Big pay day for mountain bikers at GoPro Mountain Games as Swenson, Huck win
Keegan Swenson, Erin Huck take home $6,000 apiece
VAIL — Keegan Swenson and Erin Huck enjoyed the largest shares of the largest prize purse the GoPro Mountain Games has ever offered mountain bikers, earning $6,000 apiece for their winning runs on Saturday.
Both won easily; Huck crossed the finish line nearly 5 minutes ahead of second-place Sofia Gomez Villafane.
Swenson said the large prize purse probably added depth to the field this year, making him go out just a little harder. The strategy paid off, and he led the field by more than a minute for the whole race.
“It’s always a bit of a gamble going out early, but I felt good and figured and I’d be able to make it stick,” he said. “I think it was stacked a little more this year than in years past, it was cool to have (Russell Finsterwald) and (Howard Grotts) out here.”
Finsterwald found himself in a race for second with Grotts, who ended up beating him to it by one second.
“Keegan pretty much showed us he’s the boss,” Finsterwald said. “I was thinking about it during the race, Howard, Keegan and I have been battling it out with each other for over 15 years now.”
Finsterwald and Swenson both plan on competing in the 2021 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in Winter Park in July; Finsterwald, who lives in Colorado Springs, said he might use the June 16 and June 30 Vail Recreation District town series races as a tune-up for the Winter Park event.
Finsterwald also competed in the Vail town series races last summer.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “The best thing about weekday races is there’s no pressure.”
There is, however, competition. Finsterwald said local off-road triathlon racer Josiah Middaugh never lets the pros get an easy win at the Vail town series races.
Middaugh, on Saturday, said he was riding as hard as he could just to get into the money amid the stacked competition at the GoPro Mountain Games. The top six spots paid out; Middaugh took seventh.
“I felt a little flat out there, to tell you the truth,” Middaugh said. “It was dry and dusty.”
The Middaugh family did take home a win on Saturday, however, as Josiah’s son Sullivan won the expert junior division for athletes 17 and under.
“I thought about doing the pro division,” he said after the race. “But I just got back from a two-day track meet.”
Sullivan Middaugh is going into his senior year at Battle Mountain High School, but the track and field season from his junior year is still underway.
“Track season goes late this year, so we still have two more weeks,” he said.
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In a move unusual in today’s West, private land in the Crystal Valley opened in July to free public use by mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners. Coal Basin Ranch opened a 5-mile trail network in mid-July that is open to the public at no cost.