Grotts, Dong fastest through the muddy course
VAIL — A little mud and a lot of elevation gain made for a tough day of mountain bike racing at the GoPro Mountain Games.
Defending champion Howard Grotts, fresh off World Cup competition, won his third Gerber Golden Axe, as well as $3,000, against a difficult field.
On the women’s side, Evelyn Dong finished on top, her first big win of the season.
“There’s good prize money, and also it’s a great event,” Grotts said after the race. “That’s why this event attracts so many top-class riders.”
PRESSURE IS ON
After setting a new course record at the Original Growler Endurance Race in Gunnison two weeks ago, Amy Beisel said she was impressed by the performances she saw on Saturday. She finished fifth.
“I don’t think anyone was expecting Evelyn to win,” she said. “I’m so happy for her.”
Dong is new to the sport, and had been on a fast progression over the last couple years. A new team and the expectations that come with it has been a lot for her to adapt to.
“This year I felt like I had a lot more pressure,” she said. “This spring has been pretty tough. But I’ve always had a lot of fun at the GoPro Games, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything, so I really wanted to race, and I think that was a huge part of winning, just going out and having fun.”
CAN’T STOP, WON’T STOP
For most of the competitors, the second two laps on the Vail Mountain course were more fun than the first. Rainfall in the morning had the racers skidding through the mud, or dismounting and running at times, during the first lap.
“The entire first descent was a greasy mud layer with hardpack underneath, so sometimes you would just start sliding and you couldn’t really brake or stop,” Grotts said. “But it’s always fun after you’re done.”