No dust, no problem at Eagle Ranch Classic | VailDaily.com

No dust, no problem at Eagle Ranch Classic

Josiah Middaugh hits the home stretch of the Eagle Ranch Classic mountain-bike race in Eagle on Wednesday. A rainy May made for optimum riding conditions.
Townsend Bessent | Townsend@vaildaily.com |

Results

Division winners were not available as of press time. Please check out Friday’s Vail Daily for complete results of the Eagle Ranch Classic.

EAGLE — Must. Cycle. Faster.

That was generally the game plan for anyone at the Eagle Ranch Classic, the first of this summer’s Vail Recreation District Athletic Club at Westin Mountain Bike Race series.

But then imagine you’re Courtney Gregory, born and raised in Bloomington, Illinois.

“I didn’t want to miss this game,” Gregory said. “It’s a must-win for the Hawks. I think this is the series for the Cup.”

“But nothing can prepare you for the first race. It’s humbling.”Ben McNairEagle-Vail

And thus, Gregory pedaled quickly on his singlespeed — he’s one of the few who can — and planted himself in front of a television at The Dusty Boot and cheered on his Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Anaheim Ducks.

Call it coincidence or not, but a scoreless tie very quickly turned into a 3-0 Chicago lead with Gregory watching, and the Blackhawks forced Game 7 with a 5-2 win.

GETTING IN RACE SHAPE

From savvy vets like Gregory to newcomers, riders encountered hero dirt on the trails of the Eagle Ranch Classic, the result of a very wet May. On the other side of the ledger, with the rain-filled lead-up, some cyclists were still not quite in race shape.

In a fairly unscientific poll, racers had been on their pilgrimages to Fruita and Moab, Utah, as well as riding fat tires, 4- to 5-inch wide radials designed for use on snow, to prepare for the season.

“It’s a good way to train in the winter. I use it as a commuter, too,” said Eagle-Vail’s Ben McNair, who was racing in vet sport, of fat tires. “But nothing can prepare you for the first race. It’s humbling.”

Breckenridge’s Sydney Fox was racing women’s pro and said she enjoyed the course a bunch.

“There’s a lot of singletrack in the sage,” she said. “There were some climbs. They weren’t super-long, but they were steep. It’s a good course.”

FRESH FACES

A new season also sees new riders. Avon’s Chris Gleeson was in men’s beginner in his first mountain-bike race.

“I came out yesterday to trace out the course, to see where I was meant to go,” Gleeson said. “The signs were already up, so I knew exactly where to go. I was a little bit nervous. Overall, it was an amazing race.”

Next up for the series is the Berry Creek Bash on June 10, and some goals for the season are simple.

“Just to make all the races and to finish them all, wheels down,” McNair joked.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.