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 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
"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
"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.