Keep your legs moving and eyes open
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL ” When racing a 14.7-mile mountain bike course that climbs more than 3,600 feet, endurance is a word competitors may toss around.
Just because the legs are pumping and pumping, however, doesn’t mean concentration can take a back seat. Wednesday’s Lost Lake Loop, the fifth of six races in the Vail and Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Race Series, tested the physical and mental capacity of racers as they pushed through the point-to-point course.
“It’s probably one of the most technical trails around,” said Jay Henry, who won the men’s pro division, coming in at 1 hour, 22 minutes and 14 seconds. “It’s a blast to race on. It keeps your mind occupied riding through those rocks. You get to the point where you are concentrating on riding and kind of forget you’re racing.”
Even before she hit the trail, women’s pro winner Gretchen Reeves was prepping for the terrain.
“I get sweaty palms when I drive here because it’s so much fun,” Reeves said. “It’s a good course for me because of the (technical) aspect.
“You have to have upper body strength for it.”
Reeves, despite being the only female pro rider Wednesday, still found some good competition.
“At the beginning I always try to race as hard as I can with the veteran pro guys because they are fast,” Reeves said. “It’s pretty cool, I know those guys and race against them. But today I was a little off.”
Later in the race, Reeves found her groove.
“I was with people and for a while … and you get up road and spread out a bit,” she said. “Its me and my head, and I’ve gotta keep going because I’m training for other races. Then I start to pick people off that are in other categories. Every time I see people ahead of me it’s like a rabbit, I’m like, ‘I’ve gotta go catch them.’ But you always say, ‘Good job,’ to them.”
Henry, who recently won the Full Tilt in Telluride, a Mountain States Cup race, has won every Vail and Beaver Creek series race this year.
“It’s a crazy sport,” Henry said. “Sometimes when you think you should be riding well, you’re not, and when you don’t think you should be riding well, you are. It’s a hit or miss thing. Right now it’s going well. Winning races gives you a lot of confidence.
“Tonight I wanted to see where my technical skills were. It’s great practice for a technical race. It’s almost like an East-Coast style course with rocks and roots. A little bit of rain and a little bit of mud and it would have really made it an East Coast race, but it’s technical enough dry.”
Nobody can accuse women’s sport rider Michele DeWine of slacking off. DeWine may have been going too hard, in fact. While holding the division lead, DeWine put her head down and pedaled hard during a climb, hoping to retain her lead. Nobody really passed by DeWine directly, but that’s because she took a bit of a longer route to the finish line.
“This is my first year racing,” DeWine said. “And my first time racing the course.”
At the finish, DeWine realized she’d missed a turn and raced a couple extra miles.
“I go so fast I can’t see the signs,” DeWine joked.
DeWine, known for her speed, is quick to admit when she’s not as fast as people think. Last weekend at the Laramie Enduro race, DeWine stormed back after a broken chain and followed what proved to be the wrong lead of some other bikers ahead of her.
“We came across the finish in record time,” DeWine said. “We would have to fly to come across that quickly.”
And the weekend before Laramie, in a race at Copper, DeWine confused the laps she had to complete.
“I came to the finish line and though I was dead last,” she said. “I came in first with a record time, but had to tell them there was no way.”
The short loop in Wednesday’s race featured lots of climbing, but on less technical terrain.
“Somebody who rides the road has a lot more of an advantage on this course,” said Bo Pihl.
One aspect Pihl enjoyed was the start setup of the point-to-point race.
“It was a lot more spread out,” Pihl said. “They got the starting order right. Sometimes they will have about 38 pro’s coming through screaming at you or you’ll end up bunched up with a lot of the other riders. This worked out.”
Forrest Henzler, who won the under-14 division for the Little League Series, picked up his first win.
“There’s always been some last-minute drop-in that’s beat me,” Henzler said.
For full results, check Friday’s edition of the Vail Daily.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.