Report by Eddie Clark
Kerkove takes victory in perfect fall weather.
(Sept 11 and 12, 2010) SALIDA, Colo—Starting in downtown Saida, forty-six racers rolled out of town at 10pm in near perfect weather, which was a stark contrast to last years’ edition that was delayed 2 hours by severe storms. The fortunate weather meant racers would be contesting the full 125 miles of high altitude singletrack and fire roads in the Collegiate Peaks for which the Vapor is famous.
Repeat women’s champ, Eszter Horanyi re-iterated, “After racing the shortened version last year due to the biblical weather, I was excited to be able to the ride the whole route with weather conditions so good it almost seemed like the universe was apologizing for last year's rain, snow, and cold.”
Unlike most races, a race resume must first be submitted and approved before entry into this most difficult and trying race is granted. A 10pm start ensures that all racers must be capable of riding through the night in remote backcountry terrain with no outside support. Race winner Jeff Kerkove of Topeak-Ergon used a mix of different powered Topeak lights mounted on his helmet and bars to alternate between slower hike-a-bike sections, and faster singletrack enroot to his first Vapor125 victory.
Even with its backcountry extreme endurance billing, organizers were kind enough to host four aid stations where highly dedicated support staff graciously catered to racers needs with everything from gels to chain lube to pancakes and even the now famous Dave Wiens peanut butter and jelly bagels. With more praise for this years’ race, Horanyi noted, “Getting to ride the Canyon Creek descent, dropping from 12,000 feet straight down to the campground where pancakes and sausages were waiting, at sunrise, was definitely the highlight of the ride.”
The Vapors course profile could easily be confused for a Tour De France queen stage. The 125 mile route features 3 hors’ category climbs which consist of The Alpine Tunnel, Tomichi Pass, and Monarch Pass. Despite climbing roughly 20,000 feet and crossing the Continental Divide 8 times, race leaders Kevin Thomas and Jeff Kerkove were within 20 second of each other at the end of the Rainbow Trail, which signifies the last bit of singletrack before a road ride back to the finish in Salida. With the advantage of a geared bike, Kerkove was able to distance Thomas once on highway 285 and take the win with a couple minutes advantage.
A four-time veteran of the Vapor, Kerkove recounted, “Kevin and I battled back and forth for most of the race. He was riding strong on the climbs and would get time on me. I would then make up time on him on the downhill’s and flatter sections. We changed positions so many times after aid station 3. I knew the only way to beat him was to keep him within sight until we got to the paved road descent to Salida. Without a doubt, Kevin was the stronger rider on this day.”
For full results, see Vapor125.
More photos here.