Spring biking series ends with a challenge in Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

Spring biking series ends with a challenge in Beaver Creek

BEAVER CREEK – Owen Thomas Taylor simply said, “I think I broke my heart,” after competing in Wednesday’s Vail Recreation District Spring MTB Short Track Series race at Beaver Creek.

Taylor, 5 1/2 – halves and quarters are important at this age – was not unlucky in love. He was just pooped as was the rest of the field. The fourth and final installment of the spring series – the summer season starts Wednesday with the Eagle Classic – was a serious test, designed by none other than Beaver Creek’s Mike Kloser.

“A lot of climbing and not much descent surprisingly,” joked Jay Wells, who won the expert race.

Wednesday’s course looped around the base of Centennial and went over to Haymeadow and back. And while everyone involved has skied down these gentle slopes, they discovered how very steep they actually are.

“4 Eagle Ranch was fun and fast and you got a lot of speed,” said Danielle Mt. Pleasant, a sport racer. “This one was definitely you’ve got to be able to climb, have stamina, know what gear to be in. The descent was pretty technical. Obviously, I’m covered in mud, but it was fun. It definitely gets you going for the VRD races later.”

Those would be the Westin Riverfront Vail-Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Race Series, and these short-track races have essentially been designed as warm-ups for the traditional summer series. But Wednesday’s expert race was likely the renewal of the “The Three Js,” (Jake) Wells, Jay Henry and Josiah Middaugh, who will likely clash for the men’s pro title this summer.

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Yes, it was short track, but those three took it out Wednesday at an intense pace. They led the field out in a 10-lap pace in the 20 minutes allotted. Wells led wired-to-wire, but Henry surged late and appeared to have a little opening when Henry slipped on the final turn of his ninth lap.

Wells held off Henry, last summer’s champion, in the final lap.

“It’s good to use different venues and not just stay down at the (Eagle County) Fairgrounds,” Wells said. “It’s good to get up here. Resort mountain-biking, a lot of climbing, downhill and more climbing.

“You always come into these races early season, and you don’t know where everyone’s fitness is. You’re always a little bit anxious. You don’t know where you are. It’s good to come out and test yourself.”

Wednesday’s race was also an interesting contrast to the summer series’ finale, the Beaver Creek Blast. With an ominous weather report and snow surrounding the course, it was a completely different experience than the regular race here in August.

“I was nervous for today,” Mt. Pleasant said. “Were they going to have snow? I didn’t know what they were going to do. The snow is melting. It’s a lot different right now. Usually, Beaver Creek Blast is sunny, no snow, lots of people around. It’s definitely different right now, but I think it’s great during mud season we can still do this.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

Short Track No. 4

Expert – Jay Wells

Sport – Matt Johnson

Beginner – Scott Taylor

11-14 – Sam Brown

10 and under – All kids for racing