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Whitewater top guns to be decided

Tim Mutrie

Here comes the splashdown.The 41st annual Crystal River Races commence this afternoon with the downriver discipline along a two-mile stretch of the lower Roaring Fork.The blitz begins (say your prayers) at the Mountain View Church, next to Buffalo Valley, and follows Class II water like Cemetery Rapid down to Kiwanis Park in Glenwood Springs. The fastest boaters will finish in about ten minutes, impressive five-minute miles.”It’s named after Rosebud Cemetery,” explained Peter Benedict, a math teacher at Carbondale’s Colorado Rocky Mountain School, “so there’s always the joke, if you don’t make it through, that’s where you’ll end up.”Benedict, who is also the kayak program director at CRMS, added: “It’s actually pretty friendly for all levels of paddlers.”And so it is that on the waters of the Roaring Fork River that the latest chapter of the Crystal River Races first unfolds. On Saturday, in waters of the Crystal in the proximity of the CRMS Bridge in Carbondale, slalom and freestyle events will be staged.”This whole thing actually started as a make-your-own-raft race, back in the ’60s. So we’ve evolved a lot,” Benedict said. “In the mid-’80s it was a must-do for top-notch slalom paddlers, but lately it’s become more focused on high school paddlers for the high school cup.”About 50 to 70 boaters are expected to participate in the competitions, with juniors representing about two-thirds of the field.Saturday’s slalom course will feature about 18 gates up- and downstream of the CRMS bridge. Top finishers will slither through the course in two to three minutes.The freestyle, Saturday afternoon, will cover similar water – which , at 300 cubic feet per second (cfs), as of yesterday afternoon, was less than hoped for.”This stretch is as good as anything else we have access to. Unfortunately, it’s lower than we’d like, but in the long run, we’ll be good,” said Benedict. “The interesting thing is they’ll be doing freestyle through a rapid, essentially through the slalom course. We’ll be seeing a lot of cartwheels, loops and splats and things like that.”The CRMS kayak team will be putting about 12 contestants in the water; another eight or so from the area are expected to compete.”In the last couple weeks, the Crystal had gotten up to 600, 700 cfs, but the cold temperatures have brought it back down,” said Benedict.”It’ll go huge when it does finally warm up.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail is mutrie@aspentimes.com


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