by Shauna Farnell, Tom Boyd, Scott Willoughby and Kate Peters
UPDATED 5:16 p.m. June 12, 2017
Just because it’s the final day of the 2017 GoPro Mountain Games doesn’t mean that adrenaline won’t drift through the air for days to come. Wait. This is Vail. When is the air not rife with adrenaline? At any rate, the 2017 Mountain Games wrapped up with sighs of athletic ecstasy, pain, relief, sadness, joy …and a whole lot of trembling muscles. Here’s what went down:
Who would have thought there were so many masochists in town? There were 47 to be exact – all charging directly up the steepest part of Vail Mountain – 430 vertical feet up and down again – as many times as they could in 30 minutes. The first of its kind, Pepi’s Face-Off, in spite of being a blatant sufferfest, was a soaring success.
The field was stacked with bionic types – including one badass dude in jean shorts – most of whom have proven their worth in multiple other hardcore competitions. The beast of the day was ultra-runner Ryan Phebus, who managed to make eight laps in 31 minutes, 45 seconds. Mind you, it would take the average person about 20 minutes to slog up Pepi’s Face once at a reasonable speed. The horn blew at 30 minutes, but racers who crossed the bottom line were able to go up again. Speaking of horns, the only other competitor to make eight laps up and down Pepi’s was fellow ultra-runner Sean Van Horn, who pulled it off in 32:59.6. Triathlete Branden Rakita, fresh off taking second place in his category in the Volvo Road Bike Time Trial earlier in the day and winning the Superfeet 5K race on Friday, rounded out the men’s podium in third, finishing seven laps in 30:46.0. Local machine Mike Kloser, a four-time World Adventure Racing Champion, a World Mountain Bike Champion and World Long Distance Orienteering Champion, signed up for the Face-Off last minute and ended up just missing the podium, completing seven laps in 32:21.6, and by the looks of things, barely breaking a sweat.
“Oh, I was suffering,” he said afterwards. “But it was a great event. I bet it’s at least double the turnout next year.”
Due to the wall-like slope angle of Pepi’s Face, numerous racers took to butt sliding on the descent portion of the laps.
On the women’s side, the ultra-runners also finished the Face-Off on top. Anna Mae Flynn, who has podiumed in 50-mile runs, zipped through seven laps in 31:58.1. Evergreen runner and former U.S. Mountain Running Champion (2009) Brandy Erholtz took the second step of the women’s podium with seven laps in 33:10.6 and fellow U.S. Mountain Running Champion (2015) Morgan Arritola rounded out the podium, the only other woman to take seven laps up and down Pepi’s Face, finishing in 3:24.4.
Four other women managed six laps on Pepi’s, most notably UMC competitor Annabel Anderson, who finished fourth in spite of also having just hauled up Vail Pass in the Volvo Road Bike Time trail, 56-year-old Anne Gonzaless of Aspen and 13-year-old Lanie Szuch of Evergreen, who had just schooled most of the field for the second year straight in the Superfeet 10K Spring Runoff.
Needless to say, it was no couch potato Face-Off.
Superfeet 10K Spring Runoff
The snow was indeed running off the mountain in the form of magical gurgling creeks and streams while nearly 250 fit runners meandered up Vail Mountain for nearly 2,000 of climbing on steep singletrack. It wasn’t no thang for freshly crowned World Mountain Running Champion Joseph Gray, who handedly scooped up his fourth straight victory.
Charging through the technical course at a breakneck pace of 7:32-minute miles, Gray won by well over a minute, finishing in 46:47.6 as Boulder ultramarathoner Sage Canady finished 1.17 minutes off the pace. Rounding out the men’s (and overall) podium was last year’s Power of Four 50K winner Morgan Elliott, 2.13 minutes of the pace.
On the women’s side, Spartan Race Pro Team athlete Nicole Mericle did the schooling, finishing in 58:41.8, more than three and a half minutes faster than her closest competitor, which happened to be relative newcomer Valarie Martus of Erie, CO., who took second in 1:02.20. For the second year straight, Lanie Szuch, 13, was the third fastest woman in the 10K, finishing in 1:03.15, after landing her second straight win in the 5K on friday.
Pounding the pavement on skinny tires, the Volvo Road Bike Time Trial yielded numerous big names, but it was local all-around athletic machine Josiah Middaugh to pedal the fastest. Middaugh, an eight-time Xterra Triathlon USA national champion, bolted up the course, which begins in Vail Village and finishes halfway up Vail Pass, in 28:3.40. The only cyclist close to him was Leroy Popowski of Colorado Springs, who has won the Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb numerous times, 7 seconds behind Middaugh. Local rider Cristhian Ravelo, hailing from a family of famed cyclists and a master of both road and trail, was the third fastest in the Time Trial, finishing in 30:48.22.
The women’s podium was also a Who’s-Who lesson in star cyclists, all hailing from Boulder, beginning with Olympian Mara Abbott of Boulder, who won with a time of 32:40.24. Erin Huck, fresh off Saturday’s win in the EverBank XC Mountain Bike race, finished hot on her wheels in 32:58.70 as road specialist Margot Clyne rounded out the podium in 33.31.83.
Under blue skies and amidst breathtaking views, Mountain Masters Disc Golf’s 2017 champions were crowned Sunday, following 18 holes at Maloit Park in Minturn.
For the women, Fort Collins’ Mckayla Thomas took first, sharing the podium with Sabrina Donaldson-Volkmer, who took second, and Desiree Redding and Jessie Klehfoth, who tied for third.
On the men’s side, local golfer Jake Wagoner looked strong, hitting an ace on hole 7, but it was Kyle Griffin of Wellington, Colo., who came out on top, with Mitch Sonderfan and Jerome Knott tied for second.
It was a beautiful finish for a tournament that’s seen huge growth and improvement in just three years at the GoPro Mountain Games, as evidenced by the many pro sponsored athletes who chose Vail over other larger competitions on the circuit.
If anyone’s wondering where the next generation of climbing champions will come from, look no further than the EverBank Youth Climbing Competition. Those young monkeys looked like they had superglue in their hands as they scrambled up World Cup-worthy problems. A trio of teenagers looked to take on the globe’s best in the female junior category. Remember the names Erin Rast, Laurel Melton and Gillian Ryan. You’ll probably be seeing them on plenty of other podiums.
In the Everbank Citizens Climbing Competition, nearly 70 sinewy enthusiasts took to the wall, ranging in age from 14-year-old Cole Golson to 55-year-old Rob Cotter. The name “Puccio” may have also caught your eye. That would be 49-year-old Kim Puccio, mother and mentor of none other than 10-time National Bouldering Champion Alex Puccio.
The downward dogs were flowing in perfect unison under the soulful eye and direction of Gina Caputo in Super Soul Sunday as the Zen Zone wrapped up the weekend with Outlaw power and AlReal air suspension.
Katie Priebe and her rambunctious young lab Tucker were big winners in Sunday’s Blue Buffalo DockDogs competition, punching their ticket to the Dueling Dogs World Championships in Iowa next April by edging out Tom Dropik and his dog Remi in a thrilling head-to-head pro finals. Tucker, dare we say, nudged out Remi by a nose. Earlier in the day, one-and-a-half-year-old pup took another gold medal in the semi-pro division of the Blue Buffalo DockDogs Outdoor Big Air Finals in his first visit to the GoPro Mountain Games.
“We love this event. It’s super fun,” Priebe said of the Mountain Games. “There’s so much going on, so much action. It’s awesome.”
A year after winning the biggest fish competition at the Costa 2 Fly X-Stream competition in 2016, Camille Egdorf showed the boys who’s boss with a fishing rod once again in 2017. The 27-year-old from Bozeman, MT was the top angler on the water not only among the three women in Sunday’s finals but also landed and released enough fish to win the overall competition among all 10 finalists fishing the upper Colorado River. Using a coffee-colored Pat’s Rubber-Legs fly backed up by a Squirmy Worm, Egdorf landed 15 trout, the largest measuring 18 inches to qualify as the second largest fish recorded in the contest. Her total score of 33 points bested the entire field as men’s champion Troy Garner had the second-highest total of 10 trout worth 28 points. Catching five fish and the day’s largest at 19 inches, 19-year-old Coloradan Collin Reimer placed second in the men’s division with 24 points, followed by Travis Ruiz with 23 (5 fish, 18 inches). Audrey Wilson landed three fish, the largest measuring 15 inches, to place second among the women (18 points) and Sandy Roberts was third with three fish, the largest measuring 12 inches. Sunday’s 10 finalists earned the right to fish by outscoring a field of 68 men and 21 women in a pressure-packed casting competition that put the top 20 qualifiers on display in front of a cheering crowd on the International Bridge in Vail Village on Saturday.
They should just start calling him Mike T. Rivershred, because shredding rivers is all “Mikey T” Tavares knows how to do. Riding his namesake Badfish Rivershredder SUP, the 34-year-old from Salt Lake City cruised through a crowded field of stand-up paddlers by winning every heat he entered in the Yeti SUP Surf Cross competition. By the time he got to the finals, the outcome was never in doubt. The same could hardly be said for second place, however, as Nicolas Fayol of France literally edged out Dane Jackson of Tennessee by mere inches as their final touch of the finish line demanded a video review to verify the result. Natali Zollinger, another Badfish Team racer from Moab, UT, weaved her way through the women’s finals to step to the top of the podium ahead of Courtney Kerin from New Zealand and Camille Swan from Utah. Race favorites and defending champions Spencer Lacy of Colorado and Rebecca Giddens of California both got tangled up in with other competitors in their respective semifinal heats, failing to advance to the winner-take-all finals.
The chaos and carnage that is Coors Light 8 Ball Kayak racing capped off 2017 GoPro Mountain Games in traditional fashion on Sunday afternoon, although 17-year-old Hayden Vorhees of Meridian, ID, juked his way through the swarm so effortlessly it looked like he was cheating. As the world’s top kayakers ran into a wall of human-powered plastic aiming to knock them off course, Vorhees pulled out some mad slalom skills to catch a jet of whitewater and shoot past the swarming 8-balls without a scratch. Coors Light Kayak Freestyle champion Emily Jackson of Walling, TN, was the first woman to cross the finish line in the mass start event that combined both the men’s and women’s fields for the finals.
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