Pain and survival for all at the Davos Dash |

Pain and survival for all at the Davos Dash

Jay Henry emerges from an aspen grove during the Davos Dash mountain-bike race in Vail on Wednesday. Henry finished third behind Josiah Middaugh and Jake Wells.
Townsend Bessent | |

VAIL — Karen Gonzalez, of Eagle, was doing the Davos Dash for the second time on Wednesday.

“I thought I was going to die or something,” she said. “It was really hard.”

And this is what is interesting about Davos, the 3.5-mile sprint up nearly a 1,000 feet in 17-40 minutes, depending on one’s ability.

It’s the only race in the Athletic Club at Westin Vail Recreation District Vail Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Series that is the same as it was when the series started way back when. It is the only course that is the same for pros and beginners.

And, truth be told, the Davos Dash kicks the heck out every one.

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Making the vets hurt

“After about five minutes, I was wondering why I decided to show up today,” John O’Neill joked.

To put this into perspective, O’Neill competes in the International Triathlon Union. He spends his life as an athlete, and his lungs are burning.

“It hurts the same no matter who’s doing it, whether you’re going fast or not going fast. It feels all the same,” said another pro rider.

That’s Jay Henry, who is a pro mountain biker and still owns the Davos Dash record. Fellow J, Josiah Middaugh, won this year’s edition with a time of 17 minutes, 21 seconds, followed by Jake Wells and Henry.

“I’ve raced it mostly on my singlespeed in the past and gears tonight,” said Tara Picklo, a fixture in this series. “Both ways hurt really bad. There’s no way around it. You’re going to suffer. You taste blood in your mouth, and you’re anaerobic the whole time. Your legs turn to Jello, all that. We’re all crazy in the head.”

Oh, yes, that last bit

And then just to top it off, just when you think this endless climb is flattening out at the end, there is the final climb to the radio tower.

“At that point, I hope no one is around me so that I don’t have to sprint anyone or push it,” Henry said. “That last 100 yards takes forever. You are going so slow and you want to be at the finish line.”

Again, he rides for a living and he’s dying.

“You’re just shattered,” O’Neill said. “You’ve been climbing — most people are over 20 minutes at that point —and you think you’ve shredded every straw, every last bit of effort and then you hit that incline. You’ve got to figure out how to climb it. Hat tip to everyone who did it.”

That’s a triathlete, people.

And as for Picklo?

“I go cross-eyed,” she said. “You just put your head down and go and hope you start hearing the announcers’ voice. It’s brutal.”

Nonetheless, Picklo set a personal best for herself on the course on Wednesday.

The series finishes up on Aug. 22 with Beaver Creek Blast, and, after Davos, seemingly everything should be downhill from there.

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

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