Veyo • Arrows marked in bright orange chalk on tar-black asphalt help athletes competing in the 2021 Ironman World Championship triathlon — as well as fans wanting a taste of their suffering — navigate the bike and run courses in their training days leading up to Saturday’s 140.6-mile race. As they near the town of Veyo, though, they can just follow their noses.
From a small, white clapboard building on the southwest corner of the only intersection in the town of 900 wafts the toasty-sweet scent of freshly baked goods. Since the first Iromman-distance race was held in St. George in 2010, the aroma coming from Veyo Pies & Bakery has pulled cyclists up the final stretch of one of the toughest climbs in the 112-mile cycling section of the race known as “The Wall.”
“We passed it twice yesterday, and each time you could smell it,” said Antonio Gonzalez, of Boise, Idaho, as he dug into a slice of the shop’s signature Veyo volcano pie from a bench facing Gunlock Road. “As you go right past there, the wind kind of blows the smell” to lure you in.
In that way, the scent emanating from the Veyo pie shop and the scene surrounding the triathlon in downtown St. George this week have something in common: They make the nearly impossible seem somewhat manageable.
The operative word being “somewhat.” The pastries here might be sweet, but the general consensus is the course is not.
“I think this course [makes] Kona look like babycakes,” said Heather Glynn, an elite racer out of Naperville, Ill.
Saturday’s race through Washington County marks the first time in 40 years that Ironman’s top race will be held outside of Kona, Hawaii. The new terrain will bring a new set of challenges to competitors beyond the ordeal of completing a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a marathon within the span of 17 hours. Among the obstacles are the 90-degree dry heat and the chilly, wetsuit-mandated swim. Perhaps the most formidable, however, is the bike ride. It includes 7,374 feet of elevation gain, much of which can be found in the occasional 12%-grade ascent up Gunlock Road.
And that’s where the pie shop comes into play.
“I feel like this place is an excellent example of a perfect location for the cyclists because, like, to get here from town, you’re about that 20 miles-ish out, right?” Gonzalez said. “And you get a nice little place to sit and some shade. It’s perfect.”
Over the course of nearly three decades, the Veyo pies have cultivated a dedicated following. The shop can put out 350-500 pies a day. Yet it wasn’t until shortly after the owner moved into the current location 13 years ago — one year before Veyo became a pivotal point in first St. George Ironman race — that cyclists started rolling in by the dozens and then the hundreds.
“We have a lot of flavors and there’s a lot of bikers,” said manager Ben Holbert, who has been working at the current location since it opened, “and everyone likes their own flavor.”
The allure of a slice of banana cream, raspberry rhubarb or peach as a reward for completing the climb sometimes leads to a line of colorful cycling kits winding out the door. And like their taste in pies, the types of cyclists click-clacking into Veyo Pies are varied.
Gonzalez, who owns a tri shop, and his two cycling buddies road-tripped to St. George to watch the race. While in town, they rode the course so they could have a better feel for what the athletes will be going through come Saturday.
Glynn, meanwhile, is racing in her second career Ironman World Championships this weekend. She and friend Heather Schuh were on a training ride Thursday when the smell of pies drew them in. Both ordered a couple to go. Because the only thing sweeter than finishing, Glynn said, would be finishing and then digging into a piece of mountain berry pie.