By Eddie Clark
(May 20, 2012) Salida, Colo.—The five race Mountain States Cup series got underway with an all cross country opening edition at the Riverside Rampage. Good weather and plenty of fun technical riding were present in abundance for the three stage omnium format race.
On Saturday, the weekends first racing saw competitors riding an uphill time trial that started on Ute Road with nearly 550 feet of climbing up Spiral Drive to the top of Tenderfoot Mountain. If you've ever been through Salida, Tenderfoot is on the north side of town and easily recognizable by the big "S' on its barren slopes.
Colin Cares (Felt/Kenda) was the fastest men's pro racer up the hill with a time of 6:38.54. Mitchell Hoke (Clif Bar) came in second another 5 seconds back, and Hector Fernando was third. Women's pro racing saw Kelli Emmett (Giant) clock the fastest time at 7:59.09 with Jennifer Smith (Stans Notubes) taking second and Sydney Fox finishing in 3rd.
Later in the afternoon, the short track competition had racers sprinting up dirt road that lead to the 0.5 mile descent down the Burn Pile trail which completed the lap. Hitting the top of the climb first was key to getting an open line down the twisting singletrack. Pro women completed 3 laps around the course, and pro men raced for 4 laps.
Again, it was Kelli Emmett taking top honors with Jennifer Smith just behind in second. The Men's race saw Mitch Hoke ride into the lead on the first lap and hold it until the end to win by 12 seconds. Mackey Franklin (Orbea Tuffshed) and Colin Cares rode the first three laps with just seconds separating them, and Franklin took second with 15 second advantage over Cares.
The days racing was capped off with awards and a post race raffle at the Boathouse in downtown Salida.
On Sunday, the events final competition started with Cat1 racers taking on a grueling cross country course that had riders completing two 10.8 mile laps which included some very technical singletrack. After completing a gentle dirt road climb, racers go onto the 3.2 mile North Backbone trail for plenty of tight twisty singletrack where there was little room for passing. Next was a mild double track climb that took races to the Pauli trail, and then the extremely difficult downhill singletrack called Uncle Nazty.
Pre-riding the course was a must to ensure a clean line was ridden down Uncle Nazty since there were plenty of bad lines that ended with flat tires or a trip over the bars and off the trail. Unlike many cross country races, the course was not for the timid as a lapse in concentration while on the plentiful miles of very tight technical singletrack often ended badly.
A quick count of the bloodied pro riders at the finish was affirmation of the challenge provided by this course. Even the pro men's winner Mitch Hoke came off the bike and finished with his fair share of flesh wounds and bumps. "Dude, the Uncle got me today", said Hoke of his crash on the difficult trail.
"It's one of the best courses I've ridden in a long time, there's sections out there that I didn't know if I'd be able to ride. It's also fun to be in Salida because it's such a great town", said women's winner Kelli Emmett. Jennifer Smith stayed close to Emmett for most of the first lap, and kept it together to claim second with Diedre York (The Gear Movement) finishing in third.