Wells, Huck win on first day of Vail Outlier Outdoor Festival
VAIL — Anything that extends the mountain-biking season is a good thing.
And winning makes it even better as Durango’s Todd Wells and Boulder’s Erin Huck picked up wins in the pro divisions on Saturday, Sept. 30, during the Scott Spark Outlier XC (cross-country) race, the first of two races in this weekend’s Outlier Outdoor Festival in Vail.
“The trails were great. Even with the rain, the trails were dusty in some sections,” Wells said. “The road was a bit tacky with the moisture. No mud or anything. Great conditions. The season tapers down right about now, but it’s a nice way to get workout in, stay fit and drag that finish along.”
Gearing up or down?
The Outlier Outdoor fest comes at a strange time in the season. Some athletes are still gearing up for events like locals Jake Wells with cyclocross or Josiah Middaugh, who finished third on Saturday, with his Xterra triathlon season continuing, while some mountain-bikers are winding down.
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“I’m just kind of milking it out, the rest of the season,” Todd Wells said. “I have a few more races. I’ll race through Thanksgiving, so this is good one — I still have pretty good form.”
Wells edged out fellow Durango rider Ben Sonntag by 47 seconds with a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes, 49 seconds.
“It’s late in the season, and together with this festival, honestly, I wanted to go and have a fun weekend,” Sonntag said. But when it’s race day, you are always serious.”
Sonntag had some extra motivation. He broke his scapula earlier this season and feels that he is back in form.
Then, there’s the altitude for racers from other places.
“I suffered a bit early, but then, sometimes mentally you make it worse for yourself,” Sonntag said. “Once I got out of my own little jinx, I got in a good rhythm and pulled a few riders back.”
One of those riders was Middaugh. For the triathlete, the Outlier Outdoor Festival is perfectly timed and located event. The Eagle-Vail resident finished second at the Pan-Am Xterra Championship, on Saturday, Sept. 16, in Ogden, Utah, and is gearing up for worlds in Hawaii on Sunday, Oct. 29.
“I just want to see where my fitness is at,” Middaugh said. “It’s great to have some really good pro riders show up to keep me honest. I can gauge myself a bit. I felt pretty good on the climbs. It was a good sign.”
Fun in many forms
Huck’s season, in theory, was done.
“I was done about a month ago, so for me, this was just for fun,” the Boulder racer said. “I always love coming up to Vail.”
Huck stayed with competitor and friend Evelyn Dong for the first part of the race before pulling away.
In the meantime, the festival is also a chance for locals to check out the latest and greatest in mountain biking. The new models came out earlier this month, and riders can demo the rides this weekend.
“If you’re looking to buy a bike, this is perfect,” Wells said.
The Outlier Outdoor Festival continues Sunday, Oct. 1, with a three-stage endurance race on Vail Mountain.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.