Tostado and Looney set new course records.
With a 10 pm start, the Vapor Trail 125 is no ordinary endurance race. With long railroad grade climbs and rowdy descents combined with the the world famous Monarch Crest Trail, the VT 125 is in a class of its own.
When Josh Tostado rolled through Aid Station #3 at the top of Monarch Pass at six am, eight hours into the Vapor Trail 125, he found a nearly deserted parking lot with race volunteers still fast asleep in their sleeping bags. Regardless, he was still able to pick up his drop bag, restock some calories, and continue on the Monarch Crest Trail with his headlamp still on. It wasn’t that the volunteers manning the aid station were unprepared, or that they had slept through their alarms, it was simply that no one had expected anyone to be able to complete the first 80 miles of the brutally hard course in eight hours. After Tostado rolled off into the darkness, it was well over 40 minutes before the next racer came into the aid station.
The Vapor Trail 125, held in the mountains surrounding Salida is no ordinary ultra endurance race. The 125 jaunt starts in downtown Salida at 10 pm and quickly climbs to above 10,000 feet and stays there until the final ten miles of the race. After the initial altitude gain, riders are treated to a section of the Colorado Trail before climbing up and over the Alpine Tunnel, Tomichi Pass, and undertaking the hike-a-bike up to Granite Peak, all in the dark. Then it’s a 20 mile rowdy descent to the Snowblind Aid Station made famous by breakfast cooked by Dave Wiens and his Gunnison crew. After climbing up Old Monarch Pass to Aid Station #3, riders begin the “fun” part of the course on the world famous Monarch Crest Trail from which they’ll drop down on the Starvation Creek singletrack, climb back up to the Continental Divide via Poncha Creek road, and then continue on the classic Crest ride before finishing on the Silver Creek descent and the rolling Rainbow Trail.
Riders were treated with warmer than normal temperatures this year and the leaders wasted no time upping the pace once the neutral start ended, arriving at the Colorado Trail several minutes ahead of course record pace. An hour and a half into the race, all the riders were within 20 minutes of each other but once on the trail, the field quickly spread out. Throughout the night, Tostado was able to stay on the gas and put his night riding skills to good use on the Canyon Creek descent off of Granite Peak. Also aiding his descent was his bike, which was far cry from a standard cross country rig. Riding a dual suspension Santa Cruz, Tostado opted not only for a 120 mm fork, but also a gravity dropper seatpost, allowing him increase his lead on the long and rowdy descents.
Giving chase to the flying Tostado were Jeff Kerkove, Evan Ross, and Aaron Gully, all of whom rolled through the Monarch Pass aid station before the sun had arrived. There are few places more special than the Monarch Crest Trail at sunrise and riders were treated to frosty, above treeline section of singletrack with sweeping views of both Gunnison and Chaffee County.
After winning a weather shortened Vapor Trail in 2009, Tostado blazed to a new course record of 12:43, smashing the old record by 59 minutes. From then, it was nearly an hour wait for second place Kerkove. It was Kerkove’s second Vapor Trail finish after winning the event in 2010. Ross finished a strong third, vastly improving on his 28th place finish in 2011.
Sonya Looney was the only woman to undertake the Vapor Trail challenge and finished with a strong time of 17:41.
Throughout the afternoon, riders continued to trickle in to the Absolute Bikes’ parking lot where they were treated to BBQ, homemade cookies, and a chance to recount their adventures on the riverside patio.