VAIL — Yes, this really is a normal thing.
Three tourists from Ohio stopped Avon’s Peter Fralick at the base of Lionshead and asked what all these cyclists were doing on a Wednesday evening.
He explained that this was the Vail Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Races Series and this was the Vail Grind.
“For the Vail Valley, it’s normal,” said Fralick, who lives in Avon, but is also from Ohio. “Most people wouldn’t think it’s normal to ride bikes up the hill when there’s a perfectly good chairlift. In that way, it’s a little bit crazy.”
This year’s Vail Grind had a new course to prevent the race from becoming a, well, grind. The old course had been an assorted number of loops, also used by previous Mountain Games in June. Since there’s a lot of crossover between the Mountain Games and the Wednesday bike series, the Vail Recreation Department changed it up with one new, very long lap with the beginner and sport divisions stopping along the way.
Racers went up Lion Down and then up to Eagle’s Nest. In a neat little twist, the course continued down Radio Flyer before going back up Big Mamba before going down to the finish via Hank’s Hideaway.
“It was really fun. The descent was really awesome,” Breckenridge’s Marlee Dixon said. “Before it was the same course as the GoPro Games. It was fun to see what else Vail has.”
“I thought it was a lot of fun because it was different,” Vail’s Barry Davis said. “It was definitely difficult. I’m excited to see a little bit of change. I think everyone was excited to ride the flow trails. The format was strange — up and down. But at the end of the day, it was fun.”
One of the added benefits of not doing the multi-lap format were some moments of solitude.
“I liked being up there on our own, kind of away from it all,” Fralick said. “It was quiet, kind of peaceful at the top. In the summer, it’s a lot more peaceful, a lot less people. There a few people at the top of the gondola hanging out. You’ve got the wild flowers up there. It’s really green.”
In the continuing saga of the Js, aka the men’s pro division, Jake Wells crushed the descent, winning the race with Josiah Middaugh in second. The latter is gearing up for his Xterra triathlon at Beaver Creek on July 19. Coming off the Firecracker 50, Jay Henry was third.
Also, props go out to Tara Picklo, who won the women’s expert division while riding a single-speed bike.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.