Despite the dry, blazing heat and a relentless wind that coated tents, vendors, and riders in a layer of dust, there were nothing but smiles yesterday at the BMX track just outside the Pool & Ice Rink in Eagle. The field was filled with bikers of all ages, from all places, and with every range of tire size as they prepared to compete in some of the GoPro Mountain Games most demanding events. The BMX Pro-AM, BMX Standard Double Points, and the appropriately named GoPro Mountain Enduro races combined the best of Eagle’s world class biking trails with the high energy competition of the GoPro Mountain Games.
But though the riders were competing for cash prizes, the atmosphere there was as it always is in Eagle — friendly and laid back. More than anything, the volunteers, spectators, and athletes were out there to have a good time.
A Family Affair
According to the Ft. Collins based BMX racer Walker Finch, this relaxed attitude was the key to peak performance, but he had only just found that out.
“I try to stay as focused as I can without driving myself into the ground, otherwise I’m not as good because I’m too hard on myself. Now I show up, do my job, and have fun with everyone out here, and since I’ve been doing that I’ve had a lot more success,” said Finch. In fairness to Finch, he’s only 21 years old, so there’s plenty of time for victories. Finch comes from a family of BMX enthusiasts and he’s been honing the craft since he was a child. With their parents’ encouragement, Finch and his siblings took to the tracks. The practice quickly paid off, with Walker earning a State Champion title at 10 and his first international bid at 15.
On Friday the family ventured into the mountains to compete for their first time in the GoPro Mountain Games, with both Walker Finch and his younger sister Addison Finch taking a run down Eagle’s track. Though they were not racing against each other, as Addison pointed out, “It’s always a competition in this family!”
It was Addison who won of the two Friday, earning a silver medal while Walker landed a bronze. But Walker explained that the real contest was between who has the most followers on Instagram, and in that he had her beat by about a thousand.
Down and Dirty
If you take the BMX race, multiply it by 20 miles, and add 4,200 vertical feet, then you’ve got the GoPro Mountain Enduro race. This is not to say anything against the BMX race, which required an entirely different skillset, but rather to demonstrate why Enduro is for the toughest of the tough.
Brandon Ontiveros of Big Mountain Enduro explained that these kinds of races are mountain biking at its peak, and that racing in Eagle has its unique challenges.
“It’s the high desert and it gets very dry this time of year so conditions are always rough and dusty and loose, but it’s a good mix. It’s different from the alpine, but that’s just mountain biking, it keeps people on their toes,” said Ontiveros.
The four stages of the GoPro Mountain Enduro race included rough terrain, steep inclines, and dangerous drops, all of which leveled the playing field for even the most talented of riders. Indeed, the shoo-in for the Pro Men Open win, Brian Lopes, lost the gold to relative newbie Alex Mcgunnis, with just four seconds between them.
For Ontiveros, these wins are the fun ones, because it proves that the real competitor is the mountain itself.
“It was surprising to see Alex Mcguinnis beat Brian Lopes,” said Ontiveros, “Lopes is a legend!”
Growing the Games
This was the first year that the BMX race competitions have been a part of the GoPro Mountain Games, but if the enthused crowd is anything to go by, it will very likely be returning.
“We don’t really get [crowds] like this on our home track, so that’s what I love about this place,” said Walker Finch, who came up for the day to compete but has proclaimed that next year he is going to make a weekend out of it and see what else the GoPro Mountain Games has to offer.
Likewise the GoPro Mountain Enduro race has gained a growing fan following, and both athletes and spectators enjoy Eagle’s open and welcoming atmosphere. The positive feedback is further evidence that Eagle is a worthy co-host of the GoPro Mountain Games.
by Jaimee Rindy
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