Friday, August 14, 2009

Armstrong, Bauer top podiums at Snowmass mountain bike races

by Catherine Lutz, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Monday, August 10, 2009

While a certain seven-time Tour de France winner was celebrating his first fat tire victory in Snowmass Village on Saturday, Aspenite Rachel Bauer was steadily defending her lead on the dusty mountaincross course.

A few rounds later, Bauer edged out five other pro women to take first place in the Blast the Mass mountaincross finals — one of two pro-level racers with an Aspen address to earn the top spot in the four-discipline mountain bike event.

“I wasn’t the strongest rider, but I had the best descents,” said Bauer, who got fourth place in the pro women’s downhill on Sunday. “I was able to defend the lead and hold off the other girls.” (Jackie Harmony of Tucson, Ariz. and Martha Renn of Avon took second and third places, respectively.)

The other Aspen racer was Lance Armstrong, who smoked the field in the pro cross-country race with a time of one hour, 51 minutes and 18 seconds — completing two laps of the course which entailed 11.4 miles and 2,346 vertical feet of climbing.

Along with some local cross-country pros, Armstrong had spent a few days before the race riding the course to familiarizing himself with it, said a race organizer.

“And he was familiar,” said Keith Darner with Bigfoot Productions, which puts on the Mountain States Cup race series. “On the road climb from the start/finish to the singletrack he was at probably double the speed of the next pro.

Darner said Armstrong has visibly improved his technical riding since last year, when he placed second in the Leadville 100 endurance mountain bike race.

“I thought this race would be considerably closer because he’s a roadie,” said Darner. “This course had some challenging technical climbing and descending.”

Armstrong finished a little more than three minutes ahead of Jay Henry of Avon, who is the points leader in the eight-race Mountain States Cup.

Len Zanni of Carbondale finished third, nearly 6 minutes off Armstrong’s time.

Darner said an estimated 300-500 people thronged the start of the pro cross-country race, and about 450 people stuck around to see Armstrong receive his award.

“Normally you can hear crickets at a cross-country start,” said Bauer, “but it was lined on both sides. Lance brought people out.”

Far from feeling overshadowed, Bauer said it was boost to the semi-obscure sport of competitive mountain to have Armstrong show up at a regional race.

“He’s definitely brought a lot of people to the sport and to the weekend.”

Darner credited Armstrong with being gracious for staying 45 minutes after the awards ceremony to sign autographs and talk with fans.

“All we can say about Lance attending our event is that is was very positive and his sportsmanship was amazing,” said Darner.

Several other locals had podium finishes in the weekend events, which also crowned the state champions in cross-country, downhill, super D and mountain cross.

Snowmass Village’s Bryce Gordon won the 15- to 18-year-old division men’s category 1 cross-country race, and Mike Scanlon of Snowmass Village took the top spot in the men’s category 1 40-49 class. (Categories denote levels of skills, with category 1 corresponding to the old “expert” class. Category 2 is the former “sport” class, and category 3 is beginner.)

Jason Lapointe of Carbondale and Joel Mischke of Basalt took second and third places, respectively, in the cross-country race for category 1, ages 30-39. Lauren Ziedonis of Aspen took second in the women’s 19-29 category 1 race. The podium in the women’s category 1 40+ race was dominated by locals: Aspen’s Anne Gonzales in first, Aspen’s Pam Seidler in second and Carbondale’s Jacqueline Wood in third.

Steve Valenti of Basalt took first place in the mountaincross category 1 race for 30- to 39-year-olds. And Aspen’s Christen Boyer took second place in the category 1/2 women’s division for mountaincross.

Full downhill results were not available on Sunday, but no locals placed in the top three spots in the pro division on Sunday afternoon.