GoPro Mountain Games announces Ultimate Mountain Challenge winners
Special to the Daily
Gretchen Reeves said when she first heard about the Ultimate Mountain Challenge’s new format at the 2017 GoPro Mountain Games, she wasn’t sure if she would make an attempt at defending her title.
So she left it up to the weather.
“The weather turned awesome here and I knew I couldn’t sit on the sidelines,” she said.
It came down to the final moments, but the TriggerPoint Ultimate Challenge winners were made official on Tuesday and the $8,000 prize purse is ready to be paid out.
Reeves proved she could tackle the new, complex format of the challenge as she took first place with 32 points. The Eagle County resident biked in three races, ran and did yoga to complete one of the most challenging weekends known in adventure sports and putting herself in the history books for this one-of-a-kind event.
“I heard rumors that some girls were doing like 10-plus events,” Reeves said. “Annabel (Anderson, second place finisher) and I were back and forth within a point of each other heading into the final events. This made for a great competition and it made me want the win even more, I joked to my boyfriend that I had better sign up for a yoga class. Well, I did and that may be the best $10 I have ever spent as those were much needed points.”
Anderson said she decided to compete in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge on a whim. A few weeks later she was flying in a blur through the venue, competing in three paddling events, two bike events, yoga, the Mountain Click Photo Competition, and three running events. Her fitness level was astounding to all who saw her, and her incredible performance earned her 31 points.
In third for the women was kayaker Courtney Kerin, who notched an impressive five kayak events, rounding it out with three runs, yoga, and the photo competition to take third place with 26 points. Legendary kayaker Emily Jackson was fourth with 23 points and 13-year-old running phenomenon Lanie Szuch took fifth with 20 points.
On the men’s side it was a true photo finish. Ryan Petry, who came in second in last year’s UMC, submitted a photograph in the nick of time to give himself a razor’s-edge victory over second place finisher Branden Rakita.
Like Reeves, Petry embraced the new format of the event and spent weeks examining the GoPro Mountain Games schedule. He cross checked the schedule against the points rubric and developed a plan he felt would put him over the top.
Rakita, however, wasn’t going down easy. The two battled it out in event after event, each chasing the $2,500 first place prize. In the end, Petry’s decision to enter the Mountain Click Photo Competition gave him the final push he needed to win.
“Like most sports it takes a combination of fitness, strategy and a little bit of luck to win,” Petry said.
‘POWERLESS IN THE BLEACHERS’
For Nick Troutman, it was a bittersweet weekend. His third-place tie with competitor Eric Holmlund is a consolation prize that comes with a cost. Troutman was on track to win the event but went down with a knee injury during the YETI SUP Surf Cross Sunday, giving him a DNF not only in that event but also in the Kayak 8Ball.
“I registered for six events and figured that would make me competitive overall,” Petry said. “On Saturday morning I saw Nick Troutman had already done like 12 events and I thought ‘How the heck am I supposed to beat this dude?’ I found myself watching some of the water events in a completely different light, quietly rooting for Nick and Dane’s competitors, who felt like my teammates as I sat powerless in the bleachers.”
Holmlund, for his part, was an early favorite in the event. By Thursday, when the Mountain Games began, Holmlund was signed up for nine events — more than any other competitor. But as word spread about the new format for this iconic event, the competition began to heat up. Holmlund and Troutman both finished with 31 points.
Troutman’s brother-in-law, Dane Jackson, scored an incredible 26 points without competing in anything but whitewater events, and therefore receiving zero cross-discipline bonus points. He finished fifth on the men’s side.
The event was a resounding success by all measures, and chatter is already on the rise for next year to see who can become king and queen of the GoPro Mountain Games.
Organizers were doubly careful about announcing the winners this year, waiting until Tuesday to make the call. With so many moving parts, the competition jury wanted to be extra sure that they were making the right call in this already-prestigious event.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.