Column: Ruggerfest 2015, bike traverse and hockey stars | AspenTimes.com

Column: Ruggerfest 2015, bike traverse and hockey stars

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

Dale Strode

Potpourri for $1,000, Alex:

Pro mountain biker and Fort Lewis College student Payson McIlveen won the second half of the Summer Grand Traverse last weekend, taking the 40-mile bike race from Aspen to Crested Butte.

A day earlier, fellow Durango resident Brendan Tromboli won the Summer Grand Traverse Run from Crested Butte to Aspen.

"It was a whale of an adventure," said McIlveen, originally from Austin, Texas. "I had never ridden the trails, and I wasn't sure what I was in for."

McIlveen, taking a meaty 16-hour course load this fall as he finishes his degree at Fort Lewis College in Durango, said he is more accustomed to the Olympic-style, World Cup-style mountain-bike races: circuits.

But he's been doing significant training at high altitude in the San Juan Mountains — Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Telluride.

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McIlveen and veteran high-altitude racer Brian Smith of Gunnison/Crested Butte led from the start as the cyclists left the base of Lift 1A at Aspen Mountain and headed up. Smith is a longtime competitor in the winter Grand Traverse Ski Mountaineering Race.

"He rode away from me on Ajax. I was blown away by his pace," said McIlveen, who was part of a national collegiate cycling championship at Fort Lewis.

After Smith won the climb and the KOM at the top of Aspen Mountain, McIlveen rolled past for his first point-to-point, backcountry-style mountain-bike race victory.

He finished the 40-mile odyssey in 4 hours, 17 minutes, 5 seconds.

Amy Beisel of Gunnison won the women's mountain-bike race in 5:06, good for sixth overall.

One of Aspen's longest sporting traditions returns this week with the 48th annual Aspen Ruggerfest rugby tournament. And the ruggers will be back at Wagner Park — aka Wagner Rugby Stadium — this year after a one-year absence.

The Ruggerfest luster is back with the Wagner venue — there are more teams and a women's division.

Hockey's fall spectacular also returns to Aspen this week with the annual Stirling Cup activities, a major fundraiser for Aspen Junior Hockey.

The festivities will include the popular NHL alumni game at Lewis Ice Arena. This year the game will feature the Boston Bruins Alumni Association and the Colorado Avalanche Alumni Association.

The game will be Saturday night at the Aspen Recreation Center.

On Sunday, the teams will hit the Aspen Golf Club for more friendly competition.

Tickets are available through Aspen Junior Hockey.

dstrode@aspentimes.com