GoreIV more than boaters bargained for at the GoPro Mountain Games in newest race
Kayakers say new course could compliment future events
VAIL — Kayakers engaging in a sprint down Gore Creek is a classic staple of the GoPro Mountain Games.
But in a low water year, the usual downriver sprint (from East Vail to the International Bridge) has a few sections where the competitors’ boats will barely scrape past the creek bed.
While this year’s new GoreIV race down the lower section of Gore Creek (from the International Bridge to Stephen’s Park in West Vail) was intended to replace the Red Cliff area Steep Creek Challenge in an effort to keep the Mountain Games closer to Vail, professional kayaker Dane Jackson — always a Mountain Games enthusiast — said it might make a better replacement for the downriver sprint out of East Vail.
“It’d be cool if they still involved this race,” Jackson said. “If I had to choose, I think this downriver section is better than the upriver section, because there’s a few more rapids and a couple more challenges.”
But Jackson wouldn’t want to see the GoreIV replace the Homestake race on a permanent basis, he said.
When he heard that event organizers were trying to keep the Mountain Games contained to Vail this year, “I thought they’d do it in Dowd Chute again,” Jackson said. “But when I found out it was here I thought, ‘Oh sweet, a new race course.’”
“In a perfect world, you’d have all three,” Jackson added of the Homestake, Dowd Chute and GoreIV races.
Jackson said he had paddled the lower section of Gore Creek only once in his life before; he was 10 or 11 years old at the time.
“It was when I was first starting riding some stuff, and I think I swam (exited the boat) on this,” he said. “I remember it being high water.”
As it turns out, the Vail Recreation District’s weekly town series whitewater races may have proven to be the most effective tune-up for the GoreIV competition, as the top two fastest times on the day were posted by regular town series competitors.
Valentin Gutierrez, of Argentina, arrived in Vail three weeks ago and began training in the altitude and competing in the town series races.
In 2019, Gutierrez won the downriver sprint at the GoPro Mountain Games, but “I remember being very winded,” he said.
He said he had his sights set on victory in 2021 and arrived to town early to get acclimated.
Gutierrez bested second place Rob Prechtl by 11.8 seconds; Prechtl is a Vail local and regular competitor at the town series races, as well. Separating Prechtl and third place finisher Nick Troutman was a razor-thin margin of just .25 seconds.
“I was behind Dane and in front of Valentin, and I’m pretty sure Dane gained on me and Valentin caught me,” Troutman said with a laugh.
The results show that not to be so, as Troutman was faster than his brother-in-law Dane Jackson by about 2 seconds.
Emily Jackson, Dane’s sister and Nick’s wife, won the women’s race, finishing 8 seconds ahead of second place Avery Potter.
The biggest twist of the race came when crossing one property, which abuts the creek.
“Some dobermans did try to attack us,” said Rafa Ortiz, who finished 14th on the day. “They’re hanging out in the yard, and you’re paddling, and they start chasing you, and you think, ‘They’re not going to jump in,’ but then they do actually jump in the water, and then you think, ‘They’re not going to come in that far,’ and then you’re like, ‘Oh crap, here they come,’ and you have to adjust your line.”
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It’s a little odd for a winter sport’s national championship to be held in the summer, but it’s the only time that all four national teams and younger athletes could get together at once. For that reason, the event and the Springer Tournee leading up to it are special to Team USA.