Aspen’s Peterson eclipsed on final lap at Moab |

Aspen’s Peterson eclipsed on final lap at Moab

After two noons and nearly 200 miles of racing, the wheels came off for Aspen’s Butch Peterson on the final lap of the eighth annual 24 Hours of Moab.

Peterson, a free-lance writer and columnist for the Aspen Daily News, took the lead in the field of 50 solo riders at midnight Saturday, halfway through the race. And at 11:50 a.m. Sunday he completed his 15th lap on the 12.4-mile Behind the Rocks course still leading Vail’s Dawes Wilson.

“I was hoping he would miss that noon cutoff so I wouldn’t have to go out again,” said Peterson, 34. “But he came in a few minutes after me and back out I went.”

As the only solo racers to make the cutoff, Peterson and Wilson started lap No. 16 in a two-man duel for the title. And Peterson, who last year finished third at Moab (ahead of Wilson) in his first attempt in the 24-hour solo format, soon watched the crown pass him up.

“It was kind of a heartbreaker ? he was flying and I was dying,” Peterson said. “There was nothing I could do to catch him. I guess you could call it the tortoise and the hare: I went out fast and thought I had it, just wanted to hang in there, while he was clawing back, taking out of my lead, and when he finally passed me I had nothing to chase him with.

“I think it was the hardest race I’ve ever done ? it was definitely the toughest year I’ve ever raced the course,” added Peterson, who has competed in seven of the eight 24 Hours of Moab races, winning the four-man team division three times before going it alone last year. “The pressure of being up front was tough, for 12 hours, knowing that people are trying to hunt you down. I’d be thinking that I had a comfortable lead, but, no, they’re eating away at it.”

Wilson, a two-time solo champion at Moab, cranked out a 1 hour, 28 minute lap on the final loop around the sandy jeep trail with 1,100 feet of climbing to win the title, compared to Peterson’s 1:58. The race saw two early rabbits ? Rishi Grewal of Aspen, a three-time solo Moab champion and course record-holder at 17 laps from last year, and Eric Dunn of Denver ? start fast and eventually burn out. (Grewal completed eight laps, Dunn only five.)

Eating while pedaling, Peterson never stopped in the pits for more than three minutes. After each lap, his support crew handed him a freshly tuned bike and replenished Camelback and sent him out again.

“I kind of hung in third in the beginning, while Rishi and Eric were attacking each other,” Peterson said. “I was worried about Wilson last year because I know how consistent he is. But he faded last year [finishing behind Peterson in fourth]. This year he didn’t fade. I have a lot of respect for his riding abilities. He pulled through.”

Peterson and his crew made camp over the weekend with several other Aspen racers, including the Aspen Police Department team, comprised of Chief Loren Ryerson and officers Rick Magnuson, Charlie Martin and Ian MacAyeal (who finished 91st in the men’s sport division with 14 laps), as well as Becca Blay (who rode with the winning expert-women’s teams the last two years).

Riding with Botsy Phillips of Boulder in the Duo-Pro division, Blay and Phillips finished fourth with 16 laps, a notable achievement considering Duo-Pro is “designed for two men who are professionals,” explained Mike Armstrong of Aspen, who raced and ran support. “There were more than 25 teams in their class, and they beat all but three. That’s impressive.”

After the race, Peterson went to a Moab motel, soaked in a hot tub and “let it all sink in,” he said.

“There’s not many parts of my body that don’t ache right now,” he said Tuesday. “I guess I must like it, but damn, I don’t feel like it right now. That thing worked me.

“The support that I got out there from all the people from Aspen who knew I was in the lead ? it was great. I was getting cheered by everybody. It’s kind of lonely out there, suffering, and it was really cool to hear the cheers, but it’s still all a blur right now.”

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