Jarchow, Middaugh win Eagle Ranch Classic
EAGLE — After starting the season off slower than she would have liked, local mountain-bike racer Karen Jarchow is back on top. Jarchow won the women’s pro division in the Eagle Ranch Classic mountain bike race on Wednesday; Eagle-Vail’s Josiah Middaugh took top honors for the men.
The Eagle Ranch Classic, a 12-mile race along trails like Bailey’s and Second Gulch in Eagle, is the first race of the Vail Recreation District’s annual summer mountain bike race series. Leading up to Wednesday’s race, Jarchow had been competing in the Epic Rides Off-Road Series, a three race contest taking place in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. Disappointed with her results in the first two races of that series, she entered the 2017 Original Growler in Gunnison last weekend, where she rode away with a win. Following that up with a win in Eagle on Wednesday, Jarchow said she’s finally feeling content with her fitness.
“I started this spring off a little slower than I would have liked, but that’s racing,” she said Wednesday. “I’m coming around now, which feels good.”
Jarchow’s true passion is ultra marathon mountain bike racing, which takes riders on cross country courses 100 miles in length. Jarchow is the defending champion on the National Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike Race Series, where she will attempt to defend her title again this year starting in July. With wins in Gunnison and Eagle throughout the course of the last week, she said she’s looking to maintain her fitness heading into that series.
“The physical side is there, now I’m just working on the mental side,” she said.
Following Jarchow was veteran racer Gretchen Reeves in second, and 17-year-old Ezra Smith of Summit County, this year’s national champion Nordic skier in the under 18 division, rounded out the podium in third.
Jarchow said both herself and Smith have a lot to learn from Reeves, who has won several national championships in her day.
“I started late, but I still remember my first race with Gretchen,” Jarchow said. “I’ve learned so much from her.”
The women’s podium — Jarchow, who turned pro recently; Reeves, who has been competing for more than 20 years; and Smith, who still has another year of competing at the high school level — demonstrated the competitiveness across generations in the local mountain-bike race series. Jarchow said it’s competition like that which makes the local race series so beneficial for riders.
“In these races, I just go as hard as I can and try to hold on,” she said. “These races are great for developing that mental fortitude. In that way our community is really like no other.”
Smith said she made the trip down from Summit for that reason.
“I was just looking for some good training,” she said.
STUDENT VS. TEACHER
On the men’s side, it was another competition among the generations. Middaugh, at 38, is in top form coming off a tough win in the Xterra off-road triathlon series May 20. It took everything he had, however, to top 25-year-old road biker Cristhian Ravelo, who started off the race in the lead and battled it out with Middaugh in a sprint to the finish.
Ravelo has been competing on the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour with new team the 303 Project. This week marked his first time back on the mountain bike this season.
“It’s 100 percent right from the gun which is a fun way of racing after you get used to being on the road,” Ravelo said. “Everything’s a little bit calmer, a little friendlier at times. In these races, people joke about it being the Wednesday Night Worlds, but it truly is. You got guys like Josiah here who are such tough racers.”
Middaugh, the 2015 Xterra world champion, said Ravelo gave him quite a fight.
“That’s why these are the hardest workouts I can do,” Middaugh said. “Nobody gives you anything.”
Eagle resident Jay Henry, a regular winner in the mountain bike race series, finished third. Challenging Henry throughout the race was Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy junior Sam Brown, who Henry coaches as a part of the local high school mountain biking team.
“It’s pretty great practice for these younger kids to get to come out here and race against the pros,” Henry said.
In the next race, Brown might enter himself in the pro division. He competed as an expert on Wednesday.
“I wanted to see how it went, and it went pretty well,” Brown said.
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.