A shuffling peloton hits McCoy Park | VailDaily.com

A shuffling peloton hits McCoy Park

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
SPT snowshoe shuffle2 KA 03-02-08

BEAVER CREEK ” On any day, the Strawberry Park Express Lift at Beaver Creek usually has a sprinkling of skiless riders.

On Sunday, however, chair after chair of pedestrians offloaded at the top of the lift and made their way to McCoy Park ” with a pair of snowshoes in hand, of course.

This year’s Snowshoe Shuffle, the final race in the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series, drew its usual throng of participants, even with very low temperatures and constantly falling snow.

“Coming up on the chairlift, I was buried in my hood and thought, ‘I might just get to the top, turn around and go right back to the hotel,'” said Matt DeNio, who was in town on vacation from Michigan. “But it was worth it. This was beautiful. There was terrible weather, but it was so much fun. The snow ” everything was great.”

More than the other races in the series, Sunday’s competition featured a strong contingent of first-timers and recreational shoers.

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“I have never been in a snowshoe race in my life before,” said Gypsum’s Kristen Shedd, who participated with her husband, her daughter and a friend. “My daughter did the kids race, so it was a nice family event. I told some friends we were doing it, and they had never done it either, so I told them to come up and try.”

Along with those who needed a few strides to get used to the feel of snowshoes, there were plenty of top-notch competitors. Mike Buchanan, who competed in an uphill race in Aspen on Saturday, made the trip to Beaver Creek with some friends for Sunday’s race.

“I’d definitely do it again,” said Buchanan, who plans on getting another uphill race in this weekend. “There was one point when I was surrounded by a bunch of guys in Beaver Creek jerseys.”

Among top finishers in the men’s and women’s 5K and 10K races were locals clad in the black, blue and red Beaver Creek outfits. Rachel Viele edged out Anita Ortiz by five seconds to win the women’s 10K, while Seth Wealing crossed the line two seconds ahead of his brother, Logan, to win the men’s 10K. Lynda Andros won the women’s 5K, and Matt Williams won the men’s 5K.

For the more than 500 participants, winning the race, which benefited the Shaw Regional Cancer Center, wasn’t the ultimate goal. Several teams ran or walked together, donning Hawaiian-themed outfits, pink T-shirts or pink construction hats.

“The atmosphere is great, and it’s for a great cause. I’m glad I participated,” Eagle-Vail’s Maria Anjier said. “It was tougher than I thought it would be.”

Both the 5K and 10K courses had long climbs through groomed trails topped with plenty of fresh snow. Even with the wind and snow, there were still good views to be had for those remembering to look around.

“The fact that you couldn’t see that well, it might have made more of an impression because we ended up just starting in the back, and it wasn’t until you were farther out when you saw lines and lines of people and it reminded me of when you saw the Tour de France, a peloton of bikes,” Shedd said. “Going up on the switchbacks, you just saw lots and lots of people.”

Even though a large contingent of racers sought refuge at the starting-line tent until just before the race started, when the countdown reached zero, there was a several-second delay until the back of the pack could start moving.

“I know the people up here are so amazing when it comes to that,” said Jane Comerford, a first-time racer. “Snow, sleet, nothing is going to keep them away. That’s what’s so great about living here.”

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.

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