Vail Valley biking: Eagle Classic draws a crowd |

Vail Valley biking: Eagle Classic draws a crowd

SPT Eagle Classic 1 KA 06-09-10

EAGLE – The storylines were all over the place when it came to Wednesday’s Eagle Classic, the second race of the season in the Vail Recreation District’s Vail-Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Race Series.

Will the Blackhawks win? Who’s the fastest in the family? Could I take this course on Nordic skis? And why don’t we race down here more often?

The answers to these questions and more follow.

No more 1961

Taylor Leary, of East Vail via his hometown of Steamboat Spring, had two major concerns Wednesday. There was this bike race happening. There was also Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in which the Chicago Blackhawks were trying to clinch their first title since 1961.

Leary, who finished in ninth in men’s sport, needed to bike quickly to get back to the Dusty Boot to watch the end of the game. Though an Avs fan now, he grew up rooting for Chicago before Colorado had its current NHL entry.

“In the last minute of building up to the race, you’re always nervous,” Leary said as the Blackhawks and Flyers were tied, 3-3, going into overtime. “But I think the last two minutes of (regulation) were even more nerve-wracking with those chances they just had.”

Leary said he enjoyed the course. It was the first time he had done it. With that in mind, he said he would have attacked the uphill sections more, had he to do it over.

And then there would be the matter of celebrating a possible Chicago Stanley Cup win.

“I just spoke with a fine lady over here who’s from Chicago,” Leary said. “I said if they win it and they put it away, she’s got to find me and we’ll have a drink together.”

Patrick Kane made that drink a reality 4:06 into overtime.

Family of racers

The Sappenfields of Eagle-Vail are regulars in the series. Dad, aka Ross, Mom, aka Heather, and Sydney, 11, all race in their respective divisions. Wednesday, Heather finished third in women’s vet sport, while Sydney was the top girl in the U-14 division, giving the Sappenfields two family members on the podium.

“It’s really challenging getting everybody where they need to be. We all have asthma so we have to pass the inhaler,” Heather joked. “It’s something that our family looks forward to socially that we can all do. We give it our all. It’s fun. Honestly, I really have to thank the VRD. There are a lot of divisions and they do a lot of work.”

Sydney, who will be a sixth-grader at the Vail Mountain School where her dad teaches science, seems to be emerging as a fine young racer. Not only was she the top young lady in the U-14 division as an 11-year-old, but she was also racing against the guys in her age group and doing just fine, thanks.

“It’s fun to be near the front,” Sydney said. “You know you’re doing really well. It gives you good motivation. You want to get to the front and win.”

So, who’s the fastest Sappenfield?

“Mom for about three more years,” Heather said, while pointing to Sydney.

VMS reunion

The Sappenfield family certainly knows Sylvan Ellefson and Sean Woods, both VMS alums. Ross has had the fortune/misfortune – sorry, obligatory rimshot – of teaching both high school science.

Woods raced Wednesday, while Ellefson said, “I didn’t race today. I just like wearing bike clothes.”

While going to a bike race and actually racing might be an idea for Ellefson, the VMS alums have quite a bit in common. They’ve both been soccer captains at Vail Mountain, a coveted position. They both have Skimeisters to their names as the state’s best all-around high school skier. They’re both stellar Nordic skiers. Ellefson has graduated from Bates College in Maine, while Woods will start his freshman year there this fall.

“It’s just a fun cross-training opportunity,” said Woods, who is doing a ton of dryland training this summer. “These races are just awesome. It’s good to see everybody in the valley. I like biking a lot. Stopping roller-skating for a bit is nice.”

And Ellefson had one bit of future advice for VMS soccer teams of the future.

“The only word that comes to mind is synergy,” Ellefson joked.

Coming back

Everyone in the series will reconvene Wednesday for the Berry Creek Bash in Edwards – there’s only one week between races, people. But the Eagle Classic was not the last stop of the series downvalley.

The VRD is adding the Boneyard Brawl at nearby Bellyache on Aug. 4, becoming the sixth of now seven races in the series.

“It’s been a really long time since we’ve had a truly new venue in the series,” VRD sports coordinator for mountain biking, Beth Pappas, said. “We did a survey last year of our riders and overwhelmingly they asked for a new course or a new venue. We’re really happy we can deliver this.”

In other biking news, Jay Henry won the men’s pro-elite after losing the opener at 4 Eagle Ranch. Gretchen Reeves made it 2-for-2 in the women’s pro-elite.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or

Division winners

Men’s sport: Jeff Chimelewski

Men’s masters sport: Peter Sonntag

Women’s sport: Karen Jarcho (graduating to expert)

Clydesdales: Jeff Lifgren

Men’s beginner: Garrett MacLachan

Women’s vet sport: Karen Bettis

Women’s beginner: Stacey Vachon (graduating to sport)

Juniors: Quinton Cook

Men’s never-ever: David Lagrange

Women’s never-ever: Tammy Argenbright

Men’s pro: Jay Henry

Women’s pro: Gretchen Reeves

Men’s masters expert: Mark Nelson

Women’s singlespeed: Amy Her


Women’s vet expert: Julie Morrow

Men’s expert: Joh Klish

Women’s expert: Cait Boyd

Men’s vet expert: Drew Wachter

Men’s vet sport: Kevin Douglas

Men’s singlespeed: Mike Skellion

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