Wright claims second straight America’s Uphill | AspenTimes.com

Wright claims second straight America’s Uphill

Jennifer Davoren

Jeremy Wright made his second straight victory in the Ute Mountaineer America’s Uphill race seem effortless.

Armed only with a pair of snowshoes, the Beaver Creek resident charged up Aspen Mountain and across the finish line with a time of 44 minutes, 17 seconds – only 14 seconds behind the time that earned him first place in last year’s race.

Over 300 racers participated in Saturday’s competition, using skating skis and snowshoes to ascend the 3,200-vertical-foot, 2.6-mile race course on Aspen Mountain. While most contestants used ski poles to aid their ascent, Wright said he prefers to race without them.

“I don’t practice with them, so I don’t use them,” he said with a shrug.

Wright’s first-place finish, along with the third-place finish of teammate Mike Kloser, earned the six members of the Beaver Creek team a beer-filled first-place trophy and their second straight team victory. The Aspen-based Team ZG took second-place honors, followed by Team Ute Entropy in third place.

Charlie Wertheim, a Glenwood Springs resident and Team ZG member, finished the race in second place with a time of 45:52, just a little over one and a half minutes behind Wright.

“I finally had a decent time. I’m happy with it,” Wertheim said. “In the past, it always seems like something goes wrong. Last year, I caught the flu the Monday before the race.”

Aspenite Natalie Ward claimed first place in the women’s division for the second straight year, finishing in 15th place overall. Ward’s time of 54:08 also broke the course record by five seconds, a mark she held from last year.

An interesting race entry featured Aspen’s Mark Falender and Basalt’s Chris Keleher, as the pair attacked the course while strapped in tandem to a single set of jumping skis. The pair finished with a time race director Bob Wade could only call “amazing” – 57:41 – for a 25th-place finish.

The course, which started with a dash up Little Nell and into Spar Gulch, gained 3,200 vertical feet en route to the 11,212-foot summit of Aspen Mountain.

“I suffered my way through it,” said Boulder’s Max Clauson, the 12th-

place finisher. “That middle section is just a constant pitch.”

Area uphill races such as the annual competition at Snowmass can help racers ready themselves for the grueling America’s Uphill, but no racer can be completely prepared for the course, racer Lindsay Covington said.

“There’s no training for this. This is by far the hardest uphill around,” she said.

The Ute Mountaineer will donate $1,000 in race proceeds to the renovation of the Alfred Braun Hut System.

“They were built in the ’60s, so they’re getting quite old,” Wade said. “They’re refurbishing them one at a time.”

This year’s race was dedicated to the memory of Chuck Brandt of Aspen, who passed away earlier this month.

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