Slipping the course on fat tires |

Slipping the course on fat tires

Preston Utley/Vail DailyDavid Duchesneau navigates his way through a puddle Wednesday at Beaver Creek during the last VRD mountain bike race of the season.

BEAVER CREEK – A small group of spectators gathered on what looked to be the simplest part of Wednesday night’s mountain-bike course at Beaver Creek. It was a piece of paved walkway in the transition area between the Strawberry Park and Centennial lifts where riders began their steep climb on each 5.75-mile race loop.Most riders heeded the marshals’ warnings that the asphalt was slick, but some chose to whip around the corner at top speed and ended up on their shoulders. It was a good show, and like the race itself, not something for the fair-weather type. About half of the usual race field turned up for the wet and rainy final event in the 2005 Beaver Creek-Vail Mountain Challenge series. And those who did had a special affinity for mud.”It’s fun when you slip and slide a little bit. It wakes you up,” said Michelle Keane, who edged out Kelli Anthony by just a hair at the finish line to win the women’s pro race with a time of 1 hour, 51 minutes and 33 seconds on the three-lap course.”You have to have more finesse in these conditions,” Keane said. “You can’t just go on brute strength.”

Indeed. Some racers made a mental shift to their mud-racing mindset and balanced finesse, brute strength and high speed.One such specimen was Jimi Mortenson, who won the men’s pro race in 1:23:05, almost 2 minutes faster than Jay Henry (1:25.52) and almost 4over Michael Tobin (1:27.49). It didn’t come entirely without mishap. Mortenson skidded around the cones on the asphalt at the popular spectator’s corner on his first lap, taking out a couple cones, but staying on his bike. He also remained in the saddle when he hit a rock on his second-lap descent and bent his big chain ring into a shape not unsimilar to Pac Man. He said disc brakes were beneficial, and highly more effective than traditional brake pads, whose mud-scraping futility could be heard from the base area. The course, for a successful race, demanded a special touch.”It’s really slippery,” Mortenson said with an ear-to-ear, mud-speckled grin at the finish. “It just kept getting muddier and more slippery as we went. It was awesome.”Julie Morrow finished the women’s expert race, which she said will be her last appearance in the town race series, on a good note. She won in 1:15.09 on the double-lap course, with Amanda Evans (1:17.29) and Pavan Krueger (1:19.17) joining her on her last local podium.”I have two kids. I’d rather come next year and have them race and I’ll watch,” Morrow said, adding that the rain is not something that scares her away.

“I love it,” she said. “I like mud. Some girls don’t like it. But I do.”Breckenridge racer Jacob Youcha won the men’s expert race in 1:33.55, and said the course, wet or not, was the best he’s experienced in the Vail series.”It has everything,” he said. “Climbing, singletrack … rain. (Racing in the rain) is not my favorite thing, but at least my bike held together. I have to be a lot more cautious on the downhill.”Youcha had a minute on second-place expert finisher Daniel Weiland (1:34.55) and almost two on Ryan McFarling (1:35.39).Ann Darby won the women’s vet category (1:23.57); Paul Sands was first for men’s masters (1:07.37); and Jason Buchanan was the first across the line (1:10.10) in men’s vet sport. Lisa Hicks won the women’s sport race (1:20.42); Brennan Stege won for men’s sport (1:03.54); and Mike Skellon was the first single-speed racer to finish (59:56.00). Chris Gray won of the men’s beginner group (1:12.33); Kaile Cotton won for women’s beginner (1:32.49); and JT Schmitt won for juniors (1:27.23).The bulk of the field Wednesday were undaunted by the mud. On the other hand, they seemed to thrive on it.

“Coming from Minnesota and racing in adverse weather, it’s fine,” said Charlie Evans, who took second of the single-speed racers (1:04.57). “The crappier the better for me. I’m not a Spaniard that likes it hot and sunny.”Kids who love mudThe crew of young racers Wednesday were also well-equipped for less than ideal weather. Keaton Franklin got the sportsmanship award for stopping on-course and turning around to help a racer who crashed. Sky Stege was the one and only U-11 girl to turn up Wednesday, winning her event. Britton Barry was first of the U-11 boys, followed by John Bailey and Phil Middleton in second and third. Thomas Walsh won the U-14 boy’s race with Corey Franklin and Ian Bailey following him onto the podium.Complete race results and overall individual and team points can be found in Friday’s sports section.Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or Colorado

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