Mountain Games: Compton, McGuinnis top the enduro podium
Special to the Vail Daily
2018 Mountain Games Schedule
All events in Vail Village, unless otherwise indicated
Saturday, June 9
Raft Sprint, 8 and 10 a.m.
Down-river kayak sprint, 8:30 a.m.
Stand-up paddle sprint, 10:30 a.m., and noon
Mountain bike races, 10:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.
IFSC Climbing World Cup, 3 p.m.
Kayak freestyle rodeo, 4 p.m.
Sunday, June 10
Disc golf, 9 a.m.
Vail Pass time trial, 9:30 a.m.
Stand-up paddle cross, noon
Dogs, speed retrieve big air, 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Slackline competition, 3:30 p.m.
8-ball kayaking, 4 p.m.
EAGLE — It was a hot, windy afternoon on Friday as racers rolled past the finish line at the GoPro Mountain Enduro at the Mountain Games, covered in sand and dust.
True to the Mountain Games spirit, competitors ran the gamut from national champions to local riders experiencing their first enduro race. The race featured four stages on Redneck Ridge, Pool & Ice, World’s Greatest and Haymaker, totaling 25 miles.
Pros experience a ‘different’ enduro
The $12,000-prize purse drew seasoned pros, including Katie Compton, Brian Lopes, Alex McGuinnis and Sarah Rawley.
Compton, a 14-time national cyclocross champion, and McGuinnis, who won this event in 2017, took the wins in the men’s and women’s pro categories, respectively.
“The trails are very dry and dusty, which made some parts softer and more slippery, but I managed to ride well today without too many mistakes,” said Compton, who won by a healthy margin of 1 minute, 18 seconds.
Sarah Rawley finished second, followed by Becky Gardner in third. The race, like many enduros are, was marked by lucky and unlucky breaks, skids and falls that cost precious seconds. Gardner, for example, secured her podium spot despite having to stop and fix a broken spoke in the middle of the final stage.
In the men’s pro division, Winter Park’s McGuinnis edged out fellow veterans Nate Hills and Lopes for the win. Upon crossing the line and seeing his time, he gave a whoop and a shout in celebration.
“It’s mountain-bike racing, and for a lot of people, there’s a lot that can go wrong during a race,” he said. “When it comes down to it, and you work really hard and it pays off, you get really excited aabout that.”
Unlike many other enduro races, which tend to feature more gravity-fed courses and more technical elements, Eagle’s race is smoother, less technical and demand pedaling on its flats and climbs. It was a change of pace for some racers.
“I prefer more technical trails, and when you’re preriding the course, you think, ‘This is kind of flat and cross-country-ish,’” said Hills. “But when you’re racing it, and you’re pedaling fast and pushing the limit, this course turned out to be really fun and entertaining.”
The enduro also brought out a slew of expert and amateur racers. Some, like men’s expert division winner John Bailey, were riding on their hometown trails.
“These are the same four trails I ride all the time with friends. However, it’s fun to race on them, because they’re lung-and-leg burners. Plus, during a race it’s all up in the air — the fastest guy could be anyone,” he said.
Edwards rider Alex Gonzalez, who took fourth in the men’s pro division, said he was excited to see so many hometown competitors in the field.
“A lot of locals showed up and did well. It’s fun to race at home and show off our hometown trails,” he said.
The proximity to home and the style of the course also encouraged riders who normally don’t race enduros to participate. Eagle’s Karen Jarchow, typically a cross-country racer, said the Mountain Games were among a handful of enduros she’s done.
“It really brings all the different disciplines together,” she said. “I do have to say, the climbs today were my saving grace.”
For Minturn rider Jake Bangston, Friday’s race was his first enduro, and he said he plans to race more in the future.
“It was so much fun. I mean, this is what we do when we go out and ride with friends,” he said.
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American riders invited to compete in X Games from Jan. 29-31, who have continuously tested negative while in mandatory quarantine in Austria, are expected to compete at the event later this month in Aspen.