No clowning around for this champ
Aspen is home to champion skiers and snowboarders, kung-fu fighters and paragliding pilots and rugby players alike.Add unicyclist to the list.Riding the same 36-inch wheel that he’s often pedaling over the nearby high passes, Mike Tierney won the 10K “marathon” at the North American Unicycling Championships and Convention last weekend near Salt Lake City.Tierney’s two kids, Logan, 14, and Lily, 11, also took home medals.
About 130 unicyclists participated in the five-day event, which included freestyle and sprint races, as well unicycle hockey and basketball.The event shifted to the 2002 Olympic nordic venue, Solider Hollow, for the final portion of mountain and distance racing.Tierney, 44, distinguished himself by dominating, à la Armstrong, in the longest’s race, the 10K. Competing against about 50 other unicyclists in the open division, he won by nearly two minutes, in 29 minutes, 53 seconds.The course was largely paved with some gravel sections and rolling hills.
“You had to do one lap in the Olympic stadium, where the start and finish lines were for the Olympics, to finish the course. And I did my whole lap before the second guy came into the stadium,” said Tierney, owner of Aspen Solar and by winter a Highlands ski patroller, “I had a great race. I got to sit there and enjoy.”Tierney also won seven other medals in his age group.Tierney’s training ride one week before the event helps explain his success: He rode the 80-mile Leadville Triangle – over Battle Mountain, Fremont, Tennessee and Vail passes – with 10,000 vertical feet of ascent and descent. It took him seven-and-a-half hours. “That was my biggest ride ever,” Tierney said.
Now, Tierney wishes he’d booked a trip to Japan for next week’s International Unicycling Championships.”At Soldier Hollow, it was really neat. We got treated like Olympians up there,” he said. “The place was totally set up for us. The music was going and they treated us like athletes.””A lot of people think [unicycling] has that clown image, and it’s not really looked at as an athletic sport. But it really is.”My advantage, I think, was my training at altitude and all the mountain riding I do,” Tierney added.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.