Vail’s Mountain Games: Internationals victorious in Dowd Chute kayak race
EAGLE-VAIL — Gerd Serrasolses was hoping for a win in Homestake Creek this year. The venue was moved downstream due to low water, so he paddled to victory in Dowd Chute instead.
Nouria Newman was happy to avoid the sketchy creek near Red Cliff and earn another win at the GoPro Mountain Games.
Both of their payouts were the same this year, $2,000 each.
“We don’t have a lot of races in kayaking where we have good prize money, and equal prize money for men and women, so it’s always a pleasure to come here,” Newman said.
The Frenchwoman said the prize money will help her get back home.
“It’s always more appealing when you know you may cover your whole trip,” she said.
TUNE UP FOR NORTH FORK
Many of the competitors, including Newman and Serrasolses, are heading to Idaho after the Mountain Games for the North Fork Championships.
The competitors said in moving the competition from Homestake Creek to Dowd Chute, organizers actually offered them a better tune up for that race.
“They set it up with gates, and the North Fork race has gates too, and it’s about the same length,” Newman said.
Serrasolses was born in Barcelona and identifies himself as a resident of Catalonia.
He said the elevation training here in Eagle County also will offer the athletes headed to the North Fork Championships a good workout before that competition.
“I think the organizers did a good job providing us with another option, a plan B,” Serrasolses said. “I think this location is great … they should maybe take it into consideration for future events.”
‘OLD SCHOOL IS COOL SCHOOL’
While Serrasolses looked toward the future in Dowd Chute, many were reminiscing on the past.
Announcer Dan Gavere said he remembered competing in the original iteration of the GoPro Mountain Games — which also took place in Dowd Chute — 18 years ago.
Eric Jackson was there, as well.
“It’s an epic race course,” Jackson said. “Everybody I talked to really liked it.”
Gavere said Dowd Chute fit in with the nostalgic fever people seem to have come down with in 2018.
“Just like everything, it’s cyclical — old school is cool school now,” Gavere said. “Everything has elevated with the festival, but the rapids are all still the same. The rocks haven’t moved.”
Figuratively speaking, gaining access to Dowd Chute is a Class-5 rapid in itself. Union Pacific Railroad needs to give it their blessing.
“There’s a reason why we haven’t been at the Chute for the last 10 years,” Gavere said. “The railroad thing is very sensitive … That’s rad that (The Vail Valley Foundation) was able to navigate that at the last minute and get that access here.”
Being in a more visible location, Gavere said the Dowd Chute race turned out to be a good intro for the event.
“Hopefully this will remind people who see it while they’re driving by on I-70 that the Mountain Games is going on this weekend,” Gavere said.
Denver residents Dick Dana and his grandson, 10-year-old Ben Schlegel, enjoy coming up to Minturn on the weekends, but had never been to the Homestake Race near Red Cliff.
“When I saw they changed it to here, I said ‘Let’s go,’” Dana said from Dowd Junction on Thursday.
Schlegel was perched overlooking a checkpoint.
“I like how they have to struggle up the stream to hit the boxes,” Schlegel said.
The format, where competitors had to “struggle up the stream,” as Schlegel put it, was a deliberate departure from the norm.
Upon realizing that the Homestake Creek race couldn’t take place, Gavere helped plan the format for its Dowd Chute replacement. He knew they would have to depart from the straight-sprint format of Homestake Creek, so the quasi-slalom was planned, where competitors had to touch gates along the way.
“If we just did a straight sprint down the river, we would have been able to name the top-10 before it started,” Gavere said. “We had to keep it competitive, challenging, fair, safe and exciting to watch, as well.”
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