Henry weathers conditions to win regional championship
KEYSTONE –These riders looked like their sweat turned into fudge, but what covered their bodies and faces wasn’t anything sweet. As one competitor crossed the finish line Saturday at the Mountain States Cup cross country finals at Keystone, she simply muttered, “Yuck.”
A series of steady downpours mixed with hail turned the course into a mud pit, which the riders wore on their teeth to the finish line (which floated away midway through the race).
Even when Vail’s Jay Henry claimed the regional and state cross country championships, the mud covered his face like a set of terrible lesions. Henry, during the four, 8-mile laps, picked up speed with each and dominated after the sun made its inaugural appearance.
“That’s really when I warmed up,” said Henry, who won the Ultra 100 mile bike race in Beaver Creek last weekend. “A two hour race doesn’t seem very long now. A two hour climb doesn’t even feel that long.”
Henry won with a time of 2 hours, 14 minutes, 42 seconds. Women’s pro winner, Jennifer Smith of Gunnison, won her race (on a different course) in 1:58:32.
As organizer Thane Wright watched the finish line, he had to appreciate the effort. A few weeks earlier, Wright spent a night battling rain and mud while winning the Montezuma’s Revenge 24 hour race.
“This was one for the record books,” Wright said. “These riders are going to be saying, “Remember when the heavens opened up?'”
The finals, a part of the Snake River Fat Tire festival running through Monday, started in relative normalcy. Cloud cover provided cool temperatures to the early sport and beginner riders but, as the morning progressed, the mercury downsized more than K-Mart.
“Crazy. Really crazy,” said Henry Noerdlinger of Denver. “Your hands just froze out there. You can’t feel the handlebars. The finish line is a wonderful thing.”
Mike Kappelmann of Colorado Springs got the worst of the elements. On the slick bridge near the finish line, Kappelmann fell off his bike.
“It was slicker than snot,” Kappelmann said. “I went down and went, “boom.’ I was lucky my bike didn’t go sliding off the bridge.”
Another difficulty for riders was visibility. The mud splattered off the front tires and coated their protective glasses. If they took them off, the mud and hail flew into their eyes.
“It was just cold. Really cold,” said Katherine Zambrana of Steamboat Springs. “I was down at the 100 mile race in Durango last week. I was out there for 12 hours. I was just happy I didn’t have to be out there that long.”
Still, many locals faired well.
Annie Black won the sport women 40-plus category; James Lindenblatt finished second in the sport men 25-29; Jim Scheifley placed third in the sport men 50-plus; Thomas Hoffman finished third in the sport men 30-34 and Rebecca Hodgetts finished second in the expert women 30-39.
The event continues today in Keystone with the mountain cross finals at 3 p.m. Monday, the downhill race begins at 10 a.m.
Ryan Slabaugh can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext .257, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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