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Mortenson and Thomas win Hill Climb

Teva Vail Pass Hill Climb SM 6-6
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Eagle’s Jimi Mortenson smiled Sunday when he was asked what it felt like to follow in the trails of some of cycling’s legends.

“It was really cool to do it,” Mortenson said, after winning The Vail Pass Hill Climb Time Trial. “The more races they can do around here, the better because we all need practice.”

The 9.8-mile climb starting at Hanson Ranch Road in Vail Village and ending up at the cul-de-sac atop old Highway 40 in the White River National Forest was last used competitively in 1988’s Coors Classic. That year Andy Hampsten – winner of the 1988 Giro d’Italia – came close to beating his course record time of 26 minutes, 33.43 seconds that he set in 1987.

While Mortenson didn’t come close to beating Hampsten’s time, finishing unofficially in 29:41.93, he did say he hoped this year’s race would continue in the future years to carry on the tradition of cycling in the valley.

“I don’t think we were even close,” Mortenson said, about challenging Hampsten’s record. “I think just to have more races like time trials, along with that they’re going to have (cycling) criteriums starting in Eagle in a couple of weeks is great. It will help to make everyone in the valley a little faster.”

In its heyday, the old classic saw the likes of some of the biggest names in cycling, including Greg Lemond, Bernard Hinault and Davis Phinney. If those names hadn’t been imprinted onto the psyches of Sunday’s field of 78 competitors before the race, they were hard to disregard on the way up, since some were spray painted prominently on the black asphalt.

“Riding up I saw some names,” said third-place men’s pro finisher Alex Hagman. “I don’t know if they re-spray painted them, but I saw Lemond and I knew Andy Hampsten has the record here. I think it was a great race. Especially if they collaborate it with the Teva Games. It’s a great venue. You get all kinds of people out here and it’s a fun time trial. I’d come again next year if they had it.”

Hagman finished behind second-place finisher Frank Mapel and ahead of Mike Janelle in fourth.

“I was really tired coming into it,” Hagman said. “I’d been racing for the past six to eight weeks really hard and so I’m just out there building some fitness. I’m real happy that I ended up third. We had a good tail wind on the way up, and as soon as I hit the hill, that’s when my legs started to kick over.”

Women’s pro race

Melissa Thomas of Boulder won in the women’s pro division over Gunnison’s Jennifer Smith and Shannon Tupa. While she was all smiles at the post-race party Sunday evening at the Sapphire restaurant, she said she was the exact opposite while climbing the 9.8 miles of asphalt that morning.

“I just thought it was really hard,” Thomas said. “It was great fun and it was really beautiful, but I thought it was really hard. I started right at the beginning, and (the wind) was just calm. I think it’s harder to do a time trial because it’s just you against yourself. There’s nobody to chase, there’s nobody to draft behind. You just go as hard as you can and hopefully you win riding.”

Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at npeterson@vaildaily.com


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