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Sarah Sturm and Ted King have won the inaugural The Last Best Ride gravel race in Whitefish, Montana.
Ellen Campbell and Laura King rounded out the women’s podium, while Ted King bested Howard Grotts in a sprint finish, and Whitefish local Andrew Frank finished third.
Riders on the Big Horn Sheep route — 90-miles and 8,224ft elevation gain — began the day under heavy overcast skies and pedaled through puddles and greasy sections of dirt and singletrack due to recent rains. Ultimately, the course suited strong climbers, and the podiums were comprised of pro mountain bikers from Durango, Colorado, as well as a certain multi-discipline duo from Richmond, Vermont.
Although the former WorldTour pro and co-director of Rooted Vermont is now firmly entrenched in gravel, King said he was threatened by Grotts, a four-time U.S. cross-country mountain bike national champion.
“To be perfectly honest, when I heard Howard [Grotts] was at this race and there was a five mile climb at the finish, off-road, eight percent, I figured everyone was racing for second,” King said.
Nevertheless, King was able to overcome Grotts on the decisive final climb.
“There were eight of us rolling into the last climb of the day,” Grotts said. “I’d pre-ridden that section so I knew I had to at least give it a go. I kinda pulled Ted King out a little bit. Then I was solo until the really steep climb at the top of the ski resort, that’s where Ted caught back up to me.”
As Grotts cranked up the last steep pitch, King said that he saw Grotts’ silhouette through the fog on a ridge known as the Big Horn Sheep Scramble. He fought back to catch the mountain biker, and his effort resulted in a two-man time trial to the finish line.
The women’s race was also decided on the final climb.
“I think the technicality and the climbing suited me,” Sturm said, “and it did not disappoint!”
Sturm was joined on the podium by fellow Specialized rider and Durango resident Ellen Campbell who raced on a hardtail mountain bike. Laura King, co-director of Rooted Vermont, rounded out the podium in third.
The Last Best Ride women’s results
- Sarah Sturm, 5:26:16
- Ellen Campbell, 5:49:54
- Laura King, 5:55:47
- Starla Teddergreen, 5:55:47
- Anna Megale, 6:00:11
The Last Best Ride men’s results
- Ted King, 4:55:18
- Howard Grotts, 4:55:20
- Andrew Frank, 4:57:45
- Caleb Swartz. 5:07:58
- Dillon Caldwell, 5:10:11
View the full results of the 2021 Last Best Ride.