Race report by Shawn Lortie
(April 10, 2011) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo-The threat of rain and possible snow was blown away by the wind on day 2 of the Mountain States Cup series opener in Colorado Springs. The day broke to clear skies as racers convened at Cheyenne Mountain Park to tackle the cross-country course. The lure of a longer race with more of the parks trails included in the course seemed to draw quite a few more racers than Saturdays time trial.
With three waves of start times going off in the morning and early afternoon, there was plenty of racing to be had before the Pro’s went off at 2 PM. First to race was the Cat 3 races, and the Junior Categories. This was no walk in the park, as the course demanded advanced riding skills and a strong set of legs to tackle the short but stout climbs throughout the race. It was quite impressive to watch the 14 and under racers attack the course with everything they had!
The category 2 and category 1 groups went off throughout the rest of the day as hundreds of riders headed out for anywhere from 2 to 4 laps. The technical nature of much of the course had racers of all skill sets off the bike through more than a few sections. Although many would come away from the day unscarred, plenty of blood was lost as racers picked themselves up and untangled their bikes from the tough brush that lined much of the course.
By 2 PM, the skies had turned mostly cloudy and a strong breeze kept things on the cool side, but this wouldn’t slow down blazing fields in the Pro Men’s and Pro Women’s races. Both Mitchell Hoke, a Colorado College Senior, and Kelli Emmet, a Colorado Springs resident were back to race again after winning their respective time trials on Saturday. It wouldn’t be easy, as the size of both fields had doubled since the day before.
In the Men’s race it was Russell Finsterwald (Subaru/Trek) who hit the super technical rock garden on Medicine Wheel first. Right behind Finsterwald was Kalan Beisel, (Yeti/Sram), and Doug Johnson, another Colorado Springs local riding for Bandwagon Racing. Closely behind the three leaders Mitchell Hoke rode confidently through the rock garden followed by Tim Allen (Niner/Ergon) and Colin Osborn (Honey Stinger/Trek). As the rest of the Men’s Pro field hit the rock garden it became obvious that getting there at the front of the pack had been a good move, as bikes and bodies jammed the trail.
As the race unfolded, Hoke came to the front as Finsterwald, Beisel, and Braden Kappius (Clif Bar) formed the chase. Finsterwald began to fade a bit as the other three rode hard at the front, with Hoke doing the most time setting the pace. Eventually Kappius and Beisel could not hold on, and Hoke escaped to take the win over Beisel by about 45 seconds, with Kappius coming in third. Finsterwald held on for fourth spot as a charging Tim Allen came in for fifth. Allen had this to say about the race, “It was a perfect combination of flowy single-track and technical rock gardens.” As far as hardtail of suspension, for Allen it was “Niner carbon hardtail paradise.”
In the Pro Women’s race Kelli Emmett (Giant) threw all her cards on the table and smoked the whole pack. She hit the rock garden on Medicine Wheel about a minute up on her closest chasers Caitlyn Vestal (Honey Stinger/Trek), and Sage Wilderman (Specialized/Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory). Emmett continued to put the hurt on the field as she rode cleanly through the rock garden lap after lap. By the end of four laps, Wilderman had worked her way passed Vestal to finish in second place.
After her second victory in as many days, Emmett had this to say about Sunday’s cross-country race, “Since I was able to get on the course the week before, I knew I had to be first into the Medicine Wheel section. Getting caught behind someone would only cause me to loose time. So, I punched it and tried to see who would come with me. I was able to open up a gap and increase it each lap.” Kelli is off to a strong start for the season and is looking forward to the Sea Otter Classic in California next weekend.
For full results: Mountain States Cup