Riders rush Independence Pass | AspenTimes.com

Riders rush Independence Pass

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN Sometimes the race is not among the front-runners.Aspen’s Noah Hoffman, 17, put on a stellar performance in the Ride for the Pass, a 10-mile, 2,000-foot climb up Independence Pass to raise money to shore up unstable banks along the road.On the last switchback, Hoffman edged out Mitch Hoke, 19-years-old from Evergreen, and took first place with a time of 39:54.

Sure Hoffman is impressive, but among Saturday’s more than 550 rides, there was plenty of human drama.The Wampler brothers, Luke, 9, and Pete, 12, chased each other up the mountain Saturday, the younger Wampler squeaking by to win by a bike-length.”It almost killed me,” joked Luke.And the fastest kid on the mountain, Travis Lundin of Glenwood Springs, who came in at 1:10 said, “The best part was coming down.”Just as Saturday’s younger racers and front-runners slogged it out, so too 72-year-old Jacque “Frenchy” was up against himself, tying his time of 1:18 from last year.Houot said Saturday’s ride was a good, albeit “painful” day.

“I never give up. The day I can’t go uphill, I can still go down,” said Houot, who also races in the Grand Masters (older than 65) class in the Wednesday evening race series with the Aspen Cycling Club.”I passed a couple of guys the last mile and that made my day,” said Aspen Mayoral candidate Mick Ireland, 57, who came in at 53 minutes.Jill Goudie of Aspen and Frank McSwain took the hill on a tandem bike. Goudie, who rode on the back, said despite being out of site of McSwain, she never slowed.”I didn’t want him to think I’m weak,” Goudie said.”I love the crowd,” said Aspen’s Jim Veshancey, 50, who said the race/recreational ride is a way to work the kinks out for the summer. And he loves the diversity of riders on anything from mountain bikes to tandems and parents pulling kids on trailers.Saturday’s 13th annual event attracted cyclists from as far as Denver, like Nick Dunaske, who said the day was perfect.

Hoffman, who caught his breath in a matter of moments after crossing the finish line, said he felt fit during his first bike race of the season.”I like to keep my racing legs under me,” Hoffman said, adding that bike training just keeps him in shape for the Nordic ski season – Hoffman is moving to Sun Valley for summer training.Aspen’s Katie Monahan, a former U.S. Ski Team racer and Olympian, came in first for the women with a time of 49:05.Monahan said she has climbed the hill all her life and Saturday’s ride was her “best of all.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.

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