Firebird ‘not a typical’ USA Cycling event
EAGLE — The first USA Cycling sanctioned races to happen here in a while took place this weekend, representing another advancement in the area’s biking capacity.
The Eagle Outside Festival’s Firebird race on Hardscrabble Mountain doubled as Colorado’s state championship cross-country race on Sunday. Top honors went to Howard Grotts, of Durango, and Erin Huck, of Boulder.
“On paper, 32 miles didn’t look that long, but it was pretty challenging out there,” Grotts said after his win. “There was lots of steep, steep climbing, which is unusual for a race like this.”
The top performing local in the pro division was Eagle resident Karen Jarchow, who finished runner-up behind Huck. Jarchow also helped organize the race.
“I think it went off really well,” she said. “I saw a lot of people out there enjoying some trails that might not necessarily be in a typical USA Cycling race.”
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BATTLE FOR 2ND
Grotts was among those seeing Eagle’s trails for the first time as a result of the Eagle Outside Festival and the state championship race.
“The trails are really interesting here, super fun, flowing and fast,” he said. “Nowadays, the climbs are like 2 minutes at the most, and then the descents are just super technical and fast.”
Grotts won the cross-country mountain bike race at last year’s GoPro Mountain Games. Next weekend he will return to Eagle Country to attempt to defend his crown in Vail.
“I’m definitely looking forward to that one,” he said. “We don’t get to race in too many high altitude, old-school courses anymore.”
While Grotts was more than 6 minutes out in front of his competitors, the true battle in the men’s pro category on Sunday for second place, with less than one minute separating the finishers in second and fifth place. Local rider Cristhian Ravelo, a Battle Mountain High School graduate, took fifth.
“I was with Cristhian for the first climb, but once we split up from there I didn’t know how close or far anyone was,” Grotts said.
Second place finisher Nick Gould said he’s never experienced that close of a contest for second.
“We were suffering,” he said. “We were attacking each other coming into the final sprint, but I had just enough of a gap to pull it out.”
Gould, also of Durango, said he was loving the trails in Eagle.
“I could live here, for sure,” he said. “Durango is amazing, but this place, I think, rivals Durango — you’ve got the awesome in-town riding, but then you’ve got the mid-country and the high country.”
Gould’s fiancee, Natalie Brandsma, also participated in a mountain bike race over the weekend, a change of pace for the casual rider who often finds herself a spectator at Gould’s races. She left the Eagle Outside Festival with her first ever podium finish in a mountain-bike race.
“I did the mid-length course, the Cat 2, and took second in the 30 to 39 age division,” she said. “It was really fun.”
Gould said he likes to do every race that’s organized by Mike McCormick, Eagle Outside Festival organizer. McCormick’s next event will be the Breck Epic, a six-day stage race in Summit County in August, before closing out the season with the Vail Outlier Festival in August.
McCormick said he hopes to work with USA Cycling more in the future. USA Cycling is the official governing body for cycling in the U.S.
“This was our first dance with USA Cycling in about seven years, and I’m happy to say that they were fantastic to work with,” McCormick said.