EAGLE — Happy summer, at last.
From a tourist standpoint, the GoPro Mountain Games usually mark the beginning of summer. But for locals, it’s the Vail Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Series, and the new Battle at Bellyache, featuring a new course in Eagle, did the trick on Wednesday under, gasp, sunny skies.
“In the last six weeks, I’ve been on my bike twice,” said Avon’s Michelle Wolffe, who was racing in vet sport. “Tonight was definitely a get-ready-for-summer run.
“Tonight was amazing. It feels like summer for the first time.”
With a particularly wet and snowy spring, Wednesday’s opener to the series was really a moment to shake off the rust, and the riders were eager.
“It’s been tough,” said Michael Farms, of Wolcott. “Depending on your times to ride, it was a tough couple of weeks. Mother’s Day weekend was pretty much a wash out, unless you are masochist.”
Save the masochism for the Davos Dash later this summer, people.
The new course hooked up Boneyard to Haymaker to a new finish by the Eagle Ice Rink and Pool. The descent there got raves.
“I’ve done Boneyard and I’ve done Haymaker, but I’ve never done the whole thing,” Wolffe said. “The whole thing was awesome. Coming down from Boneyard to Haymaker, holy cow, there’s this one switchback. You could hear people cheering on it because it was so much fun.”
“I love it,” Danielle Mt. Pleasant said. “It was great to ride the singletrack of Boneyard and then do Haymaker and the new pool and ice descent is amazing. It’s a lot of descending so you get to recover a little bit before you start climbing at the end there. It’s a great course.”
With the first race of the year comes some newcomers to racing. Eagle’s J.C. Norling made his debut in masters sport.
“I’ve done a lot of ski mountaineering, ran cross-country,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of races, but I’ve never done a bike race. I was a little hyped up about it, but it was fun. I tried to start at a good pace and not blow up on the hill, just tuck in there and make my way along. I had a lot of fun.”
Norling added that he already was envisioning moving up to grandmasters, a new name for the old legends division, next year.
“I’m going to be in the grandmasters of funk,” he joked.
The next race in the series is the Berry Creek Bash on June 4 in Edwards.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.