Records broken in 17th annual Montezuma’s Revenge
MONTEZUMA –Severe wind, rain, hail and lightning are hardly the way to spend an afternoon mountain biking, right?
Try finishing the 17th annual Montezuma’s Revenge, the world’s hardest 24-hour mountain bike race, in such conditions.
While Breckenridge’s Monique Merrill destroyed the women’s course record and Dillon’s Thane Wright overcame an all-night challenge from Vail’s Dawes Wilson and Crested Butte’s John Brown to set a new men’s course record, a torrential downpour soaked everything.
The Revenge, which began on Friday at 4 p.m., concluded its 24-hour odyssey amidst a monsoon that sent spectators scurrying under tents.
Merril’s victory came uncontested, as she set a blistering pace from the start that shot her well ahead of the other seven women by the first checkpoint. And, although she downplayed her conditioning by admitting to riding a difficult 40-mile endurance race last weekend in Idaho, she eventually eclipsed the old women’s record by nearly 10 miles.
Wright’s adventure was much more complex.
The two-time Revenge winner started strong but, less than three hours into the race, lost almost 15 minutes to Brown when a flat tire forced him to return to the Tiger Road checkpoint.
Brown built on his lead until he reached the first true test of the race—the infamous loop out of Montezuma that forced racers to carry their bikes over the 14,270 foot Gray’s Peak, the highest point in Summit County.
Wright used an aggressive climb up Gray’s Peak and a wrong turn by Brown to gain 20 minutes on the leader. Meanwhile, Wilson became the race leader.
That lead didn’t last long. At 4:41 a.m., over 12 hours into the race, Wright descended Gray’s Peak back into Montezuma at the same time as Wilson. Seven minutes later, both riders headed out of the small treeline town located above Keystone to first light.
It wasn’t until nearly 30 minutes later that Brown finally made it down over the peak.
For the next 11 hours, Wright held a tenuous 15-minute lead. While 15 minutes may seem long in a Summit Mountain Challenge race, this lead was thin enough to have Wright looking over his shoulder all the way to the crest of Loop 9, high up on the ridge of Santa Fe Peak.
Even late into the afternoon, Wright was still determined that pressing forward was the only option.
“Let’s put this one to bed,” he said, shortly before heading out into the torrential downpour.
Wright had no intention of winning at the start.
“I thought maybe top-five would be good,” he said shortly after finishing. Water dripped off of his support crew’s tent. “I never would’ve dreamed this. I came here merely to enjoy the camaraderie of the field and my crew. I give thanks to my mechanic, Matt Schneider, the best mechanic in the world, KHS for providing my bikes and, most of all, my support crew and team. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Despite the heavy rain, the event went smoothly, with 17 first-timers showing up in the eventual field of 37, including Peter Swenson, a long-time racer from Boulder.
“This is my first all-nighter,” a bleary-eyed Swenson said at roughly 6 in the morning. “Not even in college.”
Swenson did seem to enjoy the race, stating, “I’d recommend it, if only once.”
Swenson finished fourth, while Wilson and Brown finished second and third, respectively.
The women’s podium was rounded out by Becs Hodgetts and Jari Kirkland, of Summit County.
Look out for a crowded field next year, as several notable contenders, including Colleen Ihnken and three-time competitor, Yves Piecoup, stated their intentions to come back after missing this year.
Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at email@example.com.
Summit Daily News Sports Editor
(970) 668-3998 ext. 257