An extra long grind up the mountain
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL ” In came the beginners, the single speed racers, the juniors and the experts.
And then they waited for the pros.
Jay Henry crossed the finish line of Wednesday’s Vail Grind mountain bike race well ahead of the pro pack, at 1 hour, 54 minutes and 11 seconds ” still almost double his winning time from last year.
“Tonight was a long race ” it was a little longer than the average Wednesday night race,” Henry said. “I’ll have to do some extra-hard resting tomorrow.”
Henry, who has been having a phenomenal year, continued his streak of stellar
riding Wednesday, moving quickly through the technical course that took riders around Vail Mountain from Golden Peak. The win was Henry’s fourth in as many races in the Vail and Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Series.
“It’s rooty and rocky and fast at the same time, so that makes it kind of tricky,” Henry said of the course. “You’ve gotta be paying attention the whole way down.”
Last week, Avon’s Henry won the Firecracker 50 to take the USA cycling national marathon championships. Henry also won the combined disciplined Imperial Challenge earlier this year.
“I think I’ve had a really lucky year,” Henry said. “I don’t think I’m riding that much better than I have before. I just think things have come together really well and luck comes in streaks. Hopefully this lasts a while.”
Jake Wells was second in the men’s pro division, with Steven White third. Jen Gersbach won the women’s pro race, ahead of Kelli Rohrig.
Mike Skellion picked up his second straight win in the single speed category, flying through three laps in just over an hour-and-a half (the men’s pro race was four laps).
“The last climb kind of hurt me,” Skellion said. “This is a classic course. It has great climbing, great singletrack descent and is technical in some spots. It asks everything of a rider.”
Skellion, who has been cutting back on his training as he and his wife just had their first kid, enjoyed having the family at the race. Despite his scaled back training, Skellion is proving to be a big pickup for team Mountain Pedaler-East.
“(They’ve) been working on me for years,” Skellion said of Mountain Pedaler.
Leadville’s Roxanne Hall didn’t have the chance to pre-ride the course much, but took the women’s veteran expert division.
“I didn’t see the very last part until the end of the race,” Hall said. “It was a little scary, but I like the downhill stuff. This was a great course. It was more of a mountain bike course instead of roads.”
Hall, who has been neck-and-neck with other racers throughout the series, is like several other competitors and uses the race as training for other races.
“I usually do really long races, like 50 and 100 miles,” Hall said. “These kind of races area challenge for me ” you have to go really fast off the bat.”
In the boys junior division, Cristhian Ravelo took first, coming in at 58 minutes, while Heidi Kloser topped the girls junior division at 1:11:52.
First-year racer Kim Lake won her third race of the series, taking the women’s beginners division.
“It was a fun course,” Lake said. “It was my first really fun downhill singletrack.”
For Lake, who is part of the all-women’s High Maintenance team, the actual racing is just one part of the whole mountain biking package.
“I’m meeting all these women to ride with,” she said. “It’s a whole community of women I didn’t know before.”
Lake, uses the races as incentive to get out and train more than she normally would.
“I feel like I need to keep going,” Lake said. “I can’t have a week where I don’t ride at all.”
Lake’s husband, Stacy, started racing after he came to watch Kim earlier this year.
“It looked like so much fun ” I had to try it,” Stacy Lake said.
Mark Patterson, who works as ski patroller on Vail Mountain in the winter, cut his teeth in his first mountain bike race Wednesday.
“I wasn’t there to win it or place high,” said Patterson, who decided to race when egged on by fellow patroller P.J. Bevan. “I was just there to ride it and have fun.”
On two wheels, the mountain feels a bit different.
“Stuff you are bored on skiing suddenly becomes steep,” Patterson said.
And the uphills?
“I kind of like the climbs,” Patterson said. “It’s like earning your turns.”
For complete results of the race, check out Friday’s paper.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.