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Anyone can step up to this challenge

TMG Vail Pass Bike Climb DT 6-3
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VAIL ” Put away the compass and in-line skates. But bring out a lot of bikes and boats.

This year, the Teva Mountain Games swapped the adventure race for a new event, the GNC Ultimate Mountain Challenge.

Ian Anderson, a Teva spokesman, said he hopes the decision will lead to greater



participation.

“While the adventure race was attracting world-class teams, it wasn’t attracting as many teams as we’d like,” Anderson said. “We didn’t just want world-class teams, we wanted amateur teams.”



The adventure race, which featured sections of mountain biking, snowshoeing, rappelling, boating and in-line skating, wasn’t something anyone could do.

“Adventure racing required so much gear,” Anderson said. “We wanted to make a race more approachable to all the athletes.”

With four legs ” a kayak downriver sprint, a mountain-bike race, a 10-kilometer trail run and a road-bike hill climb ” the Ultimate Mountain Challenge opens the door for anyone with shoes, a bike or a boat.



Teams of two to four people and individuals can participate in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, which has a cash purse of $11,500. And there are some athletes, like kayaker Tao Berman, who will be competing as an individual and a team.

Scores are based on place finish, with 40 percent of the score from trail running, 30 percent from kayaking and 15 from each bike race.

This morning, the Ultimate Mountain Challenge kicks off at 9 a.m. with the downriver sprint. Kayakers start in East Vail and navigate through the Class III Gore Creek all the way to the Covered Bridge in Vail. At 1 p.m., the mountain-bike portion kicks off at Vail’s Golden Peak, with beginner to expert riders looping the 7-mile course. The pro riders get going at 4 p.m.

Sunday, the runners take over Vail Mountain starting at 9 a.m. At 11:30, weekend warriors can join legends like Greg Lemond in the hill climb, which goes up Vail Pass.

Anderson suggests spectators for the hill climb may want to spread out along the course with cowbells.

“When they really start climbing in East Vail, that’s where the (riders) will need it,” he said.

Two teams to watch for will be the Athlete’s for a Cure squad and Team Nike. Athletes for a Cure boasts Tour de France winner Floyd Landis for the hill climb and mountain-bike race, (little known fact: Landis was the 1993 junior national mountain-bike champion), Simon Guitierrez in the trail run and Berman in the kayak leg. Team Nike has just as formidable a lineup, all of whom happen to be locals. Brad Ludden will be on the water, Dan Weiland on the trail, Jay Henry mountain biking and Mike Freeberg climbing Vail Pass.

Ludden, who will be kayaking for Team Nike, likes being able to actively follow events he may otherwise not care about.

“It ties the whole games together and provides the unity we’ve been missing,” he said.

In the individual race, local Josiah Middaugh may have the upper hand. While Middaugh has only recently set foot in a kayak, he could easily be in the top five among all competitors for the other three events.

While the Teva Games has only commissioned one Ultimate Mountain Challenge, some athletes have taken the initiative to start their own unique events.

“My dog is going to be doing the dog challenge, and I’m going to be taking part of the freeride challenge and big air,” said Brian Peters. “We’re both the underdogs going into it. I’m a semi-pro downhill racer, but speed trials really aren’t my thing. In the big air, it’s just great to be a part of that. Hopefully, I’ll be able to rise up to the level of the pros.”

As for Peters’ Goldendoodle?

“There’s going to be eight dogs going around on the tour, so he’s going to have some competition,” Peters said.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at icropp@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2935


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