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Snow adds extra element to start of Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals

2011 Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals
A Lees-McRae rider leads through a snowy switchback in the DI XC. Photo: Eszter Horanyi

ANGEL FIRE, NM (ST) — When a winter storm rolled in on Wednesday, collegiate racers from around the country watched anxiously to see how much snow would fall on the small mountain resort, host to the 2011 Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships. Racers pre-riding the XC course on Thursday reported slimy mud on the bottom half of the course and powder and packed powder on the top half. The 1,400-foot climb featured some of the new trails built on the mountain this year, while the descent followed the Mountain States Cup Chile Challenge course.

In the DI contest, Katie Sodergren (University of Colorado) took an early lead on the start loop followed closely by Lauren Catlin (Fort Lewis College). Jill Behlen (University of Wyoming), Sarah Sturm (Fort Lewis College) and Ashley James (Appalachian State University) joined the two leaders on the first climb but Catlin was able to take the lead before the descent and never looked back. At the end of the first lap, Catlin had opened up a significant gap on her chasers. She willingly took risks on the descent, hoping that if she could get out of sight of the rest of the field, she would have a better chance of staying away. James was able to shake Behlen on the final lap and Sodergren suffered a lost contact lens in a crash on the slippery course and was forced to finish her second lap with compromised vision. Diedre York and Claire Bensard, both of the University of Colorado, put in a late race push to round out the top five.

Alexis Skarda (Colorado Mesa University) and Rebecca Gross (University of Denver) dominated the DII race. Starting 10 minutes after the DI women, the pair caught and passed the majority of the DI field within the first lap. Skarda, an elite cross-country runner, joined the cycling team after tendonitis in her foot forced her to take a break from running. At the end of two laps she had opened up a four-minute gap on Gross and finished the race with the fasted female time of the day. Essence Barton (California Lutheran University), Elisa Otter (Union College), and Angela Vitulli (Western State College of Colorado) rounded out the top five.

The men took to the course at noon after a significant increase in temperature. Instead of riding on frozen mud like the women had before them, the men were faced with lava-like mud-flows on both the climb and descent of the course. The 81-person DI field took off in a mass but 43 minutes later it was Howard Grotts (Fort Lewis College) who came through alone. He described the course on first lap as ‘perfect’ but said the trails deteriorated rapidly afterward. He was followed, after a significant gap, by teammate and two-time defending Collegiate XC National Champion, Rotem Ishay and Gregory Carpenter. Bradford Perley (Lees-McRae) was the first non-Fort Lewis rider to come through on the first lap. Grotts continued to increase his lead on the rest of the field and after two hours of racing finished with nearly a five minute gap. Kerry Werner, the defending XC champion, finished 5th.

The DII men faced the same muddy conditions and many were forced to hike large portions of the climb. Matt Schiff (Humboldt State University) took the early lead with a chase group consisting of Brae Patten (Western State College of Colorado), Sam Chovan (University of Denver), Benjamin Senkerik (Ripon), Wesley Lamberson (Union), and Taylor Schmidt (Colorado School of Mines). Schiff was able to hold onto his lead with Chovan, Snekerik, Lamerson, and Schmidt all finishing on the podium.

Racing continues on Saturday with the short track in the morning and gravity riders take to the track, which is described as ‘terrifying’, in the afternoon.

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Eszter Horanyi lives and mountain bikes in Crested Butte, CO.  She has dabbled in road racing, cyclocross racing, and cross country mountain bike racing, but has gravitated towards ultra endurance and multi day self supported racing in the more recent past.  She firmly believes that nothing tops a good ride with good friends on good trails, thus she spends her life in search of all of the above. All articles by Eszter.

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