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Full Tilt in Telluride - Telluride, Colorado

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |September 23, 2012 3:39 PM
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Full Tilt in Telluride: Telluride, Colorado

Mountain States Cup #5

Written by: Ernie Watenpaugh

Wide mud splattered grins accompanied by sore legs was the general theme in the San Juan Mountains last weekend as the Mountains States Cup held its last race of the season in Telluride, CO.  The world-renowned ski resort and its twisting trails were the setting for the Colorado State Championships along with a year’s worth of bragging rights.

Daily thunderstorms left the open ski run climbs packed and fast, but made the shaded forest sections slick and sloppy.  Bike and tire choices varied tremendously in both the men and women’s pro cross country races, and basically came down to personal preference to match the assorted bag of course conditions.

Tame golf cart paths led riders from under the start banner, and around the colorful hotels at the base of the resort. A long meandering climb up the ski slopes led racers into BC esque singletrack, which steadily climbed to a lung shattering 11,500 feet in elevation.  A long rolling descent took riders through dark pines, tight aspen groves, and loose off camber trails back to the base of the resort. 

The women’s pro race saw a stacked field of high altitude specialists, with the majority wearing the same team colors.  Utah native Evelyn Dong (White Pine Touring) showed little concern for the dominant force of team Alpine Orthopaedics, and established her presence by taking an early lead heading into the first climb of the day.  The young phenom Sage Wilderman (Kenda/Felt) played coy holding the wheel of Dong, as the girls of Alpine Orthopaedics started off a little slower keeping the gap small and manageable.

"The first climb kind of spread us all out, and by the time we headed into the woods we were all pretty much on our own.” Said Alpine Orthopaedic’s Jari Kirkland.  Dong went to work grinding out a hard tempo that gradually helped her escape her counterparts, and would not be challenged for the rest of the day.  Wilderman suffered a race ending mechanical halfway through the first lap, and was forced to walk back down from just under timberline to the village core.  The race then became an internal team battle for second and third.

Alpine Orthopaedics Amy Beisel and Janae Pritchett took turns setting the pace through the mud and roots of the first lap, but Beisel used her Colorado homegrown descending skills to distance herself from her teammate.  Beisel rode in for a solid second place behind Dong, with Pritchett rounding out the top three.

Telluride became the arena for a showdown between some of the best climbers in Southwest Colorado. Still riding out a huge wave of success from both his World Cup and Pro XCT breakthrough performances, Howard Grotts (Specialized) took a commanding hole shot.  Telluride local Ernie Watenpaugh (Tokyo Joe’s) refused to let the youngster get away without a fight, as Brian Smith (Alpine Orthopaedics) and Payson McElveen (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory) kept a close watch. 

Grotts layed down a relentless out of the seat pace up the first climb, pushing his competition to their absolute limits.  "I kept up with Howard for maybe the first mile, but I knew if I tried to hold on any longer I was going to explode.  That guy is incredible.” Watenpaugh claimed.  Grotts’ early move gave him the space and comfort to truly to go to work, gradually expanding his solo lead all the way to the finish.  Once again, the race then came down to second and third.

Watenpaugh put a solid minute into Smith before the long descent back, but Smith reeled him in halfway through.  The two traded blows down the front of the mountain, both taking advantage of the inside line when the other faltered around a corner.  The two started the second lap neck and neck, praying the other would struggle up the brutal series of climbs.

"Ernie came out hard that second lap.”  Said Smith. Watenpaugh knew if he didn’t attack early Smith would once again shut him down.  His plan worked, and he was able to keep a constant pressure on Smith that let him take home second for the day.  Smith snuck just over a minute later to snag a stellar third.

The MSC wrapped up yet another successful season of mountain bike racing in the Rocky Mountains.  From Colorado to New Mexico and everywhere in between, the Mountain States Cup Series sure does know how to put on a good race.

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