(April 13-14, 2013) FRUITA, Colo—Racers return to the famous trails of 18 Road at the Bookcliffs north of Fruita to race for a bid into the US National Championships later this year. In its second running, LTR Sports of Grand Junction once again served up a contestable cross country and short track course on a weekend that featured excellent spring weather for mountain bike racing.
Junior category racers were first to begin the day of racing with an 8am start on the 10 mile course that featured roughly 700 feet of climbing per lap. Racers started with a parade lap on the short track course that circled the venue before disappearing onto rolling open double track that took them through the free camping area where they entered the bottom of the Primecut trail. On Primecut, a steady power output combined with fast lines through the winding singletrack climb up to Chutes and Ladders was key for putting time into rivals.
Once on the famous Chutes and Ladders singletrack, a gut busting, steep, first climb brought racers to the top of a long fun downhill that finished out on the open plains where more double track saw road tactics come into play before racers returned through the start finish area for another lap.
It was on the first climb up Primecut that Sepp Kuss (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory) stepped on the gas to quickly distance himself from the field. “Nobody could keep up with Sepp’s pace on that first lap, he was flying”, said his teammate Payson McElveen. With his teammate solidly off the front, McElveen sat in with a bunch consisting of Jay Henry (Tokyo Joes), Sam Morrison (Gear Movement), Brady Kappius (Clif Bar) and John Klish (LTR Sports). On the singletrack, the group would spread out only to reform on the windswept double track.
Cannondale’s Ben Sonntag suffered a parade lap crash just after the start when he clipped a cone, which definitely disrupted his race. After finally getting back into a rhythm, Sonntag started passing riders. By the last lap, Sonntag had caught up to Kuss while McElveen followed his wheel. The threesome would be splintered when Sonntag raised the pace to claim the win. McElveen rolled across the line nine seconds down with Kuss just five seconds behind him.
In the pro women’s race, Rebecca Gross (Tough Girls) was first to the top of the climb going into Chutes and Ladders. Behind, Teal Stetson-Lee (Luna) was riding strong just seconds behind with Amy Beisel of Gunnison chasing in third. On the second lap Stetson-Lee was hammering on the front, and growing her gap to take the win by a large margin of four minutes and twelve seconds. Behind, Beisel overcame Gross to finish in second place with a narrow lead of eight seconds.
Unfortunately, even while the weather in Fruita was welcoming, an impending winter storm sent most racers home early on Sunday, which resulted in small turn-outs for the short track racing. Payson McElveen took the pro men’s race, and Teal Stetson-Lee scored her second win for the weekend in the pro women’s race.