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The early forecast as the Broncos report

On the previous episode of “John Elway Tries Build a Football Team,” No. 7 acquired Joe Flacco in his latest bid to find a quarterback while also having what we thought was a pretty good draft.

Yes, welcome to Englewood and Broncos preseason, where we spend the next six weeks hemming and hawing about the upcoming season and trying to divine meaning out of four utterly meaningless exhibition games.

Offense

We weren’t sold on Flacco, and we really still aren’t, but we do like what Elway seems to have done in the other skill positions.

At receiver, Emmanuel Sanders will take it slow coming back from injury, while Courtland Sutton is on the other side. Sanders gets the benefit of the doubt with his recovery plan and thus, the Broncos have two good wideouts.

The 2018 NFL Draft and ensuing free-agent period yielded Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, which is a nice backfield. Elway went with Iowa tight end Noah Fant in this year’s draft, so that looks solid.

And then we’re back to the nuts and bolts of it — the offensive line. Garett Boles, sigh, is back at left tackle, and Ronald Leary joins him on this side. At center is Connor McGovern. Newbie Dalton Risner and Ja’Wuan James are on the right side.

There’ll obviously be a lot of shuffling through the next six weeks, but this is what we watch.

Must. Keep. Joe. Flacco. Upright.

First, this still looks a little weird. We’re being honest. But for Joe Flacco to be successful, the offensive line has to keep him upright. (David Zalubowski | Associated Press)
joe flacco, r m

Whatever’s left of Flacco’s skills won’t be visible if he’s running around for his life/getting pummeled.

Fant, in particular, should be interesting to watch. From his Baltimore days, Flacco likes his tight ends, so the rookie could be a good outlet. Blocking might be a work in progress (anything to help this offensive line).

Yes, the mere presence of a running game with Freeman and Lindsay will help slow opposing pass rushes, but Flacco has to have time. He wasn’t exactly mobile quarterback in his youth. He’s 34 and a statue.

And, now, about his heir apparent. Good to see Drew Lock sign on the bottom line and not miss any time in camp. Best case scenario, Flacco has a renaissance and Lock can hold a clipboard for two years.

More realistically, Lock shuffles in during some late-season games against Detroit at the Raiders at home, weeks 16 and 17. He needs the snaps in practice and the preseason games.

Defense

The tendency is to say everything is fine here. Of course, Von Miller is the source of all goodness, if you’re a Broncos fan or just a fan of good football. Bradley Chubb has proven to be a good complement.

The worry here is two things. First, the Broncos cannot leave these guys on the field for 40 minutes per game. A lot of that goes to what went above.

There’s also the fact that the “No Fly Zone” is dead. As high-maintenance as Aqib Talib was, the Broncos missed him last year. Chris Harris is back, but that’s about it from the original secondary.

Chris Harris is the only remaining member of the “No Fly Zone” secondary, which is a cause for concern in a pass-happy division. (David Zalubowski | Associated Press)
chris harris, r m

By yardage, the Broncos were 22nd in the league in defense last season and 20th against the pass. In Scooby-Doo parlance, ruh-roh.

This has got to get better, especially when you consider that the Broncos are in the same division with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Philip Rivers.

And this brings us to our stirring conclusion. Even if a lot of things go right — Flacco rejuvenates the offense, Bolles goes the entire season without a holding penalty (ha-ha) and the defense stiffens against the pass — the Broncos still have Kansas City and the San Diego … umm … L.A. Chargers in their own division.

It’s an improbable path from 6-10 to a return to the postseason.

Middaugh comes home to Xterra Beaver Creek

BEAVER CREEK — No pressure, Josiah.

Every year when the Xterra Pan-Am off-road triathlon series comes to Beaver Creek on Saturday, all eyes turn to Josiah Middaugh. It’s a lot of pressure, so how does he handle it?

“Not very well,” Middaugh joked. “But luckily that’s what I’ve come to expect. The first couple of years, it got to me. It was mostly self-imposed. You just have to tackle one day at a time. That keeps some of the pressure off. I’ve realized it’s a good kind of pressure, not a negative thing.”

Modesty aside, the 40-year-old veteran has done pretty well with the pressure of his home race. He’s won on home soil six times, including five years in a row (2011 and 2013-17) before Mauricio Mendez knocked him off his perch last summer.

Packed schedule

Middaugh’s been pretty busy of late. In past years, he’s built up to Xterra Beaver Creek. With a newer format to the series — more events spread out over North and South America — Middaugh’s changed his schedule.

Xterra Beaver Creek will be his third race in as many weeks.

“It’s always an experiment, right? It’s not ideal,” Middaugh said. “I’m just chasing some points in the PanAm series. I would have preferred to race in Victoria and take off Quebec.”

Josiah Middaugh comes out of Nottingham Lake during Xterra Beaver Creek in 2017. Saturday’s race is a 1-mile swim, a 16-mile mountain-bike ride, and 6-mile run. (Daily file photo)
Daily file photo

But it is an experiment, as he said. Middaugh finished second in British Columbia behind New Zealand’s Sam Osborne and then won in Quebec last week, so maybe taking the week off wasn’t a good idea.

Middaugh is second in the points in the PanAm standings behind Osborne coming into Xterra Beaver Creek. Athletes pick their schedules, so the two have met twice, and the New Zealander is 2-for-2 against Middaugh, getting wins in Pelham, Alabama, and the aforementioned Victoria race.

Game on

An offroad triathlon is a 1-mile swim, a 15-mile mountain-bike ride, and a 6-mile run. The swim, Middaugh’s Achilles’ heel, is at Nottingham Lake. The biking, his strength, goes from Avon to Beaver Creek with the run ending at Centennial.

Osborne, Middaugh’s chief rival in this race, as Mendez, the defending champ here, is not attending, is good at all three disciplines.

“He’s got top split (times) in all three disciplines. It makes it harder to make up time,” Middaugh said. “He’s a tough nut to crack.”

Josiah Middaugh wins Xterra Beaver Creek in 2017. He has won on his home course six times during his career. (Daily file photo)
Townsend Bessent | Special to the Daily |

The first reason for optimism is the altitude. Middaugh lives here and Osborne struggled with it at Xterra Nationals last year in Ogden, Utah. In fact, the reason Osborne didn’t race last week in Quebec was that he was training here to adapt to the thin air.

There are very few, if any, people on the planet who know Saturday’s course better than Middaugh. Whatever the season, he trains here. Yes, Middaugh gives time to Osborne during the swim, but the local’s ability to ride home trails might be able to make up the difference.

The full-distance triathlon begins at 9 a.m., with the sprint triathlon, shorter distances in each discipline, starting at 8:15 a.m.

What’s in your fly-fishing bag? A guide from a guide

Fly-fishing can be a very gear-intense activity.

Getting what you need can seem like an endless journey back and forth to the fly shop. A lot of guides and avid anglers try to minimize what they are carrying down to the river.

Let’s explore the essentials and hopefully make it easier for you to get what you need in your vest or pack. I will save the pack vs. vest vs. sling bag debate for a future article and focus more on the small pieces of gear you don’t want to be without on the river.

Flies and Fly Boxes

Having the right flies at the right time is what can make the difference between a good day and a great day (there is no bad day on the river). Without going into the specific flies, I like to have a wide selection of nymphs, dry flies, and streamers.

I try to separate the different style of flies into different fly boxes. I also look for fly boxes that are waterproof to protect the hooks from any rusting that might occur if water gets inside.

I like to use magnet compartment boxes for most of my nymphs that are smaller than a size 14. This eliminates the tedious task of placing them into the slots or foam that you’d find in regular boxes.

For my dry flies, I like boxes that have a high cover so they do not crush the wings or parachute posts that are common in most dry flies. A good, small streamer box can be hard to find however there are a few out there that you can load up with a couple dozen of your favorite streamers or big hoppers.

Leaders

The leader is the connection between the fly line and the fly. I like to carry a few different three packs of leaders in different lengths and sizes. At a minimum, I have a few 9-foot 5X leaders for dry fly-fishing and a few 7-and-a-half foot 4X leaders for nymph fishing.

Be sure to save your old leaders because they make great streamer leaders when you’re throwing meat. It can be a real day killer running out of leaders while you’re out on the water, so make sure you have a few spares in your pack.

Tippet

Tippet is much less expensive than leaders, so having a wide selection of different size tippet will save you money in the long run. You can use tippet to build a leader that has been cut back too far or you can use it to taper down a leader for a more delicate presentation for dry fly fishing. Tippet is also used as the connector between flies in a multiply fly rig.

I like to have 1X-6X tippet in my bag however you can get away with have 4X-6X in most situations or rivers.

Weights

I always have a small selection of different size split shot in my pack. These are incredibly helpful and come into play when nymphing. I like having at least two or three different sizes to have some options depending on the depth and the speed of the river. Getting the flies to the right depth can make or break your day. The difference between a good guide and a great guide can be one split shot.

Indicators

You should have a few strike indicators in your pack as well. Airlock strike indicators have become a standard for most anglers and guides. The one downside to the Airlock indicator is you can lose the screw on cap very easily, rendering the strike indicator useless. I like to have a few different size and color indicators in my pack. Different sizes for different size waterways and different colors for different lighting scenarios.

Floatant/Dry Shake

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the river tying on a dry fly to come to the realization that I don’t have any dry shake in my pack. Dry shake really helps to get a saturated dry fly floating high on the water surface. I like to treat my dry flies with a liquid or gel floatant for the first application and then only using dry shake after that initial application of floatant.

Tools

There are a lot of gimmicky fishing tools on the market. I think having a nice pair of nippers and a good hemostat or clamp is really all you need. If you’re prone to losing nippers, I highly suggest getting a lanyard to keep them in place around your neck.

I’m a huge fan of mitten clamps with scissors built in for getting hooks out and to aid in numerous other tasks. I usually will fasten the clamps to my pack or shirt for quick and easy access.

The gear on this list is what I think is essential to have in your pack. Of course, everyone is different and might have different tools or other items that they find are a necessity on the river. I like to keep it pretty simple and not too cluttered in my pack. Whether you’re a gear junkie or a minimalist, having the right gear in your pack can allow you to utilize every minute on the water.

Ray Kyle is the Shop Supervisor and a Guide at Vail Valley Anglers in Edwards. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 or rkyle@vailvalleyanglers.com.

Camp Hale plays host to half marathon

This weekend seems to be endurance weekend as the 2019 Dynafit Vail Trail Running Series with the Camp Hale Half Marathon & 5K, presented by Howard Head Sports Medicine, is Saturday at the eponymous former military base.

The event is the part of the local trail running series, presented by Bloch & Chapleau Attorneys at Law and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which challenges runners with more than 50 miles of scenic and rewarding climbs, descents and rolling countryside for a total elevation gain of 16,475 feet. over seven events throughout the summer.

Back for the fourth year in 2019, the Dynafit Camp Hale Half Marathon and 5K will again be held at Camp Hale on Highway 24 south of Red Cliff. The half marathon begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, followed by a 5K at 9:30.

The half marathon course takes runners on well-maintained dirt roads, the Continental Divide Trail and the Colorado Trail surrounding beautiful and historic Camp Hale. This race is an opportunity to compete on the same terrain that the troops of the 10th Mountain Division used for training during World War II. The 13.1 mile course is situated at 9,200 feet above sea level and will have minimal elevation gains reaching peak heights of 9,500 feet.

Registration for the half marathon is $50 race week or $60 on race day. The 5K race costs $31 during race week and $38 on race day. Preregistration is available online at vailrec.com until 3 p.m. today.

Runners can pick up their race numbers or register ahead of time from 3 to 6 p.m. today at the Peak Performance store in the Edwards Riverwalk.

Day-of registration will take place from 7 to 8:30 a.m. at the race start area.

Parking will be available within Camp Hale. Please do not park on the private property of Nova Guides; race staff will be directing traffic to proper parking. Parking attendants will be available to direct cars

Saturday morning looks to be great racing weather, with a sunny forecast and an estimated temperature of 59 degrees in Red Cliff at the start of the race. The projected high for the day is 72 degrees.

ECO SOFT CUPS

We are going cupless. No more single-use cups for a splash of water which then goes to the landfill. With the support of series title sponsor Dynafit and Active Hydration, the Vail Recreation District is working to eliminate disposables from the Dynafit Vail Trail Running Series by providing reusable Eco Soft Cups to all runners.

You can fold it, roll it, or scrunch it up. The cups are lightweight at just 10 grams, easy to hold, collapsible and a perfect re-useable hydration cup for running. Be sure to carry yours during the race. You can attach it to a pack or scrunch it up and put it in your pocket. There will not be any regular cups on the course. If you want to drink water or Gatorade at the checkpoints, please bring your cupless cup with you, or bring your own handheld bottles or hydration packs.

Prizes, awards and Swag

Prizes will be presented to the top three finishers of each age group, and 5K awards will be presented to the top three finishers in the amateur, open and masters categories. Raffle prize drawings will also be held at race awards ceremonies, featuring products from area merchants and national companies.

Post-race refuel includes breakfast burritos, oranges and bananas will be provided by Northside Kitchen.

All Camp Hale Half Marathon and 5K participants will receive a race shirt.

Race participants can stop by the Lululemon store in Vail Village this week to enter the in-store raffle. The winning raffle entry will receive a Lululemon outfit of their choosing valued at $150. .

The series continues with the Berry Picker on Aug. 3, the 10K@10,000 Feet on Aug. 24 and the MeadowGold 10K on Sept. 14.

Rockies fans: Are the Broncos reporting yet?

The Colorado Rockies might want to consider giving up this baseball thing.

How in the wide, wide world of sports do the San Francisco Giants come into Coors Field and sweep the Rockies four straight?

Before you fire up the old email, this is not your orange-and-black-clad sports editor woofing about his favorite baseball team. Freud knows his Giants have stunk like bog water since the 2016 All-Star Break.

I come to bury the Rockies, not praise the Giants.

On a somewhat serious note, the Giants were 3-18 at Coors Field in the last two years and change before winning four games during the past three days.

How does any self-respecting baseball franchise get crushed by the Giants?

The heart of the San Francisco lineup on Wednesday was Pablo Sandoval, who weighs around 400 pounds at last check, Stephen Vogt, a 34-year backup catcher, and Mike Yastrzemski, who’s Carl’s grandson.

The home nine scored 15 runs at Coors Field in a four-game series against San Francisco pitchers not named Madison Bumgarner, the only stud the team has. (The Giants held him out so he doesn’t get shellacked before the trading deadline.)

The Rockies allowed 40 runs, or in easy math, 10 runs a game to a team that has needed directions on how to circumnavigate the bases for most of the season.

This was a playoff team last year.

Where’d the pitching go?

The Rockies built a super bullpen. It’s very trendy these days to have the starter go five innings and then line up the fireballers.

The only problem is that super bullpens tend to explode. Wade Davis (making $18 million) is 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA and 14 saves in 16 opportunities. If you’re looking for advanced metrics, his WHIP (walks/hits to innings pitched) is a wretched 1.69. His groundouts to outs by air is 1.04, not good in a world of shifts and playing half your games at Coors.

Scott Oberg is having a career year, so good on him, but Carlos Estevez (1.42 WHIP) and Bryan Shaw (1.31 WHIP) are allowing a parade of baserunners. Chad Bettis, whose best days seem behind him, is getting lit up like a Christmas tree. Jake McGee has been torched of late.

What’s more, the starting pitching, which fueled the drive to the postseason, is struggling. Kudos to John Gray. German Marquez showed promise early but is looking like a youngster reaching his innings limit.

Kyle Freeland fell off the earth after finishing fourth in the Cy Young balloting last year, while Antonio Senzatela does not seem to be fulfilling his potential.

Where’d the HR go?

To add insult to injury, what happened to the offense? The Rockies are 10th in the National League and 21st in the majors in home runs with half of their games at 5,280 feet and a juiced ball.

Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story are doing their thing, but the lineup isn’t entirely imposing as in years past. The team dearly misses DJ LeMahieu.

I don’t understand doling out $25 million between Ian Desmond and Daniel Murphy. Hitters should be lining up to play at Coors for a lot less than what they’re producing.

Four games do not a season make — again, with the admonition that no team should ever drop four straight at home to the sisters of the poor known as the Giants — but what’s realistic?

No one’s catching the Dodgers in the NL West. Do the Rockies shave a shot at the wild card? Yes, and so does everyone in the National League except for the Miami Marlins.

The Rockies head to Yankee Stadium this weekend, so things are looking up … or not. The good news? Broncos training camp opens today.

Ecologists’ encounter with snowmobilers in Aspen wilderness on July 3 raises broader concern

Three Aspen-area ecologists were flabbergasted on a recent July morning when they came across two snowmobilers running their sleds down fragile, snow-free terrain on the Upper Lost Man Loop.

The three hikers feel the incident was indicative of a growing mentality that “anything goes” on public lands in the pursuit of fun.

Karin Teague, executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation, was hiking with two other women July 3 when they came across the two snowmobilers close to the Upper Lost Man Trailhead. The women were collecting data for a research project examining alterations in bloom time for alpine flowers.

The snowmobilers were running their sleds over the wet ground to reach the parking area along Highway 82.

“There was no snow anywhere in Lost Man Basin at all,” Teague said. “The issue is all the damage it does to the fragile tundra.”

When confronted by the women, the men claimed they were allowed to be in the area. They said they researched their route on a map and avoided wilderness — where all motorized and mechanized uses are banned.

Teague knows the Independence Pass terrain as well as anyone, by the nature of her job. The foundation was started 30 years ago to restore and protect the ecological, historical and aesthetic integrity of the pass corridor. Teague has been at the helm of the organization since May 2015. She knew the boundary for the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness starts just a short distance from the trailhead in that area.

Teague said one of her colleagues, Dawn Barton, gave the sledders an earful about their decision. Barton said she believes the snowmobilers started their trip farther up the road on Independence Pass, ran out of snow and headed down the alpine terrain toward the Upper Lost Man Trailhead rather than turning around.

Teague and Barton said the snowmobile left visible marks on the terrain, which was exceptionally wet for that point in the summer because the snowpack had only recently receded.

“During spring, vegetation is the most sensitive,” Barton said.

Vegetation won’t have an opportunity to rebuild any leaves and buds that were damaged, she said. The tracks cut into the terrain also potentially caused root damage.

Barton said she returned to the site 10 days later and could still see the tracks left by the snowmobiles.

“My contention while talking to the snowmobilers was they were being environmentally unconscionable,” Barton said.

Teague said she’s not sure the message sunk in. The snowmobilers were possibly “a bit more contrite” at the end of the conversation.

Enforcement is always an issue for the U.S. Forest Service. One law enforcement officer covers 750,000 acres in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. The agency relies, in large part, on self-policing and encourages forest visitors to learn the travel management regulations and other rules.

Shelly Grail, recreation manager for the district, said there is no gray area about snowmobile travel along the Independence Pass corridor.

“It is clearly a violation for snowmobiles to be off of designated routes during the winter season,” she wrote in an email before heading into the field Tuesday morning. Over-the-snow travel is restricted to designated routes, which is essentially Highway 82, she said. Wilderness is not a designated route.

In the summer, Highway 82 and Lincoln Creek Road are the only designated motorized routes, Grail said.

Teague said she is concerned the July 3 encounter wasn’t just an isolated, odd incident. Some skiers using the Independence Pass corridor reported encountering snowmobilers or seeing their tracks in wilderness along the Lost Man Loop and in other areas, she said.

The two men on July 3 were in their 20s or 30s, Teague estimated. She sensed they weren’t from the area because they didn’t seem to know the terrain. However, she feels some of the snowmobilers traveling off the highway in the winter are local residents. She hopes that Independence Pass Foundation and partners such as Carbondale-based Colorado Wild Public Lands and the Forest Service can build awareness of the travel restrictions and the reasons they should be heeded.

“It would be great if the community enforced this ethic,” Teague said.

Barton said the swelling population of Colorado as a whole and the Roaring Fork Valley in particular will make illegal use of public lands a bigger issue.

“I feel we’re on a collision course in some of our backcountry areas,” Barton lamented.

Safety videos by Colorado Fourteeners Initiative focuses on Aspen-area peaks

Colorado Fourteeners Initiative has come up with an eye-catching way to warn climbers and hikers that poor decisions on the state’s highest peaks can kill them.

A new series of mountain safety videos was released this month with a heavy dose of information on navigating the big peaks surrounding Aspen.

Colorado Fourteeners Initiative produced the series in an effort to inspire climbers and hikers to be prepared before tackling some of the most difficult of the 54 peaks over 14,000 feet.

“I had been aware of this issue for years. I thought this is something Colorado Fourteeners Initiative should be doing,” executive director Lloyd Athearn said.

The deadly climbing season in 2017 emphasized the need. Nine people died in the Elk Mountains near Aspen during the spring and summer. Five died on 14,130-foot Capitol Peak.

“That really caused a groundswell — what are we doing about this?” Athearn said.

His organization shot footage for the safety videos last summer and produced them over the winter and into spring. In broad terms, the videos try to inform people who come from around the world to climb and hike Colorado’s peaks about what they will encounter.

“Every fourteener has some level of inherent risk,” Athearn said.

Therefore, hikers need to wear proper clothing, carry proper gear and get up and down before afternoon lightning storms roll in.

The series also makes it clear that 10 or so of the 14ers are in a different league and are particularly hazardous. They cannot be tackled via a hike on an established, clear-cut route. The more difficult peaks include Capitol Peak, North Maroon Peak, Maroon Peak, Pyramid Peak and Snowmass Mountain in the Elk Mountain Range outside of Aspen.

The first fatality on an Aspen-area peak this summer occurred last week.

Three of the new videos posted to CFI’s YouTube channel are titled: “The Deadliest Colorado 14ers,” “No Shortcuts on the 14ers” and “What Makes the Elk Mountains 14ers So Dangerous?”

They feature Aspen sources such as Ute Mountaineer owner and avid outdoorsman Bob Wade, Mountain Rescue Aspen President Justin Hood, mountaineer Ted Mahon and Aspen Expeditions Worldwide guide Sammy Podhurst.

“No Shortcuts on the 14ers” uses Capitol Peak to drive home the point. After reaching the summit in a journey that includes extensive exposure, some climbers have made the mistake of thinking they could shave time off or avoid repeating crossing nerve-racking terrain by heading toward Capitol Lake.

Hood said in the video that the terrain people thought would be easier turns into a nightmare.

“It progressively gets worse and worse and all of a sudden you’re sliding on loose dirt and talus. You get to a 300-foot cliff ban that is totally unavoidable. There’s no way around it,” Hood said in the video.

Podhurst said, “There is no shortcut off the mountain. You have to go back the way you came up.”

“What Makes the Elk Mountains 14ers So Dangerous?” stresses that the crumbly rock on the Maroon Bells poses special challenges, as does the difficulty of route finding throughout the fourteeners in the Elks.

Additional videos will be released in coming weeks by CFI specifically on Capitol, Maroon Bells and on whether a person should hire a guide.

The videos are all about four minutes or less. Athearn, a longtime climber, said it is his impression that “the mental process” of preparing to hike or climb a fourteener has changed over time. Although the number of resources available in guidebooks and online forums is greater than ever, he feels fewer people are thoroughly researching their objective. It also appears that the attention span of society at-large is getting shorter, he said. Therefore, CFI decided to make videos on mountain safety in hopes of capturing attention for that short time and inspiring people to seek more information.

The videos were made possible with funding from multiple sources, including the Aspen Skiing Co. Employee Environment Foundation and the Colorado Office of Tourism.

This latest round of mountain safety videos augments what CFI previously offered.

“We released 10 videos last summer — six of them focused on gear,” Athearn said.

The release of the videos is timely. A heavy snowpack lingered well into summer and snowfields will likely blanket parts of some high peaks into August. That delayed the hiking and climbing season for most people.

“There seems to be pent up demand for people to get out,” Athearn said.

He has special concerns about whether people are equipped to stay safe on ice and snow.

Beaver Creek’s Daybreak Ridge will serve as 2019 Colorado Classic Queen of the Mountain climb

AVON — Fans made it up Holden Road in Beaver Creek to cheer on USA Pro Cycling Challenge competitors in 2013, and organizers are hoping for a similar party up there this year when the Colorado Classic hits town Aug. 23.

The course, announced Friday, once again will feature the grueling Beaver Creek climb up Holden Road, to Borders Road, to Strawberry Park Road and finally Daybreak Ridge, a section that became known as “The Brink” in 2013.

Spectators won’t be allowed to travel up there via automobile, so hiking and biking will be the preferred method of transport to the top.

Rob Simon with the Colorado Classic said race organizers examined routes from the previous incarnations of the Classic and its predecessor, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and added modifications to come up with this year’s courses.

While the 2013 race up Daybreak Ridge began with a long ride from Steamboat, this year’s stage will be completely contained within Avon and Beaver Creek, starting with a criterium-style course in town, circling East and West Beaver Creek Boulevard and Highway 6 between Nottingham Park and Post Boulevard for seven laps, or 35 miles.

Simon described it as two courses in one.

“You’ve got the fun circuit that goes through the town, so you’ll see a lot of sprinters making a run for it,” Simon said. “Then you go up the (Queen of the Mountain section) there on Daybreak Ridge, it’s such a steep and notorious climb, you’re hitting grades of up to 14 percent, so that’s going to be an intense climb that’s going to weed out the sprinters and favor the climbers.”

The course then will head back down the mountain on the Bachelor Gulch side, finishing where it started, on Lake Street in front of Nottingham Park.

“We think it’s going to be a thrilling conclusion to the race,” Simon said.

Women’s-only race

The Colorado Classic started two years ago with a goal to reclaim some of spectator cycling’s proud history in Colorado, a state that was once host to one of the biggest races in the world, the Coors Classic.

Vail hosted two stages of the Colorado Classic last year, but crowds were underwhelming, and organizers decided to go a different direction. It was announced in December the 2019 Colorado Classic will become the only women’s stand-alone stage race in the Western Hemisphere on the Union Cycliste Internationale calendar and USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour.

Avon jumped at the chance to host a stage of the race, offering to pitch in with traffic management and road closures in town, and providing the use of Nottingham Park.

By having an all-women’s race, “we’re providing a platform for these women to gain more exposure, more opportunity, more sponsorship,” said Colorado Classic event producer Lucy Diaz. “But really we’re trying to become a catalyst for what we see the future of sport is within cycling for women.”

Slice of the state

The Colorado Classic will begin Aug. 22 in Steamboat before heading to Avon for Stage 2, representing the Western Slope portion of the competition. Stages 3 and 4 will take place on the Front Range, with Stage 3 in Golden featuring a nine-mile circuit that starts and finishes under the iconic Golden arch downtown. The Colorado Classic will conclude on Aug. 25 with Stage 4 in Denver featuring eight laps of a technical and dynamic circuit, starting and finishing in front of Coors Field and taking riders through fan-friendly areas on 17th Avenue and City Park.

The course will cover a total of 220 miles, with 13,667 feet of elevation gain over the four days of competition.

There will be a free Colorado Classic Expo near each host’s start/finish, celebrating cycling, health, fitness, and women’s empowerment with a curated array of exhibitors, events, and food and beverage experiences.

“This will be, by far, the most challenging course we’ve had for the women’s Colorado Classic and this year’s route provides something for everyone,” said Colorado Classic race director Sean Petty. “The courses offer two incredible days in the mountains, starting with over 4,000 feet of climbing in Steamboat Springs and a brutal climb will be featured before the finale on Stage 2 in Avon. And we’ll have opportunities for the sprinters in Stages 3 and 4 in Golden and Denver.”

Middaugh nabs first win of season at Xterra Quebec; triathlon series heads to Beaver Creek next

EagleVail athlete Josiah Middaugh captured the Xterra Quebec off-road triathlon elite title Sunday at Lac Delage in Quebec.

It was the first win of the season for Middaugh, his second in a row in Quebec, and the 35th major victory of his storied career.

The event started with a 1.5K swim, followed with a grueling 27K mountain bike on epic trails at Empire 47 and finished with a tough 10K trail run.

In the men’s race Middaugh was eighth out of the warm — no wetsuit necessary — water of Lac Delage, about four minutes behind the swim leaders, Edmond Roy and Karsten Madsen. But he quickly went to work on the bike, posting the fastest split in each of the three laps and caught Madsen for the lead just before the bike-to-run transition.

“I’m in a little funk with non-wetsuit swims so I gave up more time than I wanted to, but I felt good on the bike and was able to reel everyone back in,” said Middaugh, the reigning Xterra Pan American champion. “It’s such a technical course, even more technical than Victoria last week, and it featured a lot more up and down. I was able to catch Karsten right at the end of the bike, and we ran out of T2 side by side. The run here starts out up a hill, and I hit the first climb really hard, and Karsten backed off and from there I just tried to hold the gap.”

Middaugh ended up posting the second-best run time, just a few seconds slower than Matthew Alford, who finished sixth, and took the tape in 2:46:18, more than two minutes ahead of Madsen in second.

“It feels good to get the first win of the season, and now I’ll head back home and see if I can defend the home turf at Xterra Beaver Creek on Saturday,” Middaugh said.

As for Madsen, he went all out from the gun to see if he could swim and ride away from Middaugh.

“I went after it today,” Madsen said. “I wanted to put as much time on Josiah in the non-wetsuit swim as possible. On the bike I knew I would lose some time to him, but I felt I was riding the downs really good. On the third lap I made a mental mistake and crashed hard over the bars and my face took most of the impact. I collected myself and got going again when Josiah came by me like a freight train. We came into (the second transition) together, but I was running hurt. Racing full out to try and win is risky, and today I found myself on the ground, but I’m happy I took my shot at it. Honestly, every race and training session my heart does what it should, is building confidence again in my mind.”

Will Ross had arguably his best race as an elite to finish third, just two minutes back of Madsen and four minutes off the pace Middaugh set. Edmond Roy finished fourth, and Branden Rakita rounded out the top five.

On the women’s side, Katie Button captured the elite title at Lac Delage in just her second Xterra World Tour win as an elite.

Vail Valley cyclist Colby Lange on track for 2020 Olympics

Vail native Colby Lange is getting ready to head down to Peru for 2019 Pan American Games, which start July 26. 

It’s an unofficial stop on the journey to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he hopes to compete as a track cyclist in the team pursuit. 

In the group of seven cyclists on the national team, Lange is one of three who are regular starters at every big event. 

The team won gold at the Pan American Championships last year, making history as the first American Team Pursuit squad to break four minutes.

They went on to notch the best men’s World Cup team pursuit finish in at least a decade in January, finishing second in Hong Kong in January. 

To make it to the Olympics, they’ll need to have a top-eight ranking at the conclusion of the 2020 World Championships in Germany, Feb. 26 to March 1.  

“That’s the last race of the cycling season, so we’ll know in March,” Lange said. 

Up until then, “Everything I do now is around going,” he said.

That means no skiing, and for a kid who grew up in Vail ski racing, that part has been hard. 

“I’ve only skied once in the last two years, which is pretty wild considering I used to ski 200-plus days a year.” Lange said.

Tough choice

The first year that Lange made the national team in cycling, he also made the U.S. Ski Team as a giant slalom racer. He chose cycling and hasn’t looked back — except on the occasional powder day. 

“My friends were telling me this last season was awesome,” he said. 

Now a national record holder in team pursuit, the 20-year-old Singletree resident is hoping for a long carer in the sport as the youngest member of the record-holding team.

“I went all in for cycling for like three months, and in that time period I made the national team and won junior nationals,” he said. “And doors just started opening for me.”

Track star

During his time as a ski racer, cycling was a tool to stay in shape and cross-train when Lange couldn’t get on snow. Lange’s mom remembers taking him to the track when he was in elementary school. 

“We were in down Colorado Springs for a soccer game, and it was an open-air track, and we were watching the velodrome and saying, ‘This is insane,’ and (Colby’s father) looked down at him and said, ‘One day you’ll be doing this,'” said Lauren Lange, Colby’s mother. 

Colby said that after discovering competitive cycling through local races in Eagle County, the track shrunk the sport down a bit for him, which he thought could be advantageous — for skiing.  

“My dad came up with the idea of trying the track, and it made a lot of sense — the efforts were shorter, more explosive — so it’d probably be even better training for skiing,” Lange said. “I had no intention of racing, ever, on the track. But I went down (to Boulder), got certified, really enjoyed riding the track, did end up racing, got noticed that way, got invited to national team camp, did that, and from there on it was pretty clear that this could be something I could do if I went all in.”

In the team pursuit, the U.S. is not currently within that top-eight spot it will need to make the Olympics, but it’s close. 

Lange said they will have a better idea of where they stand in that environment after the Pan American Games which, while they’re not part of the ranking system which will determine the Olympics, are a once-every-four-years event that has a similar feel to the Olympics. 

“It’s an honor just to be a part of the Pan American Games,” Lange said. “I’m really excited for it.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. program is excited about Lange and the Team USA’s chances in the team pursuit.

“We have a strong team of riders,” said Jeff Pierce, USA Cycling director of elite athletics. “We’ve seen this team reach new milestones and have many top performances this track season, and we’re excited to carry that same energy … as we build towards Tokyo 2020.”