Nike/Beaver Creek defends Xstream title
FRISCO ” Had it really been three weeks? Had 21 days honestly passed since the torture scorcher that was Primal Quest Utah?
Based on the way their bodies reacted during Saturday’s Adventure Xstream 24-hour competition, many of the area’s elite adventure racers had a tough time believing it. Sure, they finished the 100-mile course much, much faster than any average dudes could. And yes, they have trained themselves to bounce back from pain day after day after day.
Even so, as they lay on the grass next to the Frisco Nordic Center on Saturday afternoon, whupped was about the only word that fit.
“I think PQ’s still in the legs a bit,” said Vail’s Mike Kloser, who captained his Nike/PowerBlast team to victory in the Utah desert the last week in June. “Even though it’s been three weeks, I haven’t had a chance to run much. I’ve been biking a little bit, been trying to recover, but I’ve been working a lot, trying to sleep ” even my sleep quantities haven’t been great.”
Despite those struggles, Kloser led his all-Eagle County squad, Nike/Beaver Creek, to victory by 20 minutes over surprise second-place finisher Bagel Works. He joined Dan Weiland, Sari Anderson and Jay Henry as the squad defended its crown of last year, when a freaky-strong mountain storm shortened the race.
Hitting the wall
Bagel Works did not let the title defense come easily, however. The eventual runners-up got a boost from Jon Brown, the captain of Salomon/Crested Butte (Primal Quest’s fifth-place finisher), who agreed to race with Bagel Works because he didn’t think his CB squad was going to compete.
Bagel and Nike spent much of the first 10 hours of the race together, trading places now and then, before Nike pulled away on the decisive mountain biking leg. The foursome’s winning time was 15 hours, 13 minutes.
“We have a pretty solid biking team with Sari and Dan and Jay, so the technical stuff was to our advantage,” said Kloser, a Mountain Biking Hall of Fame member. “Up, down, flats, didn’t matter ” it was gonna be something we were going to make some ground on.”
Especially when, on the final stretch of the Colorado Trail portion ” which included one murderous, 45-minute granny gear climb ” Bagel Works hit a wall.
“We weren’t pulling anybody in,” said Brown, who raced with Joelle Vaught, Andrew Hamilton and Matt Hannon. “We were just, ‘OK, let’s get this over with.’ Up until that point we were charging pretty hard, and then everybody just lost a bit of steam.”
A similar thing happened to Salomon, which featured former Summit residents Jari Kirkland and Bryan Wickenhauser, as well as Dave Wiens and Eric Sullivan. Wickenhauser said he “bonked” outright; Sullivan said the team didn’t seem to have its normal top-end speed. They finished in an adjusted time of 16 hours flat.
With his confused allegiances, Brown ” whose Crested Butte squad is one of the tightest-knit in the sport ” mixed satisfaction with disappointment after the race.
“I’m stoked. I definitely worked pretty hard,” said the man who rode more than 100 miles with a busted rear shock in Primal Quest. “Which is weird, because I would like to see my team (Salomon) challenging Nike for the top spot.”
GoLite/Timberland Sprint ” made up by Keith Bushaw, Brad McLean, Chris Boyd and Louisa Jenkins ” finished fourth overall.
Perhaps the most impressive performance came from Dillon local Danelle Ballengee, the only solo female to complete the 24-hour course (her time of 17 hours also beat all the solo men). She did it on her 35th birthday, despite the fact that “the spunk is still not there.”
Whereas all the Primal Quest racers have had a difficult recovery over the past three weeks, Ballengee’s has been among the toughest. In the two weeks following that event (her team, Spyder, finished ninth), she considered quitting the sport entirely.
“For a while,” she said, “it was like, man, am I ever gonna be able to do this again ” am I ever gonna even want to do this again? So the fact that I want to and I can, just being back at it, I’m happy about that.”
Among other racers Saturday, part-time Summit resident Heidi Majerik finished an abbreviated 12-hour course as a solo racer. She shortened the route because she’s three months pregnant.
Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or at email@example.com.
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