After 14 years, Summit Mountain Challenge returns to Copper Mountain Resort

Copper Mountain Melee revived on new mountain bike trails

Pro-open men's division and overall winner Truett Bennett leads runner-up Taylor Shelden through the berms of the Lower Elk Alley trail at Wednesday's Copper Mountain Melee, round five of the 2021 Summit Mountain Challenge mountain bike race series.
Photo by John Hanson

The Summit Mountain Challenge made a triumphant return to Copper Mountain Resort on Wednesday, Aug. 11, for the first time in 14 years with the revival of the Copper Mountain Melee cross-country race.

Racers and Maverick Sports Promotions Event Director Jeff Westcott described the Melee course as a classic ski area mountain bike race with a brutally long uphill followed by flowy, yet technical singletrack riding on the way back down.

“Probably some of our most sustained climbing of the summer and, therefore, some of our most sustained downhill on singletrack,” Westcott said about the race.

The Melee was the fifth race in this summer’s mountain bike race series, replacing the Breck Mountain Enduro from previous summers. The Melee featured Copper’s new and improved mountain bike trail network as Westcott said he and the resort worked together to design a fantastic course. With Copper’s recent investment into its mountain bike trails and offerings, Westcott said he thinks there is the potential for a strong future at Copper in both cross-country and downhill mountain biking.

“I think there’s great energy here, and I think they are moving in the right direction,” Westcott said. “Everything feels good here. Everything is fresh. There’s good morale.”

Parker Merrill negotiates the rocks and roots of Copper Mountain's Red Tail trail at Wednesday's Copper Mountain Melee, round five of the 2021 Summit Mountain Challenge mountain bike race series.
Photo by John Hanson

Young Bear National Team rider Truett Bennett, 15, of Vail was the overall and pro-open men’s winner in Wednesday evening’s race, which featured climbing on old mountain roads as well as the new trails in Red Tail, Fawntastic and Elk Alley. Bennett complimented the Mountain Challenge race as being “gnarly, fun and fast” as well as for having a community vibe. Bennett raced to a time of 1 hour, 30 minutes and 39 seconds after claiming the lead from Breckenridge runner-up Taylor Shelden (1:31:07) on the final uphill of the 16.4-mile course.

“I was super stoked to take the win over some super fast competition with the way Taylor Shelden and those boys have been racing all year,” Bennett said.

For Shelden the return of the Melee was very much full circle for him, as he raced it back in high school in 2004 and 2005 before his career as a professional cyclist. Now back to racing the local series after his pro career, Shelden said Bennett’s win as well as the recent victory by Bennett’s Bear National teammate, Breckenridge local Lasse Konecny — wins that have halted Shelden’s multiyear streak — remind him of when he started to podium on pro races in local series 15 years ago.

“I’ve been waiting for some guys to beat me in the last couple of years, and it’s finally happened,” he said with a laugh. “It’s fun. We’re pushing each other and challenging each other. It’s exciting to me to have young guys coming up.”

View the full 2021 Copper Mountain Melee results here.

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