Team effort lifts Rakita to 2018 UMC win
Photo: Logan Robertson

Team effort lifts Rakita to 2018 UMC win


Posted by: Tommy

There was a moment at the 2018 GoPro Mountain Games where all the hard work of a weekend packed with eight different mountain sports events all came crashing down on Branden Rakita’s 37-year-old body. Seven of those events were behind him, and only one more lay ahead: the grueling Pepi’s Face-Off powered by Bang Energy.

“The first time going up Pepi’s I was really hurting,” Rakita said. “It really starts to set in how steep that hill is and I was like, I’m going to fall over backwards and just roll down the hill.”

He didn’t of course. He powered on, running as much of the race as he can (most others only walk), and notched a fourth place win in his wave, enough to put him at 41 points for a close-fought victory and the $2,500 in prize money (plus a YETI cooler and more) in the 2018 GMC Ultimate Mountain Challenge men’s division (see women’s UMC recap HERE.)

It was tough in more ways than one, Rakita admitted. A lifelong triathlete and a regular on the XTERRA competition tour, Rakita faced a wholly different set of rules and events at the 2018 GoPro Mountain Games.

In a triathlon, your competitors duke it out side-by-side, and the first through the finish line wins. At the entirely unique GMC Ultimate Mountain Challenge, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure weekend where competitors take on as many sports as they can and collect points based on participation, difficulty, and placement – along with a cross-discipline bonus.

Pro kayaker Nick Troutman showed incredibly diverse skill in his bid for second place. Photo by Logan Robertson.

For Rakita, this pitted him against a field mostly made up of kayakers. Indeed, the remainder of the top 5 were all kayakers: Nick Troutman was second with 39 points, Mathias Lopes was third with 33 points, Eric Jackson was fourth with 26 points, and Dane Jackson was fifth with 22 points. (See complete score breakdown HERE.

“Congrats to everybody: Nick and Mathias and all the guys were really pushed by each other all weekend, and even though we weren’t competing against each other, we were all battling and all pushing each other to the limit,” Rakita said.
Those limits were sometimes pushed, sometimes walked like a tightrope, and sometimes completely demolished as the GMC Ultimate Mountain Challenge competitors whirred through the Mountain Games event menu at a breakneck pace. A key part of his success, Rakita said, was the incredible support team he had with him all weekend.

“My girlfriend Bri, along with Brad and Tina Zoeller, and Rife Hilgartner … it definitely helps to have a good friend base that can really support you,” he said.

For Troutman and Jackson, the support base was there as well – but most were also competing in the UMC as well. The world-famous kayaking family managed to place all adult members in the top 5 of the UMC, with Nick Troutman at second, Eric Jackson in fourth, Dane Jackson fifth, and Troutman’s wife, Emily Jackson, tying for second place in the women’s UMC.

It definitely gave Rakita new respect for the Jackson clan’s talents. His competition weekend was over in time for him to watch the 8-ball Kayak Sprint from the GoRving studio at the International bridge.

“They have [river] skills I wouldn’t even approach,” he said. “The 8-ball, just watching it, it’s just nuts. I wouldn’t even want to attempt that. The [Steep Creek Championship]… it’s well-worth the 3-times weighting on the point scale.”

Rakita said he is already considering a return to defend his title in 2019, and it ought to give him an advantage. Rakita said he signed up early – in January – and very early on, made the Ultimate Mountain Challenge a part of his annual competition schedule.

-Tom Boyd

2018 GMC Ultimate Mountain Challenge Men’s points breakdown

MEN

Branden Rakita
Participant bonus 3
Road Bike TT 6
XC Mtb 6
Enduro 6
10K 6
5K 6
Rocky Dog 3
Pepi’s Face 4
Yoga 1
Total 41

Nicholas Troutman
Participant bonus 4
Steep creek 6
Freestyle Kayak 4
8Ball 4
Kayak Sprint 2
SUP Sprint 1
Raft Sprint 1
SUP Cross 1
Raft Cross 1
5K 6
Mud Run 1
Pepi’s Face Off 4
Citizen Climb 3
Yoga 1
Total 39

Mathias Lopez
Participant Bonus 3
Steep Creek 6
Freestyle kayak 2
8Ball 6
Kayak Sprint 2
SUP Sprint 1
SUP Cross 1
XC Mtb 4
Enduro 3
5K 4
Mud Run 1
Total 33

Eric Jackson
Participant Bonus 3
Steep Creek/Dowd 6
Freestyle Kayak 4
8ball 2
Kayak Sprint 2
SUP Cross 1
5K 6
Disc Golf 2
Total 26

Dane Jackson
Participant Bonus 1
Steep Creek 6
Freestyle kayak 4
8Ball 4
Kayak Sprint 2
SUP Sprint 2
SUP Cross 2
Raft Cross 1
Total 22

Share this Story:

Share this Story: