Mongo and Read take raft cross
VAIL, Colorado ” As Alex Karas said in “Blazing Saddles,” “Mongo is only a pawn in game of life,” but Mongo and company are a force with which to be reckoned when it comes to rafting.
Locals Chris “Mongo” Reeder and Mike Read, paddling for Team Teva/Timberline Tours, surged from third to first in the waning moments of the finals of raft cross on Gore Creek on the closing day of the Teva Mountain Games Sunday.
Reeder and Read looked hopelessly behind the United States National Whitewater Center (USNWC) duo of Tuan Truong and Andrew Bishop as well as eventual third-place finisher, Timberline Tours, a different squad.
“Never a doubt. It was part of our master plan,” Read said. “Our plan was exactly what we intended except for the start and the finish.”
“And the middle part wasn’t in the plan,” Reeder added. “We started with plan A and ended up on plan D.”
Raft cross on Gore Creek is a new event to the Mountain Games and it was a smash, literally. Two or three rafts came down the creek in each heat simultaneously, having to take a turn around two difficult-to-reach gates, or candy-cane-like poles suspended in the air.
And full contact between the rafts was fair game.
Several boats lost their riders in collisions, forcing some impromptu swimming and the second gate near the finish was particularly precarious with paddlers hanging out of their boats by the calves, while still trying to wrap their bodies around the elusive gate.
It was at that second gate, where Timberline and USNWC were trying to make the turn and head for the finish, that the race was decided. Read and Reeder came barreling into the hole, the location of the gate at the base of International, and completely wiped out the other two rafts ” a legal maneuver.
With Timberline and USNWC out of the picture, Reeder and Read made a lovely turn around the pole and floated down to the finish for the gold.
“We had the second gate perfect. We were right there,” Bishop said. “All of a sudden, Mongo’s raft comes in and takes us out. They come spinning around perfectly.”
“The main thing is to never quit,” Read said. “We’ve learned that from our racing in the past. Bumps are going to happen. Bad things are going to happen. Just keep going, going, going until it’s over.”
That is the general rule in raft cross, and all three teams which participated in the final know that well. Reeder and Reed and the paddlers on USNWC and the Timberline squads are actually all teammates on the U.S. National Whitewater Team.
Since the final was an internecine battle, bragging rights were on the line.
“We wanted to beat the (Reeder and Read),” Truong said. “We wanted to go after the first-place guys, but they were awesome.”
“We’ll hold it over their heads for the next 10 years and we can use the money,” Reeder said.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.