VAIL — The GoPro Mountain Games Ultimate Mountain Challenge athletes are the kind of people who can enter contests in sports they’ve never even tried before.
That’s what Jen Gersbach-Venzara did over the weekend when she took on four events as part of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge. She knew she was really good at mountain biking and had an advantage in that race, and she knew she could handle the 10K run and also hold her own in the Vail Pass road bike time trial, but she hadn’t ever kayaked before.
“Gretchen (Reeves) helped teach me to kayak the day before,” Gersbach-Venzara said like it was no big deal.
Reeves ended up taking second place for the women in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, but it was a true race right up until the end. Gersbach-Venzara said each of the top women in the field all had varying strengths, so it really came down to the end.
“Truly one of those races where none of us knew what the outcome was going to be,” she said. “It was one of the closest races. I overcame Gretchen just by a little today. I feel so fortunate to be here.”
Heidi Rentz was just as surprised to be on the podium on Sunday after such a wild weekend of competition. She called herself a “wild card” after the 10K run. Would she have enough power left to make up enough time to leave her then-current fourth-place position in the dust?
“Who knows,” she said. “I think I’ll eat some food and maybe turn on a good song and dance a little bit and go for it. It’s been so cool. Even if I got last place I would drive home today with a huge smile on my face.”
MIDDAUGH MEANS BUSINESS
For the men, it’s hard to beat Josiah Middaugh, the local man who seems to win everything he enters. He’s so good that his buddy and fellow athlete Travis Macy hired him as a coach a few months back. Macy finished in second place in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, just behind Middaugh.
“Josiah and I know pretty much exactly what to expect out of each other,” Macy said. “We’ve raced head-to-head in this race for the last six or seven years, and we race throughout the year in other races, as well.”
Macy was able to get a head start Saturday in the kayak sprint, an event Middaugh admits is not his strength. Macy lost time to Middaugh, however, in the Saturday afternoon mountain bike race.
“I stuck with (Middaugh) for about 5 minutes,” Macy laughed.
That race gave Middaugh a huge advantage. He went into the Sunday events — the 10K run and the road bike time trial — with about a 5-minute lead over Macy.
Middaugh called the mountain bike course “pretty brutal.” He said it was a lot of hard work, but it paid off. He didn’t know it before the final event of the weekend, though.
“I hope there’s something left — I’ll see,” Middaugh said before the time trial up Vail Pass. “I’ll see if my legs will listen to my mind.”
Macy knew what to expect out of the time trial: “A half-hour of pain,” he said. He knew it would be tough to gain a lead in the event because of the lead Middaugh had after that mountain bike race.
Middaugh finished 1 minute, 40 seconds ahead of Macy in the time trial to maintain the lead and claim another Ultimate Mountain Challenge victory.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2983.