Bikers find their race legs in Eagle | VailDaily.com
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Bikers find their race legs in Eagle

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
SPT Eagle Classic TS 05-28-08
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EAGLE, Colorado ” Even with 350-plus racers at Wednesday’s Vail and Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Series opener in Eagle, there was still a bit more coughing than usual at the finish line.

Welcome to another season.

In warm, but not too warm, weather and under partially cloudy skies ” perfect biking weather ” racers packed the nearly all-dirt track at the Eagle Classic.

“Every year seems to get bigger and bigger,” Jason Noakes said. “I was just astounded by the number of people out here.”

While the regulars were back in fine form ” Jay Henry cruised to a win in the men’s pro division, followed by a bevy of top riders ” there were plenty of new racers.

“I’m the beginner of beginners,” Slavina Rindone said. “I rode a (mountain bike) for the first time on Sunday, and today is my first race. I placed 21st. There were three girls behind me. I was very happy. I was chasing whoever was in front of me, trying to survive.”

Before the adults kicked things off, a group of about 30 kids took part in the little league race ” almost triple the number of kids who normally race.

“A friend recommended it to us,” said Blaze Hubbard, 9, who, “thought it would be fun, and it was.”

Noakes may not have been riding for the first time, but he got to test drive his new bike.

“I just picked this bike up from Denver today,” he said. “The test ride for the bike was good, but it wasn’t that good for me. The engine wasn’t doing too well. The bike is fine, though.”

The course, which, out of all six venues in the series, is the the easiest technically, had some sustained climbs and downhill portions.

“I’m still learning the downhill parts,” said Justin Gompf, who couldn’t wait to race this season after breaking his leg snowboarding in February. “I’m a competitor, so I like racing against others.”

Gompf isn’t the only one.

“Riding in the races, you push yourself so hard. You don’t realize what you can do,” said Anna Rice.

To the never-ending amazement of many, Henry didn’t need much time to catch his breath at the finish.

“Jay, you made me sweat,” Mike Kloser told Henry after crossing the finish line a little bit later.

“I don’t get to do that much, Mike,” Henry said. “I need to take every chance I can get.”

Even with a large number of racers, and stretches of singletrack, bikers didn’t encounter much trouble passing on the course.

“We were kind of nervous at first because we thought we were going to be starting behind some of the sport (division) riders,” pro Jake Wells said. “When you get behind someone in the sage, you can’t do much. But it worked out well.”

And just as important as it was to cross the finish, there was another equally important finish line ” Pazzo’s for the after party.

“I really enjoy hanging out with everyone and catching up with friends,” Noakes said.

For complete race results, check out Friday’s Vail Daily.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 970-748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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