VAIL - The course designer tripped himself up Saturday during the freeride finals of the Teva Mountain Games.
Jeff Lenoski, of Sparta, N.J., has been designing the freeride course at the Mountain Games for years and, each year, he tries to do something different. He definitely turned things on its ear this year by flipping the course. Instead of starting the course rolling down the stairs of the Vail Garage and westward as was the case last year, the course went west to east with the final obstacles going up the garage stairs.
"We just wanted to throw everyone for a loop," Lenoski joked. "Basically, my logic is that these races keep getting so close that we needed to design it so that if you make a mistake, it compounds all the way down. It did that, but the races were still super-close."
Dave Smutok, of Northfield N.H., edged out Lenoski by 8-hundredths of second in the finals for the win. Ironically, Lenoski had a minor miscue on the course's first obstacle, the spine, on the final run and that did him in.
"I over-jumped it and basically lost all my speed," Lenoski said. "I reeled him back in, but it wasn't enough."
"It's fun. I love this race," Smutok said. "There's not many of them, but they're sure fun to ride. The obstacles are tricky. The start was kind of make or break for me. If you hit it good, it gave you good speed for the rest of the straight-away."
Smutok caught a glimpse of Lenoski's mistake, but then had a miscue of his own midway through the course. Smutok held a 0.3-second lead over Lenoski after their first heat - each round is two runs with each rider getting to go over the left and right obstacle courses.
Lenoski caught Smutok as the banked left and went up the stairs, but came up 8-hundredths short.
"At the end, the uphill is tricky," Smutok said. "The jump into the little dish was easy to clear, but the dish gave you the speed to get up the stairs at the end."
Lenoski was not unhappy with second. He broke his leg in February 2010 and barely qualified for the finals last year.
"I was just looking to do anything to improve upon that," Lenoski said. "I'd love to win. I just turned 40, and I broke my leg last year, so to be second to a guy like Dave Smutok, who is a really awesome rider, is awesome."
Eric Porter of Midway, Utah, edged out Kurt Sorge for third place. After the race, he was holding on to his son Milo, 1.
"He had to be woken up from his nap to watch me ride. He loves doing interviews normally," Porter said. "He'll get something, maybe a new bike."
Paul Basagoitia, of Minden, Nev., was the two-time defending champion in this event, but was unable to compete in Saturday's race because he took a nasty spill during Friday's slopestyle competition. Basagoitia, however, was on hand watching the race, looking no worse for wear except for the fact that he was sporting a shiner on right eye.