FRISCO " Youth is . So are singlespeeders, lots of them. Oh, and apparently word's gotten out to the rest of the state that if you're looking for an elite field to race against in the early stages of mountain biking season, you should get your butt to Summit County.
These were some of the things we learned at the first race in the Colorado Freeride Summit Mountain Challenge on Wednesday night, the Frisco Roundup. Portions of them we knew before, including the part about youth and singlespeeders being fast. Still, had they always been fast?
The top three finishers in the men's pro/elite division combined to form an age of just 56 years old: Durango's Tad Elliott, 18; Breckenridge's Taylor Shelden, 20; and Breck's Walker Savidge, 18.
And in the singlespeed race, Boulder veteran Charlie Hayes " one of a number of out-of-towners to win an age-group crown Wednesday on the Frisco Peninsula, which has hosted an SMC race in each of the series' 21 years " bested local lung guns Tim Faia, Mark Thompson and Tim Graczyk, among others, to win what could be called the most competitive division in the series.
"Tonight's field was sick," Thompson said, and then he looked around at his competition and began pointing: "Pro, pro, pro, former pro ..."
Hayes, a firefighter and paramedic who competes in as many SMC races as his job allows, said the key to his victory was simple: "What made the difference was Tim got a flat."
Indeed, Faia said he had to stop and inflate his tire five times on the final of two laps, a stroke of bad luck that cost him the opening victory. Hayes won in 57 minutes, 59 seconds, 1:33 ahead of Faia. Thompson was third and Graczyk fourth.
There was no such deciding intangible in the pro/elite race, as Elliott, a member of USA Cycling's U-23 mountain bike squad, took the lead heading into the second of three 6.5-mile laps and then held off his hard-charging local competition. His winning time of 1:20:17 was comfortably ahead of Shelden's 1:21:43.
Elliott made the trip north from Durango to compete against Floyd Landis and others in the Teva Mountain Games fat-tire race Saturday. When he heard about Wednesday's event in Frisco, he figured it'd be "a good warmup."
Savidge, a member of USA Cycling's U-23 road racing squad, said it didn't take long to realize he was up against stiff competition. "I just saw (Elliott) at the start and was like, 'Wow, this race isn't going to be easy.' I haven't breathed that hard since my last mountain bike race three years ago."
According to Shelden, the youth domination at Wednesday's opener isn't guaranteed to last. "They," he said, referring to the older riders who comprise the rest of the division, "can beat us just as easily at any of these races."
Another Boulder rider, Holly Harvin (who has lived off and on at Keystone in recent years), topped the women's expert field, yet as she put it herself afterward, "I don't know why I felt so good today."
Her bike, a 23-pounder that is five pounds lighter than last year's machine, helped, she said. "And I have to get knee surgery (for torn cartilege), so I was thinking this might be my last race of the season."
Harvin dominated the 19-34 division, winning the two-lap race in 1:05:12, more than three minutes ahead of the runner-up, Summit local Kristin Schwarck.
Colleen Ihnken, an SMC veteran from Alma, won the women's 35-plus expert category and was second only to Harvin among female racers (1:07:43).
Leadville's Lance Schamberger put forth an impressive effort in the 35-plus expert men's race, a three-lap affair which he completed in 1:21:02 " faster than everyone but pro/elite winner Elliott. Dillon local Ryan Huth won the expert men's 19-34 division with a time of 1:27:13.
Amy Jamison posted the fastest sport women's time (1:10:30), while Paul Furrey was fastest among sport men (1:00:09) " edging 16-year-old Chris Rice, who won the 19-29 sport class (1:01:53).
Ross Holbrook was the top beginner-class racer, and Barry Hanson won the clydesdale division by nine seconds over Jeff Lifgren.
Watch for complete results, including junior racers, in Friday's sports section.