VAIL — This is meant to be fun, people ... really.
But Wednesday was the Davos Dash, the fourth race of the Vail Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Series, presented by the Athletic Club at the Westin. The Davos Dash isn’t fun. It’s 3.5 miles pretty much straight up from the West Vail Holiday Inn up to the radio tower.
There’s no warm-up. There are only the slightest little spans of downhill or flat. It isn’t very scenic because you’re just looking down at the ground, trying to keep pumping. And once there is a view from the radio tower, most everyone collapses in a heap.
“I hated every minute of it,” said Michelle Wolffe of Avon. “No, it’s hard. You can’t take it easy. Everybody says that you can take it easy. I’m in the beginner division. I’m more about just getting there and completing it. Everyone says, ‘If you’re tired, you can take it easy.’ But you can’t because so many people are passing you and cheering you on. It’s impossible to relax. You have no choice but to push it as hard as you can.”
Wolffe was riding for the Vail Valley Medical Center team, which does seem to have its own benefits if one has a heart attack halfway up the hill.
“Every teammate knows CPR, without a doubt,” she joked.
Yet, in spite of the lack of any kind words for the course, all the pain and suffering involved makes for a badge of honor for those who complete it and earn the right to talk about it afterward at The Ale House.
“I’m a little out of shape,” Clayton Davis, 16, said. “It’s just kind of a big training thing. You just need to start sooner than later.”
The soon-to-be junior at Vail Christian High School hasn’t been spending the summer scarfing food on the couch. He broke his left-collar bone back during the Eagle Classic, the opener of the series, in May, when he went over his handle bars after the uphill section. It’s been roughly the 6-8 weeks needed to heal, so Davis was back, and what better race to return than the Davos Dash?
“That was tough,” Davis said. “I just wanted to get to the top.”
Of course, Davis was using gears on his bike. Courtney Gregory of Eagle was riding a singlespeed. Who gives a damn about technology?
“It’s the only way to do it, man,” Gregory said. “It’s the most efficient way. Gears only slow you down. Singlespeed is like a secret weapon. You just have to go for it. When the going gets rough, you just have to stand up and go.”
That said, there are many times competitors ask themselves why they do this.
“Pretty much from the start,” Gregory said.
The kicker of the Davos Dash is the finish. The last 100 yards of the 3.5-mile sprint are the steepest part, a cruel kind of irony.
“It easiest without knowing what to expect,” said Wolffe, who was competing in her second Davos Dash. “This time, I knew there’s a little hill at the end that just kills you. Knowing that’s coming at the end just sits in the back of your brain and really discourages you.”
“That’s the worst part by far,” Gregory said. “You’re already blown and you want to walk and throw up all at the same time.”
One person was definitely missed at this year’s edition of Davos. Dawes Wilson, a big figure on the local riding scene, was badly hurt in a cycling accident on the Fourth of July. He is on the mend, and to help, a lot of the Davos Dash riders were signing a poster-sized picture of Wilson, turning it into a get-well card.
The series continues Wednesday with the Boneyard Brawl in Eagle.