Vail Teva Games: Dawson conquers Homestake | VailDaily.com

Vail Teva Games: Dawson conquers Homestake

TMG Tao Berman DT 6-4-09
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RED CLIFF, Colorado – Sleeves are for the weak apparently.

“I don’t like getting too hot on the water,” New Zealand’s Mike Dawson said after Thursday’s Teva Mountain Games steep-creek-championship on Homestake Creek. “The sun came out today. If you’re going to beat yourself up on the rocks you’re not going to win.”

Dawson deftly avoided the aforementioned rocks and other impediments which can bang up bare arms on his way to the men’s steep-creek crown in a combined time of 3 minutes, 41.63 seconds, out-pacing Washington’s Tao Berman (3:42.67) and North Carolina’s Pat Keller (3:44.29).

“I’m stoked. I’m really, really happy,” Dawson said. “I came all the way from New Zealand to Europe to here. I was pretty tired.”

You would be, too, if you went from New Zealand to Vail via London, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Italy and Philadelphia, as Dawson did. And with the $2,000 winner’s check, Dawson was likely able to celebrate Thursday night.

“The boys have told me we’re going out for some quiet ales this evening,” Dawson said.

Finding the line

What made Dawson’s sleeveless get-up about as remarkable as Michelle Obama’s bare arms fad of late was the way Homestake’s Class V waters were bouncing around the competitors.

For those who ride the local waters, the Colorado River drops about 40-50 feet per mile, which makes for a fun voyage. Homestake drops 450-500 feet per mile.

The junkyard segment at the top of the course took away precious seconds from paddlers. The goal posts, an aptly named rock formation, took out several competitors.

Hometstake’s signature plunge, leap of faith, took a piece out of Isaac Levinson of Alpharetta, Geo., who was in fourth place going into his second run of the day before wiping out there and falling to 14th.

Dawson had made it so challengers had to gamble on their second runs, laying down a 1:49.05 in his first trip down Homestake, a new course record. That gave the Kiwi nearly a two-second lead over both Berman and Keller, who own a combined three Homestake titles between them.

Berman, who was the defending champ in steep creek, liked his line, but didn’t have the extra power required, still recovering from a bout of mono.

“No true competitor is ever happy with second place. If they tell you they are, they’re lying,” Berman said. “I’m not happy, but the other competitors certainly raced well. … I wasn’t in as good of shape as I could be in, I had to put together perfect lines. And just try to find power when I don’t have it now. Apparently, it quite wasn’t enough today.”

Keller, who won here in 2004 and 2006, took his shot in the second run, but glanced off a few rocks in the junkyard section which didn’t allow him to transition properly into the middle of the course.

“The first run went pretty well,” Keller said. “I was happy with it. I knew I could have shaved two seconds off. The second run was good, but I kind of rattled down a couple of spots in the top. It’s not fast when you do that.”

And that left Dawson with room for error on the last run of the day.

“My second run was a bit sketchy,” he said. “I knew that I had two seconds up my sleeve. You just want to be safe and I was a bit on the rocks. I worked way harder on my second run, but went slower.”

Dawson and a bunch of the other paddlers continue the action with freestyle qualifying today at the Teva Mountain Games. The freestyle finals as well as the down-river sprint are on Saturday, followed by the carnage-inducing 8-ball competition on Sunday.

“Maybe I’ll put some pads on for that one,” Dawson said.

Extra splashes

Locals watch: Brad Ludden took top Eagle County honors, finishing 10th in 3:52.38. Ross Herr of Gypsum and Jon O’Neill of Edwards did not make the cut for the second run. … Movers and shakers: Sam Sutton laid down the fastest second run (1:50.56) to jump from 14th to fifth. Honza Laska ripped it up well on the second run to jump from seventh to fourth.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.