Argentine Valentin Gutierrez, GoPro Mountain games’ fastest kayaker from 2019, already in Vail and training
VAIL – The whitewater racing town series event on Tuesday had some tough competition as Valentin Gutierrez arrived from Argentina ready to race.
Gutierrez won the downriver spring event at the GoPro Mountain Games in 2019, which is the last time that event was held, and he’s hoping for glory once again this year when the Mountain Games hit Vail on June 9.
“I remember when I raced the downriver at the GoPro Mountain games, I was really winded,” Gutierrez said.
That’s one of reasons the 24-year-old paddler decided to arrive early to Vail in 2021, in hopes of being better acclimated to the altitude during the big event.
“It’s way higher than I’m used to,” he said. “I’ve been training for the last week, running and doing cardios.”
While he sat out the first whitewater event of the season on May 18, by Tuesday Gutierrez had decided he was ready to test his skills against the locals in the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District Whitewater Race Series. He entered the kayaking time trial and won handily, cruising the final straightaway alone while a battle for second place ensued behind him.
“The level out here is good,” he said of the competition in Vail on Tuesday. “I think that these kinds of events are what push the sport up.”
Gutierrez, 24, began paddling at age 11 and never looked back. He said small events in Argentina, which have a similar feel to the Vail town series races that occur every Tuesday in May, have helped him progress his paddling over the years.
The Vail town series races, while much smaller than the GoPro Mountain Games which occupy the same venue, have seen increased participation this year, with the May 18 opening event attracting 50 paddlers in the largest first-of-the-season event in the series’ history. Organizers had to cap off the R2 rafting portion of the entries, as interest there was especially high.
The peak flows have also held off, for now, with cold temperatures early this week pushing the peak closer to GoPro weekend, at which time paddlers are hoping flows will be their highest.
While the Vail Mountain snow telemetry site’s snow water equivalent reading peaked on March 31, 3.5 weeks early this year, sustained snowfall and cold temps in the spring have prevented the peak runoff from also occurring 3.5 weeks early. Gore Creek’s average peak date is June 5.
All that could lead to an intense showdown at the GoPro Mountain Games, Gutierrez said on Tuesday.
“That’s why I got here early,” he said. “And also because I love this place, it’s amazing.”
R2 raft women
1 Kerri Karcz and Jennifer Hodkiss
2 Charlotte Hanks and Taylor Thoroshov
R2 raft men
1 Cole Bangert and Kurt Kinsell
2 Jeremiah Williams and Rob Prechtl
3 Wesley Zittel and Garret Sapyta
4 Tony Glassman and Chris Schultz
5 James Linstrom and Ben Thornton
6 Kevin Stephens and Troy Fuller
7 Jason Connolly and Chris Clark
8 Sarah Campbell and Peter Gajewski
9 Hunter Chamness and Miles Gentry
1 Natalia Gray
2 Lydia Smith
3 Caitlyn Ngam
4 Jennifer Hodgkiss
1 Valentin Gutierrez
2 Derrick Dreyer
3 Rob Prechtl
4 Ari Dennis
5 Gannon White
6 Jeremiah Williams
7 Lukas Bergsten
8 Garrett Sapyta
9 Alan Braunholtz
10 Joe Giglio
11 Pete Wadden
12 Ken Hoeve
13 Cole Bangert
14 Markian Feduschak
15 Kyle Gosnell
16 Colin Glackin
17 Colin McCabe
18 Paul Nenninger
19 Matthew Gianetti
1 Trinity Wall
2 Mallane Dressel
3 Jennifer Hodgkiss
4 Kerri Karcz
1 Jeremiah Williams
2 Ken Hoeve
3 Matt Paula
4 Rob Prechtl
5 Ferguson St John
6 Mick Boland
7 Jim Callen
8 Chris Johnson
9 Michael Chebatoris
10 Hunter Chamness
11 James Linstrom
12 Jesse Froeschle
13 Scott Simpkins
14 Ace Acetturo
15 Andrew Bare