One of the best weekends of the year for mountain lovers came and went in Vail. As part of the action that includes everything from slacklining to dog dock jumping to kayaking, there were a couple of big bike races.
The professional cross-country mountain bike races are always a marquee event of the weekend. With nearly 3,000 feet of climbing each lap, it makes for a tough event. This year, Colorado Springs’ Russell Finstwerald won in 1 hour, 39 minutes, 33.3 seconds. His Team Clifbar teammate Benjamin Sonntag of Durango was second, 1:17 back. Durango’s Levi Kurlander, riding for the Orange Seal Off-Road team, placed fourth, 4:58 back.
“Good one at the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail,” Sonntag said in a post to Instagram. “The (Clifbar) colors done shine in the thin mountain air with (Finsterwald) taking the W and me rolling in in second.”
Arizona’s Chloe Woodruff won the women’s pro race in a thrilling sprint against Katerina Nash of Roxborough. Woodruff finished in 1:55:41.3, while Nash was one tenth of a second back. Colorado Springs’ Amy Beisel was third, 4:36 back.
Durango’s Katja Freeburn placed fifth to get on the podium. The 18-year-old who rides at Fort Lewis College and for the Bear Development team finished 17:55 back of Woodruff.
“Super stoked on getting to race the GoPro Games once again and super happy to come away with a fifth against some very fast women,” Freeburn said in a post to Instagram.
Durango native Emily Schaldach, a recent University of Colorado graduate who now calls Boulder home, finished sixth, 22:08 back, in her first race since she returned from studying abroad in Peru. She also is on the Orange Seal Off-Road Team. Durango’s Madeline Robbins, who is only 16 and a Bear Development rider, finished seventh, 23:49 back.
“(GoPro Games) was an awesome and tough race,” Robbins said in a post to Instagram. “Nearly 3,000 (feet) of climbing per lap for three laps was exhausting, but I gained valuable experience racing in the pro field.”
Simon Donnaway, who won the boys 17-and-under enduro race in 25:02, won the junior men’s cross-country mountain bike race, too. He finished two laps in 1:17:31.3, 39 seconds ahead of Lakewood’s Ryan Campbell. Durango’s Henry Haggart was eighth in the race, 9:39 back, and Sean Holley was 15th, 24:38 back.
In the junior women’s cross-country race, Durango’s Abbey Shepard placed third with a time of 1:43:15. She was 9:37 back of winner Sofia Forney of Lakewood. Durango’s Ainsley Haggart also placed fourth, 9:45 back of Forney.
Haggart claimed a win in the under-21 women’s enduro mountain bike race. The 15-year-old finished in 28:08.7, 1:28 ahead of Camille Lamarque. Donnaway won his enduro race 49 seconds ahead of Jesse Kruzel.
In the amateur cross-country races, which were only one lap, Durango’s Toby Scarpella was second in the junior sport men’s race in 42:44, four seconds behind Eagle’s Cole Weathers.
Durango’s Victor Ruggiero was 15th in the masters 45-and-over men’s race in 1:40:06.1, 17:58 back of Eagle’s Peter Davis. Rob Haggart of Durango was 17th in that race, 20 minutes back.
More than mountain bikesRoad cycling fans got their fix at the GoPro Games this year, too. There was a time trial event, and Keegan Swirbul, the 2015 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic champion and 2018 runner-up, placed first in 26:53.90. The Jelly Belly Pro Cycling Team rider from Carbondale was 31 seconds ahead of California’s Chad Hall. Durango’s Ned Overend, 62, placed eighth, 1:08 back of Swirbul’s time. The same time trial course will be used this year for the Colorado Classic, and Swirbul was thrilled with the early experience. He won $2,000 for taking first place.
Abigail Mickey of Boulder won the women’s open time trial in 31:19.73.
Other events included slackline and standup paddleboard competitions, a world cup climbing competition, fly fishing and tying contests, dock dog races, kayaking and trail running.
For more results on all the events, visit www.mountaingames.com.