Vail Vally biking: Zanni surprises Henry at Hammer |

Vail Vally biking: Zanni surprises Henry at Hammer

SPT hammer in hay 1 KA 05-26-10

WOLCOTT – Move over, Jay Henry, you’ve got some company.

Carbondale’s Len Zanni, racing for Honey Stinger, won the men’s pro-elite division of Wednesday’s Hammer in the Hay in Wolcott, the first race of the season the Vail Recreation Department’s Vail-Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Race Series, defeating perpetual race favorite Jay Henry, by nearly 1 minute.

“It was fun to race with Jay,” Zanni said. “I race a lot with him on weekends in the Mountain States Cup and other races. I’d say almost every time that’s happened, he’s always beaten me. Tonight was kind of unique.”

Before anyone thinks that Henry has lost it, Zanni isn’t exactly a guy who walked off the street to race Wednesday. With an off night from the Aspen Cycling Club’s series, Zanni came over to Wolcott to get in a workout.

Zanni’s no stranger to the Vail-Beaver Creek Series. From 1994-1996, he raced in this series while a member of the Vail Ski Patrol. Zanni also races for Honey Stinger, which is now part-owned by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Zanni rode with Armstrong in September 2008 in Snowmass.

“Sometimes, you catch yourself thinking, ‘I’d better not bump into him or crash into him. I don’t want to be that guy.'” Zanni said. “It’s interesting. When you’re riding with him in that situation, he’s just like a regular guy. You’re talking with him about bike parts, and phones and computers. On one hand, it’s a little surreal. On the other hand, he’s a guy who wakes up and takes a shower just like the rest of us. He just happens to have won seven Tours.”

Zanni added that when he was riding with Armstrong, “that at any moment, on any climb, he can drop you so badly. It doesn’t matter how fit you are. He’s on a different level completely.”

Henry went 5-for-6 in last year’s series, getting nipped by Josiah Middaugh in the season finale, the Beaver Creek Blast. And given that the series takes five of a racer’s six best scores during the summer, Henry is still very much the guy to beat in the men’s pro-elite.

But just in case anyone is worries that the earth is spinning off its axis because of Wednesday’s developments, there were some familiar names atop other divisions. Gretchen Reeves won women’s pro-elite, Mike Skellion topped men’s singlespeed and Peter Davis remains the dean of the men’s masters.

New kids on the block

Henry, Reeves and company may have some competition in the future. New for 2010 is the never-ever division. At Wednesday’s Hammer in the Hay, the VRD added this division for first-time racers and will offer it for the Eagle Ranch Classic June 9 and the Davos Dash July 7.

Eileen Connelly of Avon got the honors as the first women’s winner of the division.

“I just wanted to get out on the mountain bike and start to do the series,” she said. “I was a little nervous, but it was a lot of fun. I’m glad I did it. It’s beautiful. It was kind of cool with the cows and horses. I’ll definitely do it again.”

Vail’s Mike Hannigan’s roommate Jay Kocks is a regular in the men’s singlespeed, so Hannigan decided to give it spin Wednesday.

“I came to race last year when I was injured,” said Hannigan, who won the men’s never-ever. “It looked really fun. Now that my knee’s healed, I wanted to get into racing. I had a blast. I had an awesome time today.”

Welcome back

Karen Jarchow of Edwards saw her 2009 season come to an abrupt end at the Berry Creek Bash, crashing in the women’s beginner division and having to be taken off the course on a spinal board.

Wednesday was infinitely better. Having the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde in Cortez under her belt three weeks ago, not to mention a few days in the wine country in California as a prerace routine, Jarchow moved up to women’s sport and won the division.

“I started the season really early. I think that got me ready to move up a class,” Jarchow said. “It’s gorgeous. You ran into so many people you haven’t seen since last year. It’s such a fun social event. It’s good to see the turnout.”

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

Division winners

Men’s pro-elite: Len Zanni

Women’s pro-elite: Gretchen Reeves

Men’s beginner: Matt Jones

Women’s beginner: Stacey Vachon

Men’s sport: Jeff Chimielewski

Women’s sport: Karen Jarchow

Women’s never-ever: Eileen Connelly

Men’s never-ever: Mike Hannigan

Junior: Quinton Cook

Men’s vet sport: Scott Rogers

Women’s vet expert: Julie Morrow

Clydesdales: Scott Orr

Men’s vet expert: John Klishy

Men’s masters: Peter Davis

Women’s expert: Jaime Brede

Men’s singlespeed: Mike Skellion

Women’s singlespeed: Amy Owens

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