Over the creek and through the brush
WOLCOTT – Jay Henry and Ross Schnell stood together at the finish line of Wednesday night’s Hammer in the Hay at 4 Eagle Ranch and imagined a hard-fought sprint between the two of them for the win.”It would have been fun to have a drag race up the final chute,” Schnell said laughing. “A sprint between two cross-country riders.”Good thing Schnell could laugh. The Glenwood Springs local might have won the pro division of the third race in the Beaver Creek and Vail Mountain Challenge had he realized that he was on the final lap of four when Henry pulled ahead of him on the last stretch of dirt road.Instead, Schnell tore right past the chute leading to the finish line and headed out on another lap on the 3.5-mile course.He realized something was wrong when he didn’t come across another racer during the entire loop.”When you’re racing, you kind of lose track of everything,” Schnell said. “I did an extra lap for no reason. It was a good time. (Jay) made an acceleration and I thought we had another lap, so I wasn’t worried about closing it right away. I was like, ‘I’ll get him on the climb.'”Henry laughed along as Schnell told his story while the two waited to discuss a protest with VRD organizers over the final finishing order. The local Eagle County pro had earlier been perplexed when he crossed the finish line and no one came across right behind him.Mike Kloser arrived about four minutes later, but as for Schnell?”He was pushing it and I was barely hanging on,” Mortenson said. “Then I pulled up ahead, and he wasn’t back there. It was surprising.”Indeed.Unofficially, before the protest, Mortenson won the race in 48 minutes, 8 seconds. Kloser was second in 51:59 and Adam Plummer was third in 52:54.Schnell unofficially finished sixth in 1:01:00. In his defense, he wasn’t the only pro racer who did an extra lap. Local pro triathlete Josiah Middaugh also lost count and bypassed the finish chute, finishing unofficially in seventh place with a time of 1:04.36.
Middaugh just shrugged his shoulders when race officials told him of his lapse after he crossed the finish line.The message: Hey, it’s just extra training.Dust and bloodSchnell’s mix up was just a small portion of the drama Wednesday at 4 Eagle.The winding, up-and-down course featured some technical singletrack and two creek crossings, one of which was over a pipe. All three obstacles claimed a few victims, one of whom was Sidney Harrison of the women’s sport division.”The singletrack on the downhill was getting a little beat up because when people fell, rocks rolled into the track,” Harrison said. “That happened to me. I went over a rock, but I landed on my feet. That’s not officially a fall.”A few others weren’t as lucky. A couple of riders came across the finish line with wet shorts, while others sported fresh scrapes.”It was fast,” said Vanessa Clendenin of Vail, who finished second in the women’s beginner division. “It was more technical than the other courses we’ve done before, but I enjoyed that challenge. The singletrack was loose and rocky. I’ve been riding a lot more roads, and with that, there is a little more space to get around and recover if you fall.”Men’s beginner champ, Connor Walberg, 17, who finished in 28:59, took a digger into the mud on the creek crossing.”It was kind of sloped and muddy on the other side and I kind of slipped in it,” he said. “I was going real slow.”Griffen Turnipseed, 14, who finished second behind Walberg after leading at the midway point, also said the heat and clouds of dust made the race more technical.”It’s a little hot, but it’s better than rain,” he said.
Men’s and women’s pro and expert divisions did four loops on the course, while sport and single-speed racers did three. Beginners like Clendenin, Walberg and Turnipseed did two.Bailey, Stege hammer the hardestThe U-14 and U-11 races also held excitement Wednesday, although in a shorter period of time.Eagle’s Ian Bailey, 12, was the first racer to cross the line on the 2-mile course used for the kids, finishing in 6:33.Bailey said the course was too short.”I was very surprised by how quick it was over,” he said. “I was saving myself because I thought it was longer, but then I went all out because I saw the (finish) cones.”Christian Kloser, 11, who was second-fastest to Bailey and won the U-11 division for the boys, echoed Bailey’s sentiments.”They used to have one big lap thing around the whole thing, but tonight it wasn’t even halfway,” Kloser said. “Just for fun, I continued on and finished up and did a whole lap. I wish it was longer.”Kloser said he did like the creek crossing.”It was pretty surprising,” he said. “It just popped up on you.”One younger racer who wasn’t complaining about the length of Wednesday’s course was Genevieve McNeill of East Vail, who was the last finisher across the line in 16:17.She was also the youngest competitor in the race.
“It was hard,” McNeill said. “The uphill was tough.”Ahead of McNeill in the girls U-11 division were Skye Stege, who won in 10:30, and Sasha Horn (11:28) and Natalie Morrissey (11:40).Mike Ball of Avon, who competed in the U-11 race, didn’t have the top result Wednesday, but he might have had the best story.”I was pedaling through the river and I think I was in a hard gear,” Ball said. “I was going over the pipe and I slipped. My clipless pedals came out and I fell in the river.”And the water temperature?”It was pretty cold,” Ball said.Indeed.Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com.Vail, ColoradoVail, Colorado