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Vail rafting team repeats at Teva Mountain Games

Shauna FarnellVail correspondent
TMG Paddlecross1 SM 5-31
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VAIL – Chris ‘Mongo’ Reeder is the only member of the Behind the 8 Ball raft team allowed to look back to check the gap between his boat and the rest of the field in a paddlecross race.If any other members of the team so much as glance over their shoulders, they get a paddle in the head. And Reeder always tells his team the race is much tighter than it actually is.”Even if we’re blowing someone away, I’ll tell them it’s really tight so they keep paddling hard,” Mongo said. “If someone is right on our tail, I tell them they’re trying to pass. It fires them up.”In Wednesday’s rafting paddlecross final at the 2006 Teva Mountain Games, 8 Ball’s gap was established at the beginning. While other teams writhed from the waist up with furious paddling, they simply couldn’t close the gap and indeed remained behind the 8 Ball through the finish.

The local team of world champion rafters defended its standing Teva paddlecross title after it stole race right from the start.”You can start jockeying into some type of strategic positioning from the start. That’s what the strategy of the whole race comes down to,” said 8 Ball’s Todd Toledo. “Our experience in the boat has helped us not only here, but in all the international races and everything else we do.”Race organizers decided to move the final race about a quarter-of-a-mile downriver to where Gore Creek converges with the Eagle River, making the first paddle strokes more frantic than ever.”You start with the boats really tight and get some battling right in the heart of the chute and make it a little more exciting and spectator-friendly,” Mongo said. “It worked, for sure. The boats stayed really tight the whole time and there was some great battling at the beginning. We were lucky enough to get a little bit of a head start right off the bat and hold them off through the chute.”

Behind the 8 Ball defeated Pinchie Time from Breckenridge, and fellow local team Go Lite/Nike, compiled mostly with team members who weren’t even rafters, and thus unaccustomed to the splashy start.”We’re all adventure racers,” said Go Lite/Nike’s Billy Mattison, who was the most experienced rafter on his team. “Those guys who do raft races all the time knew it’s not exactly when they say start. You have to be aggressive beforehand for a floating start. We were kind of left standing at the starting line.” I’m still not sure how it works.”The Eagle was running at about 4 1/2 feet on the gauge Wednesday – roughly 1,800 cubic feet per second. Due to last weekend’s cold temperatures, the level was a bit lower than expected but still right for a fair race, according to competitors.

“For us, the higher, the better. It would be nice bigger because we know the stretch really well,” Mongo said. “But this is a great level for everybody – for spectators, racers and attendance. It brings out the people who might otherwise not race.”Mattison’s team was pleased to make it as far as it did and to close the gap a little bit since playing catch up is not an easy task on the river.”Not only did we not get the hole shot, but we ended up at the back of the back at the start,” Mattison said of his team’s performance in the finals. “The only way we could have done better is if one of those guys made a mistake. But in the finals, nobody was going to make any mistakes. We actually tapped the Breckenridge team. We hit the back of their boat twice, but it didn’t have any effect. To be honest, we were just happy to get to the finals with so many good teams here.”Shauna Farnell’s e-mail is sfarnell@vaildaily.com.


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