Five miles of work on Labor Day |

Five miles of work on Labor Day

Preston Utley/Vail Daily Beth Frisk raises her arms in the air as she crosses the finish line Monday at the Beaver Creek Hill Climb.

BEAVER CREEK – There was nothing light about the Colorado State Hill Climb Championships at Beaver Creek Monday.”It was unbelievable,” Paul Sands of Vail said. “It was what I call a suffer fest. You dug deep and found out what you were made of.”The cycling race, which left from Beaver Creek’s East Day Lot and climbed its way up through the Strawberry Park community to 9,378-foot Daybreak Ridge, was a short but merciless 5.25-mile struggle for all involved. Along with a $2,500 cash purse and a superb pro field, Monday’s event was part of the United States Cycling Federation Lance Armstrong Junior Olympic Series, and was put on by the Vail Racing and Development team.The junior series is an important feeder system for Olympic hopefuls that gives youth ages 10-18 an opportunity to try bike racing and qualify for development camps that can lead to a berth on the U.S. National Team.Monday’s race did just that for the field of juniors that competed. It also gave everyone involved, from pros to citizens, juniors to masters, and locals to out-of-towners, a dose of burning legs and a throbbing heart.And, on Labor Day of all days – the national holiday where everyone is urged to take a break. “The Labor was extreme,” Mark Lenfest of Edwards said. “This was a very, very difficult course. I rode it just two days prior at a much slower pace. But, at a race pace it’s very, very difficult. There’s a few lulls, but there are some 12-percent pitches in there.”

Needless to say, Lenfest, who finished fourth in the Masters 45-and-over division, shared the same sentiment as all the other racers who came out for the climb. All those who finished, anyway. “I enjoyed it immensely,” he said. “I just wanted to do it for myself.”After a wet and cold weekend, the weather for Monday’s race could not have been nicer. Participants were treated to sunny blue skies and pleasantly cool temperatures that were ideal for strenuous pedaling. “This was a perfect temperature,” Ellen Miller of Vail said. “It’s not roasting hot. It’s a little bit cool and we had a nice breeze.”Added Sands, “It keeps your core temperature down to be racing at this time of the year. It was definitely cooler, but you get a sweat going.”Miller and Sands both finished in second place in their respective Men’s and Women’s 45-and-over Masters divisions.

The only thing bad about the great weather Monday, said event organizer John Edwards, was that a number of Front Range entrants didn’t know how nice it was in Eagle County and opted to stay home. “Only in Colorado can the weather go from a severe winter storm watch to 70 degrees and clear blue sky in 24 hours,” Edwards said. “It couldn’t have been better for the riders today. “For a first time event we did very well. Especially, considering the weather change and some confusion with the (Vail Classic) criterium on Saturday being canceled. I think the biggest thing was the weather, though. I think everybody in Denver saw that we were having a real bad weekend and then they didn’t check the Monday forecast.”Despite a number of pre-registered no-shows, there were still plenty of racers from outside Eagle County who made the drive to Beaver Creek.One such racer was Kyle Farrell of Fort Collins who raced in his first cycling race ever in the Juniors 10-12-year-old division. “I didn’t have my own bike, so I rode a mountain bike,” Farrell said. “It was pretty heavy but I still got fourth in my age group. The best part was once you get past that finish line you just go straight downhill and you’re like, ‘whew.'”Pro climbers

In the pro race, local Jimi Mortenson finished in second place with a time of 26 minutes, 9 seconds behind Jonathan Baker of Boulder (25:17).Jon Tarkington (26:28) and Sam Horn (27:32) finished in third and fourth respectively and local adventure-racing all star Mike Kloser rounded out the top-5 with a time of 28:05.In the women’s pro race Beth Fisk beat out Renee McKeirnan and Elizabeth Carrington for the title of state hill climb champ.Contact Nate Peterson at (970) 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at npeterson@vaildaily.comVail Colorado

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