Valley boaters go big at the Gore Canyon races
An elite field of the country’s best kayakers and rafters descended the hardest rapids on the entire length of the Colorado River Saturday, participating in one of the world’s premier whitewater events.The Teva Whitewater Cup/Gore Canyon Festival featured hundreds of expert rafters and kayakers battling each other and challenging Class IV & V whitewater on the rugged and remote stretch of the upper Colorado River, located a few hours from Aspen, in between State Bridge and Kremmling.Several Roaring Fork Valley rafters and kayakers migrated upstream for weekend of fun and challenge. And the Riff Raft women from Aspen were equal to the challenge, charging downriver to a second-place finish in the Teva National Raft Championships and collecting a $1,000 paycheck.”Our guide Darcy had the rest of the team working in perfect unison this year,” said Riff Raft crew member Daphne Loring after the race.”Rafting is the epitome of a team sport and prior to the race we trained hard and it paid off,” she added.Another Colorado team, Team Timberline/Clear Creek Expeditions, took first place in the women’s division. In addition to winning $2,000 and paddling gear, the new USA women’s champions won a trip to Africa to compete in the 2001 World Rafting Championships. In the men’s division, Team California regained the title of Team USA and will join the Colorado women in 2001 on the crocodile- and whitewater-infested Zambezi River.A boatload of valley kayakers competed in the Teva Extreme Downriver Kayak Challenge. This year, the kayak race was a grueling 5-mile-plus sprint from the top of gorge’s most feared rapid (Gore Rapid) to the takeout at Pump House campground.Aspen local and reigning 1999 race champion Charlie MacArthur finished fourth in a competitive field of paddlers, which included former and current national downriver champion paddlers.Course record-holder Nelson Oldham of Carbondale was edged for the title of “King of Gore 2000” by Rocky Mountain racer Corey Neilson.In an amazing display of paddling prowess, Neilson raced with a raft team in the Teva National Raft Championships, and after clinching a third-place finish, he hurried back upriver to enter the downriver kayak race.Once back at the put-in, Neilson paddled over three miles to the start line – for the second time of that day, but this time in his Perception Wavehopper race kayak – and blitzed the field for the victory in the Teva Extreme Downriver Kayak Challenge.In the words of local extreme kayaker and renowned endurance athlete Charlie MacArthur, “Corey is an animal.”Gore Canyon’s notorious whitewater is so challenging only a handful of commercial rafting companies offer trips down it. Aspen’s Riff Raft is one of these elite outfitters. And since the inaugural Gore Canyon raft race in the early 1990s, Riff Raft teams have been among the toughest competitors.At its inception in 1988, the Gore race was a homespun river rendezvous featuring a handful of hard-core kayakers and massive quantities of beer. It was considered borderline crazy to paddle Gore Canyon, let alone race non-stop through its legendary rapids, but as boaters’ skills increased, so did the number of competitors. In the early 1990’s, raft teams raced down the course for the first time. Saturday, more than 250 river rats competed in the events.In 1998, the race evolved to include the U.S.A. Rafting Championship, a first in the history of the sport. And naturally, Gore Canyon was chosen as the host site, for its legendary whitewater and its reliable late summer water levels.Author Paul Tefft is a freelance writer whose company, Enviro-Action Sports, coordinates the Gore Canyon Festival. Enviro-Action Sports also produces videos and television programming, so keep your eyes peeled for shows on the 2000 Gore Canyon Festival. This year’s TV coverage includes Gillette World of Sports, on Fox Sports, and the Extra TV news show. Tefft can be reached at (970) 923-3955.
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