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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bob Cook Memorial / Mt. Evans Hill Climb / Colorado Hill Climb State Championship, July 24, 2010



One of the benefits of living in Evergreen, Colorado is that the highest paved road in the United States is in our backyard. Colorado Route 5 winds to the summit of Mt. Evans at 14,264', and there's a road cycling race to the top. It's the Hill Climb State Championship, and I decided to give it a shot this year.

On the morning of July 24th, 6,700 vertical feet and 28 miles from the summit, racers warmed up against a cool breeze and overcast skies in Idaho Springs. The weather looked grim, and I was expecting rain and cold at the top. As my group, Category 3, ascended, however, temperatures rose and we broke into the sun just below Echo Lake at the halfway point.

From there, the racing heated up as we climbed above treeline, with a pack of five riders working together to catch one man who had broken away miles earlier. We did finally catch him, and it was every man for himself rising up the final five miles of switchbacks from Summit Lake. After losing contact after one surge, I regained myself and passed two riders to finish fourth in approximately 2:01. The next man to finish was a 15-year-old sophomore from Cherry Creek High School who rides on the Garmin Transitions farm team...watch out for this guy in the future!

Racing the road bike uphill was a fun experience. I was happy with the performance, and the dizziness due to an anaerobic effort above 14,000' made for an interesting afternoon.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Leadville Silver Rush 50 MTB, Winter Park Valley to Valley MTB, Maroon Peak



The last two weeks have brought a great deal of fun in the Colorado Rockies!

The Winter Park mountain biking series (www.epicsingletrack.com) has long been a staple of the Colorado mountain biking scene. On Saturday the 10th, I found out just why the races are so popular: excellent courses combine with a great environment and strong competition to make a great overall experience. I have not done too much cross country mtb racing and do not hold a pro license, but the Winter Park series allows all comers to race pro if interested. I have been focusing on cycling, so I decided to give the pro race a shot. Things went well on a steep, uphill start, and I got out in the top four heading into 23 miles of superb singletrack. After a bit of battling with another rider, who eventually pulled away on a winding section, I finished third overall.

A week later, Leadville, a classic Colorado mining town at 10,200', was the stage for the Leadville Silver Rush 50-mile mountain bike race. Part of the Leadville Trail 100 series, the course includes plenty of climbing and descending on steep, loose singetrack and two-track trails. I have been around the Leadville races since I watched my dad run the Leadville 100 when I was a little boy, and the series holds a special place in my heart.

The Silver Rush begins with fifty meters of bike-carrying up a very steep hill, and I made it to the top in third place. Excited to get ahead of any potential problems on a steep singletrack section a few hundred meters away, I took the lead shortly after the top of the first hill. The course wound over three significant climbs before the turnaround at 25 miles, and I had gained a lead of about ten minutes by that point. Feeling good, I continued to push hard to the finish and completed the race in a course record 3:52:34. I was happy with the win on a beautiful Colorado day!

Post-awards ceremony, it was off to a drive over Independence Pass for some camping at Crater Lake outside of Aspen. I met my good old friends from childhood at the Lake in the evening, and we woke up early the next morning for a summit bid on South Maroon Peak, a fairly challenging Class 3 peak. Through much perseverance up a very steep three thousand foot climb followed by some tricky route-finding, we made the summit just after 10am on another perfect mountain day. Summiting was a fitting pinnacle to the bachelor party of the one and only Erik Jackson!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Le Grand Raid Adventure Race, Northern France, June 23-27

Anticipation was high for Le Grand Raid, a five-day adventure race in Northern France. Decent prize money drew some of the top teams in the world, and I was happy to compete with Mike Kloser, Monique Merrell, and Jay Henry on Team Le Grand Raid Out There USA.

Due to the stage-racing format, a fast pace was part of the bargain, and things moved quickly from the start. We battled hard with the French of Team Wilsa/AFG, the Kiwis and Swedes of Team Thule, and the Spanish of Team Buff, and were happy to be in the mix after three of five days of racing.

Early on the fourth day, our team was brought back to reality by a very serious bike crash for Mona. After crashing into a cement pillar and flying over ten feet, Mona lay battered on the side of the road. Tense minutes passed as we stabilized her and waited for an ambulance. She was diagnosed with a broken wrist, cracked ribs, and deflated lung at a large French hospital.

Thankfully, Mona will recover fully. The owner of Breckenridge's Amazing Grace Cafe, Mona truly showed amazing grace in courageously dealing with a terrible accident, severe pain, and a week in a foreign hospital. Hats off to Mona, who reminded me this week about the truly important things in life.

Sometimes we forget that making it home in one piece is the most important thing. We did not finish this race, and things looked bleak for awhile, but we all made it home in one piece.

Special thanks to our support crew, Mike and Audrey, who's hospitality (show here) and care made a tough situation just bearable.