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No greasy food at this carnival

Shauna Farnell
Vail Daily file photo National rafting champion team Behind the 8 Ball paddles to victory in Dowd Chute at last year's Paddlecross event. The Paddlecross races launch the 2006 Teva Games on Wednesday.
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VAIL – Peripheral vision is a must for the Teva Mountain Games. Next week, one can walk through Vail and simultaneously take in kayakers doing back flips in their boats, sleek road cyclists zipping around awaiting their opportunity to put down the fastest time up Vail Pass, dozens of climbers leaping from hold to hold up a climbing wall and some of the fastest trail runners in the world wiping their brows after running up and down the thawing singletrack on Vail Mountain.That’s not to mention the rare sight of teams in dripping wet suits sprinting through town throwing down inflatable rafts and putting on Rollerblades or rappelling off cliffs, world-class mountain bikers preparing for a cross-country race, BMX bikes sailing 12 feet into the air and full-sized rafts battling each other down the Eagle River.

If it sounds like a circus of outdoor sports, that’s exactly what the Teva Mountain Games are all about. Fast boatsThe events begin Wednesday with raft and kayak paddlecross races in Dowd Chute on the Eagle River. The Class IV section of water is already broiling furiously with white water, and spectators will be mystified at how competitors maneuver their boats around rocks and keep them facing front … or not.

“Rafting is one of the big outdoor sports out there. The Teva Games are the biggest opportunity to be seen in a raft race anywhere in the U.S.,” said Mike Reid, of the local national champion rafting team, Behind the 8 Ball. “This is a huge event for our sport.”As kayaking is probably the most prominent sport of the Teva Games, pro paddlers also say that the Teva Games is the most reputable and most challenging set of events they compete in throughout the season. Save the occasional summertime TV promo for the latest SUV, the Games serve as the foremost vehicle by which kayakers can introduce their sport to the rest of the world.”We’ve got this and car commercials,” said local pro paddler Brad Ludden. “This is the highest level of competition we have. We have the world championships, but to say you won the Mountain Games is probably more of a resume-builder and credential than any other competition we have. For me, it’s pretty cool to have something like that in my backyard.”Thursday is when the kayaking showcase really gets under way with the extreme race on Homestake Creek – a mile of steep, tight space filled with raging Class V water and lots of big rocks and drops. Racers say the creek, while not as big and spectacular as some of the water they run, is one of the most difficult rivers on which to race anywhere.

Down a creek, up a hill”Of all the events at the Game, this is the most awe-inspiring,” Ludden said of the Homestake race. “When people watch that, they’re like, ‘Wow.’ What we’re doing on Homestake is as challenging as anything we kayak. It’s hard enough to get through it clean, but to speed it up … you’re slamming into rocks even faster than normal. That one gets my heart racing.” Later Thursday, some of those same kayakers can be found in the middle of Vail Village, torquing their bodies and boats into flips and twists in the big trick competition. On Friday, while boaters are qualifying for rodeo events, the climbing wall will be flocked with sinewy individuals who can scramble straight up faster than some of us can run downhill. Friday is also the day one can watch pros get on tiny dirt bikes and chase each other over obstacles in the freeride competition.

Saturday is the ultimate sportapalooza, when some of the best runners in Colorado gather for the 10-kilometer trail running championship, citizen climbers pit their rock skills against one another and also have an opportunity to get dirty in the 1.5K mud run. Talented canines display their disc-leaping skills, and rodeo kayakers, pro climbers and freeriders compete in their final races and when road cyclists race the clock in the famed Vail Pass Hill Climb.”The whole Mountain Games is such a perfect package for outdoor type people,” said local pro trail runner Anita Ortiz. “Even if you don’t do any of these things, it’s great to watch. The run itself is great. It’s hard. You have such steep uphills and screaming downhills, and it starts in town, so you’re surrounded by all the other stuff that’s going on.”Adventure finish

The Games wrap up on Sunday with an appropriate climax. The whittled down field of speed boulderers and Dyno climbers have their final races, mountain bikers embark on a championship race, fly fishers throw their lines in competition and freeriders are ranked on how much air they can put beneath their tires and the ground. Meanwhile, some of the world’s greatest adventure racers will be lost in the woods and cliffs surrounding Vail, having begun their race at 4 a.m. The adventure race this season will incorporate mountain biking, trekking, in-line skating, inflatable kayaking and rappelling, and the fastest team isn’t expected to finish in less than seven hours.”The race will be quite a bit longer this year,” said Teva adventure race course designer Billy Mattison. “I planned it this way to make it progressively more difficult. There’s a lot more snow up there this year. There are a lot of different routes to think about. The river will be much higher, and we’ll be starting at 4 a.m., so there will be darkness thrown into it.”The adventure race, mountain bike and trail running events, cycling Hill Climb and bouldering events are open to the public. To register or learn more about the Teva Games, visit http://www.tevamountaingames.com.

Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 748-2936, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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