Mortenson claims win at 4-Eagle Ranch
Things were flying Wednesday night at the first Vail Recreation District Mountain Bike Challenge race of the season at 4-Eagle Ranch – blood, mud, water, and racers.On a technical, rutted-out singletrack course that featured two irrigation ditches brimming with mud and water, as well as errant rocks and some tricky turns, a number of riders in the field found themselves off their bikes and on the ground scrambling to get back up.One of the most violent tumbles of the night came at the finish of the men’s veteran race in a neck-and-neck sprint between Gilberto Monteil and Stephan Handschin. As the two pushed toward the narrow finish area, Monteil veered into the metal barriers set up along the side of the track, clipping his front wheel and somersaulting over his handlebars onto the hard dirt and gravel surface. After a few scary moments on the ground, Monteil got up and walked off on his own power, in spite of blood pouring down his right knee, shin and elbow.With such a specialized course, it was only fitting that a Specialized rider – one Jimi Mortenson of Eagle -would claim the victory in the men’s Pro-elite division.
Mortenson, dominant as usual, won the four-loop, 14.8 mile men’s pro race in 51 minutes, eight seconds beating Vail’s Josiah Middaugh who finished in 51:43.”I just hopped over the water” Mortenson said, when asked how he handled the technical irrigation ditches. “I didn’t want to get all muddy and stuff. I thought it was a good idea to get off. If you ride through the water then you just kick mud all over your bike and it doesn’t work, so it’s just as easy to hop off and jump over.”Middaugh won the first local mountain bike race of the season, the Eagle Mountain Bike Classic in Eagle on May 19. He admitted after that race that if either Mortenson or Mortenson’s Specialized teammate Jay Henry had been competing, he wouldn’t have been the first across the finish line. On Wednesday, the local triathlete and snowshoe champion had more words of praise for Mortenson and his technical superiority.”I’m not too good at the technical stuff, but I’m learning,” Middaugh said. “I wasn’t too close to Jimmy. I’d lose sight of him on the downhills. He was too far. I just can’t compete with somebody like Jimi, who is just a wizard at the technical stuff. He’s in a different league.”The most pivotal sequence of the men’s pro race came at the first crossing of the first irrigation ditch, when a tight pack was broken up by the fall of Mike Janelle.
Janelle, who was right with Mortenson at the juncture, rode head on into the water, and flew over his handlebars as his tire sank too deep into the mud. The break from the crowd was all that Mortenson needed to cruise to the win, as he led for the rest of the way. “I had a little gap and I just kept that,” he said. “I thought (the course) was way better this year. Better than usual. Usually, the cow tracks really tear it up, but this year it was a pretty nice trail. It was pretty fun.” “That made it interesting,” Middaugh said about Janelle’s fall. “It bottlenecked us right away. The pack kind of got broken up, because he went right into the river over the handlebars. I rode the course once, so I knew what to expect. But it was really rutty, really jarring terrain. It made it tough, especially come the fourth lap.”Women’s Pro-elite
While in the men’s pro division, the usual suspects showed up in both Mortenson and Middaugh, the women’s race was won by a fresh face.Breckenridge’s Monique Merrill won the race in 1:01:13, finishing ahead of second-place finisher Lisa Isom by nearly a full two minutes. Isom came in at 1:03:06. “I’ve never done this race before, but I loved it,” Merrill said. “I had just visions of dirt roads and flats, but I thought it was pretty technical and you had to focus the whole time. It was a blast. You had to pick a line and stay away from the rocks and the mud and the water. A couple times I hit a rock and got kind of deviated or pivoted in a different direction, and I would lose like five seconds. It’s a fast race, but if you just ride smooth, it seemed like you could gain time on people.” The official results of Wednesday’s race were not available at press time.Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com
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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.