New Jersey’s Lueck pedals to freeride title
VAIL ” The art of tire-changing is highly over-rated.
Adam Lueck of Bloomfield, N.J., blew the back tire of his bike before his freeride challenge semifinal race against David Smutok Saturday at the Teva Mountain Games.
Instead of changing the flat, Lueck hopped off the start platform, grabbed a fellow competitor’s wheels and went on to win his duel with Smutok and defeat Petr Hanak in the finals.
“My tire was a little messed up,” Lueck said. “My tube was sticking out of my side. (The starter) said, ‘Ready, set, go,’ and it popped. So I just grabbed somebody else’s bike. I don’t know whose it was. It was just the same kind of bike that I had.”
And so “A Streetcar Named Desire” met the Mountain Games Saturday with Lueck relying on the kindness of strangers.
“It just kind of worked out,” Lueck said. “It’s just kind of half-luck half-skill.”
It was an entertainingly-strange day on all counts Saturday on the freeride course with the top-two seeded racers being eliminated early ” No. 1-ranked Geoff Gulevich going out in the quarterfinals, courtesy of Lueck, and No. 2 Jeff Lenosky falling to Hanak in the semifinals.
For his first time in a freeride head-to-head competition, Hanak, of Winter Park via the Czech Republic, had a stellar day. It did not start well, though. Hanak crashed on the final apparatus of the course, the hump, in qualifying, and was relegated the 14th seed out of 15 riders in the finals.
“That was the big mistake for me,” Hanak said. “I don’t know what I should expect (after) that. I was not looking for much.”
Instead Hanak went on a tear. He edged out third-seeded Cameron Zink in the first round and squeaked by No. 6 Aaron Chase in the quarterfinals.
That set up a meeting with Lenosky, the defending Mountain Games champion, in the semifinals.
“I was pretty excited to race against him because I know he’s the champion,” Hanak said. “Everyone knows him. It was pretty good for me to race with him. I never had a chance before.”
Hanak made the most of it in two heats against Lenosky. The two raced virtually side-by-side for both heats with Hanak winning by a mere total of 0.28 seconds.
In the predictably rough-and tumble world of freeriding, staying upright is half the battle. Lueck did in the first round against George Ryan, who didn’t. Lueck upset Gulevich in the round of eight when the latter tumbled on the satellite-dish obstacle, a bane for most riders Saturday.
Despite the flat tire and a new bike, Lueck edged Smotuk in the first heat of the semis. Lueck advanced when Smutok went down in the second heat.
The final between Lueck and Hanak was too close call.
“It was definitely going to be close because that dude (Hanak) was fast, and I wasn’t on my (regular) bike,” Lueck said. “It was a little crazy. I don’t think it was going to go as it did.”
“I was not sure,” Hanak said. “I was 50 percent yes or no. We’ll see.”
Lueck took the crown by 1-hundredth of a second over Hanak. Lenosky downed Smutok in the third-place race.
“Everybody’s got their own strengths, and today, I came out on top,” Lueck said. “Any other day it could have been anybody else.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or 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.