Life Time Silver Rush 50 mountain bike champion has Edwards connection

Over 1,600 runners and riders, representing 43 states and 10 countries were in Leadville for weekend races

Tyler Jones celebrates his win in the Silver Rush 50 mountain bike race last Sunday in Leadville.
Life Time/Courtesy photo

The Silver Rush 50 mountain bike race has always had a special place in Tyler Jones’ heart.

The first summer after graduating from Fort Lewis College — where he met his wife Sydney and raced alongside Sepp Kuss, Chris Blevins, Keegan Swenson and Howard Grotts during Durango’s hey day — Jones schlepped his bike from his native Northern California to the Vail-area to “do bike races.”

That’s code for ‘visit my girlfriend.’

“I put together my race calendar and coincidentally, most were within an hour’s drive of where she grew up, which was Edwards,” he admitted.

Jones completed the 20-hour commute three times that summer of 2016, the first of which was for the Silver Rush.

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Last Sunday, his fourth try at the Leadville event, he won the whole thing.

“It was awesome!” Jones enthusiastically stated Wednesday as he and Sydney drove across Wyoming to another mining town, Downieville, California, for a small grassroots cycling event.

“I don’t get to win much; to be the fastest person on the day, it was pretty neat.”

Having remembered the typically hot pace on the initial climb in his other Silver Rush races — where his previous best finish was fourth overall — Jones’ goal coming in was to sit in with the leaders and bide his time. He assumed a group would emerge and collectively create separation.

“It played out very differently than that,” he remarked. “I actually kind of unintentionally ended up by myself and just decided to keep going.”

The 29-year-old broke away 10-minutes in. He spent the rest of the morning looking over his shoulder for other riders before crossing the finish line 11-minutes clear of the next man. Completing the grueling 50-mile course, with over 7,000-feet of ascent, in a time of 3 hours, 54 minutes and 13 seconds, Jones was the only member of the 686-rider field to break four hours. Keegan Pelton (4:05:58) took the silver and 22-year-old Ethan Cefus (4:06:23) rounded out the men’s podium.

From left: Keegan Pelton, Tyler Jones and Ethan Cefus stand on the men’s podium for the Silver Rush 50 mountain bike race last Sunday in Leadville.
Life Time/Courtesy photo

“Just kind of went for it,” said Jones, who moved to Edwards full-time in 2016 to work at Vail Resorts. After marrying Sydney, the pair headed for Colorado Springs, where he currently works full-time for the bicycle component manufacturer SRAM. Because he still spends about half his time in the valley, Jones calls himself a semi-local — a similar label to his semi-professional cycling status.

“I just ride a lot; no sponsorships or financial anything relating to sport,” he explained, adding that his current employment “makes racing bikes a bit easier,” but isn’t in the job description.

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His best accomplishment at Fort Lewis was probably making the national team squad.

“Which is harder than the national race,” he said. Primarily a cross-country rider, his longest race up to graduation was 35 miles.

“As I get older, I’m changing into more of an endurance-based athlete, so I’ve improved a lot in that regard,” Jones said. His training depends on the work week, and can fluctuate from 10 to 20 hours. At Wild Horse Gravel in De Beque this May, he still managed a bronze behind established pros Lachlan Morton and Matt Pike.

“I’ll take that any day of the week,” Jones said.

“Gravel is an interesting discipline because it can be so many different things; Wild Horse was closer to a ’90s style mountain bike race. It’s a good climbing course, it’s rough. I like races when they become a 1-on-1 as opposed to a tactics kind of style.”

At the end of June, he placed 15th at the Big Horn Gravel.

“That was a great event; definitely would like to come back to that,” he said. “In the back part of the race, I started to see the difference between a full-time pro athlete and a recreational rider.”

With the win, Jones, whose goal race this year is the Steamboat Gravel 145-mile event, has earned a slot into the Leadville 100, though he’ll still have to pay the entry fee.

“I’m on the fence,” he said regarding the Leadville 100. “I have a couple days to decide.”

Seventy-six athletes finished both the Silver Rush 50 run and Silver Rush 50 mountain bike events within the allotted time to walk away with the Silver King/Silver Queen title.
Life Time/Courtesy photo

Other notable finishers

Aspen’s Jessie Young claimed the Silver Rush 50 mountain bike women’s title in 4:41:14, about 10 minutes ahead of runner-up Jessica Yeaton (4:51:54). Vail Daily readers may recognize Yeaton as the two-time Australian Olympic cross-country skier who competed at both the GoPro Mountain Games XC mountain bike race and the Big Horn Gravel event in June.

Harper Powell (4:53:03) of Salida finished in third, just a minute and five seconds ahead of Minturn’s Haley Dumke, who was fourth overall in 4:54:08.

Edwards’ Mark Ryan was the top local runner in the men’s 50-mile trail run on Saturday. The 57-year-old finished in 34th overall (8:46:14). Gypsum’s Megan Boese (8:57:57) posted the top finish (47th) for area women.

After two events of the Lead Challenge, Jake Wells — who was 20th overall (4:26:53) on Sunday — sits in eighth out of the 80 registered to compete in all of the Leadville Race Series events.

The Lead Challenge is a progressive series of trail run and mountain bike events ranging from 26.2 to 100 miles for a total of 282.4 miles. Racers must complete each of the following Leadville-based events within the allotted cut off time in order to move on and be eligible for the next: Leadville Trail Marathon, Silver Rush 50 MTB OR Run, Leadville Trail 100 MTB, Leadville 10K, and Leadville Trail 100 Run.
Life Time/Courtesy photo

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