Race Recap | Arkansaw High Country Race
Retired road professional Ted King has raced the Tour de France and many of the most prestigious international races. He has also raced all of the major races in the United States. What do you do when you retire from professional road racing? Well…you keep racing and you race on dirt! Ted has raced some of the top gravel races in the U.S. which include Dirty Kanza, Mid South and Leadville. Recently he tackled the Arkansaw High Country Race (ArHC) setting a new FKT (Fastest Known Time). Over 1,000 miles with 80,000 feet of climbing starting and ending in Fayetteville. We decided to check in with the Gravel King himself!
OCA: How did you find out about the ArHC? What experience do you have in bikepacking races?
TK: I suppose I first became aware of it when Rebecca Rusch set the FKT last year. I didn’t really know the course, the details, the distance, but I follow my friend Rebecca’s exploits and knew she had something cool up her sleeve there in the NWA. It really hit my radar sometime mid-2020 when Bobby Wintle told me he was doing it. I was exploring some bikepacking adventures and it just seemed like the right event at the right time for me.
OCA: You’ve done some crazy things in the sport of cycling. We are curious to know how this compares to a 3 week Grand Tour.
TK: Oh gosh, very similar, yet so so different. In under five days I rode about half of what the pro peloton covers in a three week tour. Obviously ArHC is “ready, set, go…” with no forced stops in between, whereas a grand tour is three weeks of racing, but each day represents an independent race. I suppose the biggest difference is how self-reliant you are in bikepacking. You need to source your food, your sleep, your navigation, your bike repairs, your everything. When racing on a team, your job is to race a bike, but each of those facets is covered by a person on the team. Heck, teams even have social media managers so that you’re not overwhelmed with the modern day media that racers produce, but when out on the ArHC route, it’s important to produce that media!
[Photo: Kai Caddy]
OCA: What surprised you the most about the race and route?
TK: I was blown away how diverse the terrain was. Of course 1,000 miles is a long course, but it’s so sinuous, we didn’t actually cover an enormous geography when looking at the United States in general. But there was terrain that reminded me of so many different parts of the country — stuff that felt like home in Vermont, Pennsylvania, there were vistas like the great Smokey Mountains, there was the feeling of high alpine riding like the high Sierras. So the variety of terrain was impressive.
That, and I’m surprised that I’m still tired and have tingly sensations in my hands and toes now one week out.
Ted finishing just after 3AM. [Phot: Kai Caddy]
OCA: You’ve just completed one of the toughest races that you have done. Tell us a little about your post-race recovery. We heard you had to spend an extra day in Fayetteville?
TK: Yup, I stuck around my hotel room for a full extra day. I figured I would arrive, take a shower, sleep in my van (I drove out in our van for health and safety reasons), then hit the road. I was so so smoked, I couldn’t hardly get out of bed the next day! I got some great meals in town, since food is such a key to recovery. I slept some, napped some, ate a lot, and basically exerted myself zero. I inched my way out of bed the following day and had an achy drive home, where I’ve largely sat behind a computer catching up on life having been off the radar for two weeks.
OCA: Near the beginning of your pro career back in 2008 you came to Fayetteville to race the Joe Martin Stage Race and you won a stage. Seems like Fayetteville has been good for you. Can you share your thoughts on this little cycling town?
TK: I do have good memories of bike racing in Arkansas. Good memory and good find on that Joe Martin win! That opened up the flood gates for success and I had a really strong 2008, ending up in Europe the following year. It’s so cool to come back to NWA and see the development of cycling, the reception to the sport, the overall positive vibes that surround cycling there. No matter where I was on course, I was always welcomed with a friendly wave. That’s something you don’t see in every corner of America.
OCA: Thank you Ted for taking the time and congrats on your race. The Arkansaw High Country Race is scheduled to depart from Fayetteville once again in the fall of 2021.