Aspen’s Boucher leads valley sweep of men’s expert division at BME Finals
On Friday, the day before the start of the Big Mountain Enduro Finals, local rider Whit Boucher said an Aspen podium sweep was possible in the men’s expert open division. Instead, he had to settle for a Roaring Fork Valley podium sweep on Sunday, and he was perfectly fine with that.
“I’m stoked. Local race — got to represent,” Boucher said. “It’s kind of like going out to ride with your friends, but you just get timed on the downs, so you kind of cruise with your friends and then you meet them at the bottom. Kind of like normal riding. So it was fun.”
Boucher held up his end of the podium prediction by finishing atop the division, holding off runner-up Matt Boughton, a close friend and fellow Aspen local, as well as Basalt’s Rafaelo Infante, who finished third to round out the expert podium. Boucher led after the first two stages of the mountain bike race on Saturday, which included Aspen Mountain and Sunnyside Trail, but lost some time in the third stage on Sunday in Snowmass and trailed Infante by 22.70 seconds entering the fifth and final stage, the Bonzai DH.
It was Boucher who finished the strongest, overcoming what he said could have been a “catastrophic blowup” on the fourth stage to get the win in his only BME race of the summer. Like his friend Boughton, Boucher has ridden at the pro level in the past. The expert division was only added to the BME circuit this year, coming in a notch higher than the amateurs but below the pro field.
“I felt pretty good on Bonzai. I didn’t make any mistakes,” Boucher said. “I rode a couple of things slower than I wanted to. But I was all over the place on Sam’s Knob. That trail is so far off we never go ride that. And we didn’t get to practice it because of all the rain (on Friday). Some of the turns on West Government just kind of come out of nowhere.”
Aspen local Isabelle Zaik won the women’s amateur division.
The men’s pro division title went to Richie Rude, who rides for the Golden-based Yeti/Fox Shox Factory Race Team. Not only did Rude hold off Marco Osborne for the individual race win, but he held him and teammate Shawn Neer off for the BME season title in the division. Rude won all three of the BME races he entered this summer.
Rude, a two-time Enduro World Series champion, has now won the overall BME title three times. He also won in 2015 and 2016, with Neer having won it all in 2017.
“It feels pretty good to get another win here at the Big Mountain Enduro,” Rude said. “The races are always fun and it’s even better when you have teammates and friends, Marco, right there behind you pushing you a lot. It’s tough to stay in front of them, but it’s definitely fun.”
Rude, as well as some of the other top-tier pros, plan to compete Aug. 12 in Whistler, Canada, in the sixth of eight stops on the EWS schedule. It’s the lone North American stage on the EWS this year. Osborne (No. 13) and Rude (No. 19) are currently the top two ranked Americans on the EWS for 2018.
Aspen hosted a stage of the EWS in 2017.
Taking the women’s pro division was Crested Butte’s Cooper Ott. The 26-year-old is a rising star in Enduro racing, having finished second on the BME circuit a year ago. She left little doubt this year, winning all four of the BME races, including this weekend’s event in Aspen and Snowmass. As dominating as she’s been all season, about all she had to do Sunday was finish the race to secure the overall title over Lia Westermann.
“It’s what we work for the whole year, so it’s definitely good to see it to the end,” Ott said. “I just needed to remind myself to ride smooth, don’t do anything dumb and just make it to the finish line. Sometimes that’s hard to do and not go as hard as you want to, but sometimes it’s the best move.”
Ott certainly has the opportunity to take that next step, maybe onto the Enduro World Series next year, but she won’t commit to anything yet.
“I still have a lot of things I want to achieve in my riding and a lot of goals to accomplish still,” Ott said. “I don’t know. We’ll see. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”
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