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No winter break for Kloser

Ian Cropp

FRASER – Mike Kloser doesn’t need extra motivation. But go ahead and give him a little, and you’ll see the 47-year old endurance athlete breeze by competitors less than half his age.Two weekends ago at the U.S. National Winter Triathlon at Devil’s Thumb, Kloser already had plenty to prove to himself when someone else threw gas on the fire.”I really wanted to get out there and see if I could make the worlds (Winter Triathlon) team for Italy, and prove the naysayers wrong,” Kloser said. “The one naysayer was the race director, who made the mistake of telling my wife he put his money on Brian Smith, who placed second.”Kloser won, avenging a 13th-place finish from a similar race in January, when he took an extra half lap on the mountain biking portion.”This was even more rewarding because of my results a few weeks ago,” said Kloser, a former world champion mountain biker and dominant adventure racer. “I made the mistake of not paying close enough attention in the race briefing (last race).”In the January tune-up race, Kloser placed 13th, and was third after the running leg of the race. Following a 30th-fastest mountain biking portion, Kloser screamed back with the best ski split.

In the February race, Kloser started strong in the 8K run again.”The thing I was most happy with was my run,” Kloser said. “I wasn’t that great of a runner … but I’ve been working on it. To be able to come shoulder-to-shoulder with Josiah (Middaugh, a triathlete from Vail) at the end of 8K runs says volumes for me. The run sets you up for the rest of the race.”Kloser was third heading into the mountain biking portion, which was almost all on hard-pack snow.”When it comes to riding in snow, I’ve done two (winter triathlons) … so I know it should be my best discipline,” Kloser said.After the 15K biking portion, Kloser, who finished almost three minutes faster than the closest competitor, had a good enough gap for the 10K Nordic leg.”I have been Nordic skiing for 20 years, and I don’t do a ton by the standards of the guys like Jay (Henry),” Kloser said. “I get out one or two days a week.”Even with his conservative approach to the Nordic section, Kloser still had the third-best time, coming in about four minutes ahead of Brian Smith for the overall title.

A world of his ownWith the win, Kloser earned a spot in the U.S. Winter Triathlon team, which will compete in the worlds March 3-4 in Flassin, Italy.”I got a spot a couple years ago and went to Switzerland for worlds,” Kloser said. “I didn’t have my best showing there, getting a respiratory bug, and then just missing the wax.”Even with a slow Nordic leg, Kloser still came in the top 20.”After that I said, it was fun, but let’s chalk it up as an experience,” he said.Since then, the sport has grown and gained more respect.



“Europeans have really embraced it, and it had a bid as an Olympic sport in 2010, which got on the back burner for 2014,” Kloser said. “It’s legitimate. You’re seeing people cross over from XTerra, who are top-notch athletes. And there’s World Cup circuit.”When the 2014 games roll around, the ageless Kloser may still be beating guys in his 20’s and 30’s, although his son Christian, 13, may be a contender.Christian competed and won the Junior division of the Winter Triathlon, but not without some pain.”It was really cool,” Mike said of racing with his son. “I was bummed out for him, though, because he had such a struggle with the race. He was sick for days going into it with a stomach bug. He had some issues on the run, which set him back, but he got back on the bike, and it was tough for him, but her persevered.”He realizes it’s a big accomplishment to persevere through the challenging spell and finish the race, which says a lot in life. To learn that at 13 – it’s something he’ll remember for a long time.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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