Lenosky ekes out freeride win
VAIL ” The freeride challenge finals turned into a free-for-all.
Jeff Lenosky and Kyle Strait went down to the wire in the last heat of the finals Saturday at the Teva Mountain Games. Both took the faster of the two bridges, the skinny, a 6-inch crossing over water, final obstacle of the course.
Lenosky pedaled the skinny cleanly to win back-to-back freeride championships, while Strait stumbled off the span taking one of many spectacular falls Saturday.
“These guys are racers, so they’re more acclimated to going fast. I’m better on the technical stuff,” Lenosky said. “All I tried to do was hang with Kyle to the end and then stick these skinnys. I figured coming from my trials background that that was my best spot. I just try to limit my losses to the finish and then stick that skinny.”
Lenosky entered the second run of the finals with an advantage of 3-tenths of a second from the first heat with Strait. With the second race so close at the end, Strait knew he needed a little something extra.
“I was just thinking I had to make up some time,” Strait said. “I tried to make it happen and it didn’t go my way. I think I came on (the skinny) a little crooked because I had to take a pedal in between. It just went south, I guess.”
Technically, he went west, ending a wild afternoon on the course. Jamie Goldman ended up third with George Ryan fourth.
As expected after Friday’s practice session, during which time riders tested out the course, the new water feature at the end of the course was the biggest factor. How the 16 racers handled the pool decided who advanced through the single-elimination format.
Brian Gavagan of Denver took the biggest dive during the first round. Although he took the safer, wider outside path, he plunged in and was eliminated by Joe Perrizo. Not a sore loser, Gavagan took an extra dive into the pool for fun.
In the quarterfinals against Lenosky, Kyle Ebbett, of Essex, Vt., missed the skinny, but kept pedaling through the water and finished. Though the ride through the water earned him style points, he lost time and Lenosky advanced.
Strait, with the exception of his final tumble was, rode steadily all afternoon, beating Ryan twice in the semifinals. In the other semi, Goldman caught Lenosky at the end of the first heat for a 0.3-second advantage. But Lenosky rebounded well in the final run, gaining a half-second to go through to the finals.
In the third-place match, Ryan went into the water, giving Goldman the maximum 1.5-second lead, going into the last heat. While Goldman was likely a lock in the second go-round, the Santa Cruz, Calif., native took nothing for granted.
“With this last thing (the water) though, it doesn’t matter,” Goldman said. “George could have easily taken it, so I was still had to give it my all.”
Ryan went down again in the second race and was done, so Goldman decided to celebrate coming off the skinny. He ended up hitting the asphalt.
“I saw (Ryan) stop there,” Goldman said. “I was just cruising along after that. Right when I got on that last bridge, I was like, ‘I got on here really good and solid.’ Right at the end, I was like, ‘You should do something.’ So I did a 180, and didn’t have enough time to think about it. It was pretty funny.”
In the final, Lenosky won by a slim margin, making the final run, a winner-take-all affair.
“The courses are only 4 feet apart and it’s all made out of wood so it’s loud,” Lenosky said. “You know the entire time where they are. I knew we were on the bridges at the same time. I was getting ready to sprint for the last second. I figured if we were on the bridges equally, I had a hair from the first race. I had to stick with him and then I heard a crash. I knew I had it.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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