split the driving with my drinking buddy which helped avoid serious trucker butt.

WIth a stiff headwind the climb on Stage was quite civil this year and the pack stayed together. Photo: John Gibson

The racing started with the first stage on Porcupine Rim which is arguably one of the most spectacular trails in Moab with beautiful cliff views and canyon vistas. It is also one of the most diabolical stages to pick a bike set-up for. Typically, I’d pick a solid trail bike like my Yeti SB130 to bomb down the rough and rowdy descent. Problem is we don’t have a shuttle and have to climb for about an hour up the access road. It is really a balancing act to figure out what is going to get you to the finish line quickest and in one piece. Similar to the Downieville Classic I make a few modifications to my Yeti SB100 to handle Moab Rocks which has really challenging terrain but still needs a machine that can move swiftly up and down. You certainly don’t want to show up on a full XC machine and it is painful thinking about how people used to ride these trails fully rigid.

My Yeti SB100 set up for three days on the rough and rowdy Moab Rocks trails.

To start I upgrade from full XC on the front end with the 120mm Fox SC34 fork and a larger 180mm brake rotor. For wheels, I add the fractionally heavier Stan’s Crest wheelset for a little more durability. In Moab you don’t need a lot of knobs on the rocks, just good rubber and volume, so I used the fat and fast rolling 2.35 Maxxis Rekon Race EXO TR tires. Other than that, I used the obvious dropper post and slightly wider 740mm bars for more control. It is all a bit of compromise, but this is a set-up that I felt really comfortable on and could push hard when needed.

Keven Lee
Keven Lee making his way down some of the rugged trails on Porcupine Rim. Photo: John Gibson

My goal for the Porcupine Rim Stage is always to try to make it close to the summit and then see if I can shake and bake and get a gap on the way back down. With a little headwind on the climb, the group stayed together and I was able to save some energy, attach, and sneak away just before the rougher terrain started.

Geoff Kabush leads the group at the top of the climb. He would go on to win Stage 1.
The moment I decided to give it a little gas and test the legs near the top of Stage 1. Photo: John Gibson

Even for me, there tends to always be a few awkward moments on the Moab rocks and ledges and I had one nice OTB moment on Porcupine Rim. On the wide-open trail, I always seem to end up somewhere I don’t want to go and trying to execute consecutive 3ft drops didn’t work out so well. Luckily the fall wasn’t serious, and I was able to quickly regroup. After that I kept it together on the descent and was able to stretch my gap to around 45 seconds by the finish.

Geoff Kabush wins Stage 1 of Moab Rocks.
After going clear I kept it steady down Porcupine Rim to snag the win on Stage 1. Photo: Jean McAllister

rider Cooper Wiens
Cooper Wiens (Team Topeak-Ergon), son of Dave, one of my original teammates back in the day, making a name for himself.Photo: John Gibson

I kind of chuckled to myself as one of the guys mixing it up at the front this year was young Cooper Wiens. Some people may recognize that last name; Cooper’s dad Dave was one of the “dudes” back when I started and someone I did, and still do, respect a lot. I certainly don’t feel that old but I was teammates on Kona with Dave all the way back in 1997; I don’t think Cooper was even born yet. It is fun to see the next MTB generation coming up and having fun at these races too.

riders Justin Lindine leads Geoff Kabush Rotem Ishay Ben Sonntag Taylor Lideen and Cal Skilsky.
Little did we know a snow storm was coming. Lead pack including Justin Lindine, Rotem Ishay, Ben Sonntag, Taylor Lideen and Cal Skilsky. Photo: Jean McAllister

As usual, there was a big Canadian contingent at Moab Rocks trying to escape the cold and get in some spring riding. Unfortunately, on Stage 2 at Klondike Bluffs, the Canadians couldn’t completely escape the snow but it made for some really beautiful memories and photos. In the desert, the mornings are usually brisk, near freezing, but snow wasn’t really in the predictions. Luckily, I had some hot balm for my legs and thank goodness made the unusual decision to just keep my thermal vest on after warming up.

Photo Myke Hermsmeyer
Rocks on rocks on rocks is the name of the game in Moab. Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Rider on the Storm.
Riders in the Snow Storm.
The unexpected snowstorm created some memories and incredible images. Photos: John Gibson

riders Cal Skilsky leads Ben Sonntag
Cal Skilsky (CZ Racing) leads Ben Sonntag (Clif Pro Team) on Stage 2 and had a solid weekend to lock up 2nd overall. Photo: Jean McAllister

The pace started off brisk as everyone wanted to stay warm and I tested the lead group’s legs as we neared the halfway point. I managed to just get a small gap of around 10 seconds and as I turned the corner for home, I saw the wall of snow coming. At this point, I just put my head down in an attempt to get back to the warm car as quick as I could. With glasses getting covered in massive snowflakes, as well as intermittent bits of dodgy red clay, I was happy to finally see the finish line and hold off the chase pack by 20sec or so and extend my lead a bit.

rider Katerina Nash won the Open Women category for stage 2.
Katerina Nash (Clif Pro Team) won the Open Women with a dominant performance winning all three days. Photo: Jean McAllister

I think everyone survived Stage 2 all right, but it was really nice to see perfect weather for the finale on the Stage 3 Mag 7 trails. This is one of my favourite stages as after a gradual climb in the first half it feels like one long enduro stage all the way back. If you are feeling good you can really link up the trail and find some fun flow over the bumpy terrain. Last year I was in panic mode as I had to chase absolutely flat out all the way back to hold on to the overall by only 3-4 seconds.

rider rider Geoff Kabush won Stage 3 and the overall Open Men s General Classification of Moab Rocks
On the gas stretching the pack out on Stage 3 at Mag 7. Photo: John Gibson

This year I was really happy as I felt more comfortable but my times were actually faster out on the trails. I kept the pressure on the lead group and was able to sneak away on the way out and start the descent back solo. I only had about a minute gap in the overall so with the rough terrain I couldn’t completely relax until the finish line was in sight.

Katerina Nash and Geoff Kabush celebrate their 1st place finishes in the Open Women s and Men s category along with Katerina s dog Rubi.
Celebrating 1st place finishes in the Open Women's and Men's category along with Rubi. Photo: John Gibson

I ended sweeping the stages and taking the overall win at Moab Rocks for the third year, but it was great to have a solid group of guys racing, pushing the pace, and keeping me honest again. I certainly had a great off-season with some amazing skiing and I’m now coming into the MTB season feeling fresh and motivated. So many fun events and locations to visit this year and I’m excited for the racing ahead. Thanks for reading and keep riding until the fun stops! Cheers.

Photo Myke Hermsmeyer
Quite content with a fun start to the season in Moab. Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Geoff Kabush and Travis Hauck
Travis Hauck who drove all night to make the start was kind enough to share his popcorn with me. Cheers! Photo: John Gibson

MENTIONS: @gkabush / @yeticycles

Author Info:
gkabush avatar

Member since May 1, 2014
10 articles

  • 22 0
 Kabush is actually doing what me and all my 40 something buddies tell each other we could do Smile Congrats.
  • 25 4
 I miss living in UT for the outdoors. I don't miss the weird social atmosphere.
  • 7 3
 From Boise. Recently went riding in Utah. Your post deserves 100000 ups. Great riding, glad to leave.
  • 7 1
 I live here. Moab to Ogden. I don't live here to hang with the "weird people" however I have little difficulty finding like-minded people. I also ride more than socialize though...
  • 2 0
 Haha it's certainly become polarized for sure. I enjoy my hometown though!
  • 1 1
 @bikewriter Really? I'm from Socal and think people here are weird ha! It's like people don't know what to do when someone says 'hello' out on the trail lol I was in Moab for a week and thought it was an awesome place but then again most of the people I met were from Colorado and a group from Boise.
  • 2 2
 Agreed! Worst place ever!
  • 7 6
 The Mormons and the inversions suck. I lived on the bench; half my house was fresh air and the rest was polluted air. Depressing!
  • 4 5
 @Apex06: Your character is polluted and needs an inversion. How did your comment make it through the filter?
  • 6 2
 @toadlywilde: I probably ended up this way from the Utah air quality.
  • 2 1
 Yes! People that have never lived in UT (or parts of Idaho) will never really understand what you are talking about.

UT was (and is) a sporting paradise. Being a non-LDS was OK.

Then I had kids.
  • 4 3
 I'm a Utah local and just got back from Sedona and Phoenix. In Utah the majority of people aren't friendly on the trail or in general. In Sedona and Phoenix the majority of people are friendly with hikers even cheering me on for harder sections. The culture here is hypocritical in that they "pray" for everyone on Sunday during church, yet are a total ass to them the rest of the week. That being said there is awesome riding in Park City, Moab, and the St George area. Just make sure to pack your own beer and make your own night life.
  • 2 0
 Interesting cause some of the rudest people I’ve met on the trail have been in phx and especially Sedona and I’ve never had a issue while riding in Utah @digitalsoul:
  • 1 0
 @Apex06: SLC in the winter. Mormons don't suck, certain people do, Mormon or not. Clearly your experience is a great as your scope.
  • 19 0
 This is really cool coverage, I really like reading the strategy for such a demanding (fitness and skills) race!
  • 6 0
 Dam I'm old! National Champion etc etc etc Dave Wiens and Olympic medalist etc etc etc Susan DeMattei had babies and they growed up to be young adults already?! And this Cooper kid is going fast, not the first time I've read his name. If what Geoff is doing is any indication, riding hard and eating popcorn is the best defense for getting old.
  • 10 1
 I'm officially over the orange Fox forks.
  • 4 0
 This looks really fun, I'll have to put on my race list for next season!
  • 4 0
 Popcorn is key to life. Extra butter.
  • 3 1
 " slightly wider 740mm bars for more control."
I finally don't feel like such a weirdo for never riding super wide bars!
  • 9 0
 Do you also run a heavy duty wheelset like Stan's Crests?
  • 2 2
 Kabush is 6'2 so 740mm isn't super wide.
  • 1 0
 @acali: I don't understand your question? I'm actually bigger than Kabush..height and weight, so yeah..durable wheels are important to me.
  • 1 0
 @clink83: Yeah, that's my point...most people think much wider is better, and they aren't even tall. I'm actually 6'4 and my bars have never been more than 740(usually cut a little smaller). So I was pointing out that he called that "narrow" width, "slightly wider", which goes against all modern trends with bars
  • 1 0
 @GlassGuy: Kabush he said he ran Crest wheels because he needed a more durable set for Moab. You gotta be pretty smooth to call a Crest durable.
  • 1 0
 @acali: I've never ridden them so I wouldn't know. I'm pretty sure he's also probably 40-50 lbs lighter than me. But his wheel choice has nothing to do with my referring to his bar width in comparison to was is the usual trend of much wider bars currently
  • 1 0
 @GlassGuy: I see what you're saying. I'm 6'4 and run my bars at 740mm too.
  • 1 0
 Pretty sure he was talking about my kid as "the next generation of tiny kids out on the trail."!
  • 2 0
 Love to read that stuff, always picking some cool events! Cheers!
  • 1 0
 Id like to try that bike. Ripper
  • 2 0
 Nice looking boulders.
  • 1 0
  • 1 0

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