Brown and McSpadden win pro races at Eagle Ranch Classic
Large local turnout highlights the first all-citizens race in Vail Recreation District summer series
A vibrant, competitive local field congregated at Eagle Ranch for the the first all-ages race in the 2022 Bloch & Chapleau Mountain Bike Race Series: The Eagle Ranch Classic. Clear skies, temperatures in the low 70s and a mild 6 mph west northwest wind greeted the 198 mountain bikers who took to the Bailey, Wall/Riddle and Short loops.
“I love this race — this is my favorite VRD (Vail Recreation District) race,” said Bayli McSpadden, the women’s pro/open champion.
“It’s the most fun because you’re not doing laps on one course. Each lap is different. It’s super fun – I love it.”
With 12.6 mile races for the men’s and women’s singlespeed, pro/open and expert categories, a 10.7 mile course for adult sport racers, a 7 mile race for youth sport (11-14) and beginner (15-16) boys and girls, and a 3.5 mile race for ages 8-11, there was a little something for everybody.
Sam Brown, a 2022 Fort Lewis graduate and VSSA alumnus who placed fourth at the USA cycling collegiate road time trial nationals at the beginning of May and competes for the Alpha Bicycle Company Groove Subaru cyclocross team, won his second straight race (he was victorious at the Rides and Vibes in Grand Junction on May 20, an event McSpadden also participated in), claiming the men’s pro/open.
Behind Brown, former World Cup bike racer Chris Baddick, who now owns Cooley Mesa enjoyed cruising down the flowy descents of Mayer’s Gulch behind Aiden Brown, who ended up third in the pro category for Mountain Pedaler.
“I haven’t done any training in about three years, but I’ve been riding a lot this year and (am) happy to find time to consistently ride my mountain bike every week so far this season,” Baddick, who has two young daughters, stated. Even though “racing is not a priority” for the Eagle resident, he enjoys “racing with the young guns” at the town series.
“If it was a lap longer I think I could have closed Sam Brown down,” he added. “I was really pleased with coming in second.”
Baddick said he hopes to race the Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge with his wife, Christa, later this summer.
SSCV’s True Bennett snuck his nose into the top level of competition as well, placing sixth in the pro/open, a result the VSSA student was pleased with considering his current training.
“I’m in the middle of a large training block,” he stated, noting that 90-minutes worth of intervals the previous day left him feeling “a bit flat.”
“I’m looking forward to tapering my training for GoPro and seeing my hard work pay off,” he continued. Bennett’s goal is to podium in the pro class at next week’s event.
McSpadden also said the race doubled as an enjoyable, intentional training effort. The VSSA alumna, who took a gap year to focus on bike racing, was pleasantly surprised by her performance considering the recent time off from training and subsequent heavy volume.
“I ended up feeling really well,” she said.
“It was super fun to race with the guys. I wasn’t expecting to be back-to-back with some of the faster guys.” With the expert men starting alongside the pro women, McSpadden found herself between David Sanders and Ethan Barber, winning the women’s pro category by over two minutes. The jump in performance was an encouraging sign for the 18-year-old.
“I kind of surprised myself because last season I was riding with the girls in my category,” McSpadden said.
Another SSCV junior Matas Katieb won the single-speed division, finishing just over a minute in front of Ben Suttor.
There was fantastic turnout for the youngest fields, too, as 60 athletes participated in the beginner boys and girls divisions. Twins Dylan and Tyler Blair went 1-2 in the 11-14 age category.
“Everyone went out really fast,” Dylan said of his race in an email. “I really like the course and had a good race. I’m looking forward to doing more racing this summer.”
“I had a fun time,” his brother added. “The course was in good shape and not too dusty.”
Another local winner, Erik Dorf, took the men’s grand master (50+) expert division. Dorf said he spent most of the descents “trying to keep up with the ‘animal’ Brandon Dyksterhouse.”
“As expected, he dropped me like a hot rock,” Dorf stated of the former U.S. Alpine Ski Team coach who oversaw Mikaela Shiffrin’s five consecutive World Cup victories during the 2015-16 season. Dyksterhouse wound up winning the men’s master expert (40+) with a time of 49:28 with Michael Dorr (52:40) and Brett Donelson (53:45) coming in second and third, respectively. On the women’s master expert side, Lisa Isom was victorious in a time of 1:01:22.
Dorf said he hasn’t signed up for any GoPro Mountain Games events at the moment, but noted that it’s often a last-minute call. If he does, he’ll be ready — he said his training has been good.
“I have added some intensity into my workouts which has been helpful,” he said.
“Mostly, however, I have been trying to keep up with my son Mack. He’s a great training partner and much faster than I am. They say that having kids keeps you young. That may be true, but when I ride with him I just feel old.”
Mack Dorf, who races for California-based LUX Cycling, will compete at the Tour of America’s Dairyland in Wisconsin June 16-26 and competed at pro events in California and New Mexico in April and May.
The elder Dorf is registered for the famed Steamboat Gravel race in August but said the race he’s most excited to do this year is the Bighorn Gravel on June 26 in Gypsum.
“We have such great gravel riding around here and the opportunity to showcase our home terrain is exciting,” he said.
Riders looking to connect with the mountain bike community can check out the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Club on Facebook for information on weekly rides.