Man versus the mountains |

Man versus the mountains

Andrew Harley

To be left alone with your muscles and will for more than seven hours, the task at hand, a 100-mile bike race through the Rocky Mountains, has to be stressful, and possibly maddening.

For the close-to-300 competitors in the 2003 Ultra 100 Mountain Bike Challenge at Beaver Creek, a day in the mountains doesn’t get any more invigorating.

The history

Rishi Grewal, of Aspen, entered last year’s men’s Ultra 100 as the favorite, but was defeated by Team Beaver Creek’s Jimi Mortenson.

Grewal has since retired. So, a would-be top contender is out of the field, but Mortenson is expected to defend his title.

Mortenson fought through a tough field of ultra-distance riders, more than 13,000 feet of climbing, temperatures in the low 90s and a flat tire to win the 2002 Ultra 100 Mountain Bike challenge with a time of 7 hours, 30 minutes, 24.3 seconds.

Michelle Grainger, of Boulder, won last year’s women’s Ultra 100 title.

Grainger spent most of the race in second place, and was unaware that she had taken the lead until she crossed the finish line with a time of 9:55:49.3.

The courses

The Ultra 100 breaks down into four divisions; the 100 Miles Individual division, the 100 Kilometers Individual division, the 100 Miles Team/Tandem division and the 100 Kilometers Team/Tandem division.

The 100-mile and 100-kilometer races both begin Saturday at 6:30 a.m., at the base of the Centennial Chairlift.

“This year’s course has been revised with racer feedback from last year,” said President of Highline Sports and entertainment, Inc. Jeff Brausch. “The portion from Eagle Ranch to Blue Lake, which was only 1500 feet in elevation, was arid and tough, so it’s been cut out of the ride.”

The 100-mile course runs up Cinch to Dally, heads toward Arrowhead, crosses Highway 6 to the bike path, crosses the river, hits the Singletree Aid Station, before the grueling ascent up June Creek. After ascending June Creek, the trail hits Red Sandstone Road and the Red Sandstone Aid Station, then Piney Road and another climb up Muddy Pass to the Muddy Pass Aid Station. The course heads to 4 Eagle Ranch and turns and heads back up to the Muddy Pass Aid Station. Then, the course heads back to the Singletree Aid Station, down Winslow Road, Cemetery Road, the bike path, through Arrowhead and back up to the Centennial Chairlift at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain.

“The added section to this year’s course starts at Lost Lake, runs up Piney River Road and heads down Piney River Ranch and back out,” said Brausch. “It’s definitely an easier course than last year, but a lot of it depends on the weather. Last year’s (race) was on a really hot day, so if there are cooler temperatures this year, they will make the course a lot easier.”

The 100-kilometer course hits the Red Sandstone and Muddy Pass Aid stations only once, skips the 4 Eagle Ranch Aid Station completely and ends at the base of the Centennial Chairlift in Beaver Creek.

There is a 13-hour cutoff time for all racers.

“We typically see about 80 percent of the field finish,” said Brausch. “Last year we saw close to 50 percent of the field finish last year, and we don’t want it to be an unfinishable race for the majority of the field.

“The key for this race is to really take care of yourself on the bike. Eating and drinking are important. And a lot of base miles in the saddle under everyone’s belts, which comes with training, are what we hope most of these competitors come to the starting line with.”

Registration for the 2003 Ultra 100 Mountain Bike Challenge at Beaver Creek is still open. For more information on the race, contact Highline Sports at (970) 476-6797.

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