Todd Wells, Gretchen Reeves and Erin Huck victorious at inaugural Firebird and Firebird la Femme races.
(May 11-12, 2013) EAGLE, Colo—Great trails, competitive racing and big cash pay-outs were just some of the attractions that filled up the weekend at the first ever Eagle Outside Festival. In addition to the racing, festival goers could demo top of the line mountain bikes from many of the best brands in the industry such as Specialized, Pivot, Niner, Ibis, Twenty2 Cycles, KHS, Felt, Ellsworth, BMC and Santa Cruz. Of course, group trail rides hosted by the Mountain Pedaler and Hardscrabble Trails Coalition, skills clinics, kids races, live music, sweet longboards and skateboards from Street Swell and even a Mother’s day half-marathon provided something for everyone.
For the mountain bike racers, Saturday’s Firebird race offered up a $7500 cash purse for the pro men’s and women’s Four Barrel forty-ish mile race, which served to draw out plenty of top talent from the region. After a one mile neutral mass start from downtown on Eagle Ranch Rd, racers had a gentle uphill section of pavement on E Haystacker Rd to sprint for position to be first onto the singletrack.
The light rain in the week leading up to the race lent for excellent dirt conditions, which made the singletrack that flowed through the sage brush even more contestable and fun. As racers headed up the Turniphead singletrack trail on their first lap, Todd Wells (Specialized), Troy Wells (Clif-Bar), Fernando Riveros (Twenty2 Cycles) and Colin Cares (Kenda/Felt) started to pull away from the field. Using his pre-race course reconnaissance to put the 83 strong pro men’s field in the hurt box, Todd Wells said, “I wanted to go as hard as I could on the first lap to cause some separation”.
On the second lap, both Troy Wells and Riveros put in attacks which only Todd Wells could follow before Todd went again to gap them both with about half of the race to go. Meanwhile, Ben Sonntag (American Interbank/Cannondale) wound up his pace to ride through the field for second place with Riveros taking third. Colin Cares would ride consistently to finish fourth, and Kalan Beisel (Orbea/Tuff Shed) sealed up fifth place.
Also taking part in the mass start were the pro women who were led from the start by Karen Jarchow (Pivot Cycles) with Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joes) and Amanda Carey (Stans No Tubes) close behind. Reeves succeeded in taking over at the front of the women’s race on the second lap, and never looked back as the battle for the remaining positions ensued. Colorado’s come-from-behind underdog, Jen Gersbach-Venzara (Honey Stinger) used the long race to wind up her motor, and steadily ride through the field to finally pass Jarchow with one lap to go. Jarchow held on to finish in a very respectable third place.
On Sunday, the Firebird la Femme, which featured a women’s only field and $2500 cash purse that paid out five places deep, got rolling with the same neutral start as the previous day’s race. The main differences were an even bigger women’s field than Saturday’s race, and a more typical 24-ish mile cross country distance that ran in the opposite direction on the same trails. Erin Huck (Tokyo Joes) used her training for the upcoming World Cups to take pole position as the ladies battled it out to be first onto the singletrack. Once on the dirt, Huck led the race until the finish by riding clean and fast. “My goal was to get to the singletrack first, because I knew there was a climb, and that’s usually my strength”, said Huck.
Close behind, Rebecca Gross (Tough Girls), Amanda Carey (Stans No Tubes) and Jen Gersbach (Honey Stinger) were all chasing hard. Carey even caught up to Huck on the first big downhill section of singletrack on the Bailey trail. Although, a lingering head cold combined with the previous days racing took its toll on Carey who faded to finish in third while Gersbach-Venzara gained momentum to claim second place in as many days. Fourth place went to a charging Caitlyn Vestal (Honey Stinger), and fifth was rounded out by Rebecca Gross.
Lastly, if you’re like myself and have driven by Eagle a couple hundred times on the way to Fruita or Utah, and have wondered about the mountain bike potential in the hills and mountains around I-70 exit #147, it’s probably time to start planning your next mountain bike trip there. While the race only touched upon a few of the numerous trails there, Eagle has more singletrack than you can shake a stick at, or ride in a day (more like two or three days!), as well as plenty of amenities and lodging or camping that are sought for any worthwhile mountain biking destination. The riding is open nearly year round down low, and trails that wind up into the surrounding mountains provide plenty of respite from the summer heat. Stop at the Mountain Pedaler for the good trail beta and last minute gear, and check out their online trail map to get the ride imagination into gear.