Endurance, athleticism reach an apex in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge
By Tom Boyd
UPDATED 2:22 p.m. JUNE 14, 2017 – new results in Men’s division
It was grueling, it was mentally exhausting, it was a test of athleticism, and it was quite complex, but the Ultimate Challenge winners have been decided and the $8,000 prize purse is ready to be paid out.
What did it take to win? Try this lineup for size: Winner Ryan Petry competed in the Road Bike Time Trail, the EverBank XC Mountain Bike, the 10 Spring Runoff, the Apres 5K, the Pepi’s Face-Off, Yoga and the Mountain Click Photo comp on his way to victory with 35 points.
And it wasn’t enough just to compete and finish. Petry, a Boulder, Colorado, resident won the Men’s Expert division of the XC Mountain Bike, he was second overall in the 5K, and he completed an astounding seven laps up and down the legendary Pepi’s face in Vail as thousands of spectators cheered him on during this first-ever iteration of the all-new UMC.
“I registered for six events and figured that would make me competitive overall,” he said. “It was tough not knowing who else was doing what, all I could do was put my best foot forward. On Saturday morning I saw Nick Troutman had already done like 12 events and I thought, ‘How the heck am I supposed to beat this dude?'”
Petry is no stranger to tough competition. He was second in last year’s UMC under the old format, has won the Leadville SilverRush 50, and was a top-ten finisher at the 2015 Leadville 100.
On Friday, the men’s division was in a seven-way tie, and kayaker Dane Jackson – who scored nine points with his win in the Steep Creek Championships – held on to the coveted yellow L.L.Bean leader jersey. But then the leaders began to emerge.
Among them was eventual second-place finisher Branden Rakita, who rode the Road Bike Time Trial, the EverBank XC Mountain Bike, the GoPro Mtn Enduro, the 10K Spring Runoff, the Apres 5K, and the Pepi’s Face Off to finish second with 33 points.
When the event was over, the race was too close to call. Organizers made an initial call on Tuesday, but then captured a data error on Wednesday and updated the results.
This broke a third-place tie and put Nick Troutman neck-and-neck with Rakita, both with 33 points. According to tie-breaking rules, Rakita held on to second place due to better individual results in his events.
Troutman, a world-champion kayaker, showed tremendous diversity with is performance, marking good results and finishes in every single whitewater event, the EverBank XC Mountain Bike race, the Apres 5K, the Mountain Mud Run, yoga and the Mountain Click Photo comp.
Close behind in fourth was Eric Holmlund, who was as an early favorite in the event. By June 8, when the Mountain Games began, Holmlund was signed up for nine events – more than any other competitor. But as word spread about the new format for this iconic event, the competition began to heat up. Holmlund finished with 31 points.
Troutman’s brother-in-law, Dane Jackson, scored an incredible 26 points without competing in anything but whitewater events, and therefore receiving zero cross-discipline bonus points. He finished fifth on the men’s side.
On the women’s side, last year’s champion Gretchen Reeves proved she could tackle the new, complex format of the UMC as she took first place with 32 points. Gretchen kayaked, biked in three races, ran and did yoga to complete one of the all-time most challenging weekends known in adventure sports and putting herself in the history books for this one-of-a-kind event.
She was followed by SUP champion Annabel Anderson who decided to compete in the UMC on a whim. A few weeks later she flying in a blur through the venue, competing in three paddling events, two bike events, yoga, the Mountain Click photo competition, and three running events. Her fitness level was astounding to all who saw her, and her incredible performance earned her 31 points.
In third for the women was kayaker Courtney Kerin, who notched an impressive five kayak events, rounding it out with three runs, yoga, and the photo competition to take third place with 24 points. The legendary Emily Jackson was fourth with 23 points and 13-year-old running phenomenon Lanie Szuch took fifth with 20 points.
The event was a resounding success by all measures, and chatter is already on the rise for next year to see who can become king and queen of the GoPro Mountain Games.
Organizers were doubly careful about announcing the winners in year one, waiting until today to make the call. With so many moving parts, the competition jury wanted to be extra sure, in year one, that they were making the right call in this already-prestigious event.
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