Breckenridge locals win Pennsylvania Gulch Grind

A little rain did not stop Liam Walker from enjoying the Pennsylvania Gulch Grind, the third race in the annual Summit Mountain Challenge mountain bike race series.
Photo by John Hanson

Breckenridge locals Taylor Shelden and Ro Mayberry posted the top male and female times, respectively, at Wednesday’s muddy, wet third leg of the Summit Mountain Challenge mountain bike race series: the Pennsylvania Gulch Grind.

On the 15-mile, point-to-point course, Shelden crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 12 minutes and 33 seconds, just under a minute faster than runner-up Noah Moyer (1:13:32).

Shelden said Wednesday’s wet weather let up just before he took to the start line. But he said the Pennsylvania Gulch Grind route, which features more than 2,600 feet of elevation gain and over 3,200 feet in total descent, was wet and muddy with overflow rain and runoff impacting riding in sections.

“It’s one of definitely the stalwart races on the Summit Mountain Challenge calendar,” Shelden said. “A lot of the races (Event Director Jeff “Westy” Westcott) will change a little bit here and there. But this one is … the same every year, which I think is nice. It’s a good mix of some singletrack in the beginning and a tough descent in the end as well as the tough climb up Pennsylvania Gulch. It’s a good combination of all aspects of mountain biking, a point-to-point with net descending. I think people really like that, too.”

Shelden also said the Pennsylvania Gulch Grind often seems to be ridden in more challenging weather conditions and not under classic Rocky Mountain bluebird skies.

On Wednesday, Shelden raced out to the lead with Moyer over the course’s first 10 minutes. When they reached the route’s tricky, slippery root section, Shelden raced out to a first-place gap as he climbed the Bakers Tank Trail.

“I was able to stay on my bike through all that stuff. That was to my advantage,” Shelden said. “But Noah came close. He pretty much almost caught up to me on the Blue River Trail in the end. It was fortunate for me to keep the gap all the way to the finish.”

With three victories at the first three Summit Mountain Challenge races this season, Shelden is going for his third consecutive overall men’s victory as well as his third overall season win in the pro-open men’s division.

2021 Pennsylvania Gulch Grind

Full results

Wednesday’s race was also a standout affair for new mountain bikers. That includes Meggie Manzo, 26, who won Wednesday’s Expert + Singlespeed Women division with a time of 1:40:15.

Manzo, like many others around Summit County, took up mountain biking last summer amid the pandemic. Manzo moved up racing divisions at each of the Summit Mountain Challenge races this season, beginning at the beginner level at the season-opening Frisco Roundup and then the sport-level division at the Gold Run Rush two weeks ago.

Manzo showed up late to Wednesday’s race and entered the Expert + Singlespeed Women division as a result. Despite having never ridden the course before, Manzo churned through the climb up the Pennsylvania Gulch Grind’s classic 4×4 road. She grinded through to pass her nearest age-division competitor at the top before riding down to the classification win.

“Before my first race, I was nervous and didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Manzo said. “But I ran into Westy before the race, and he said, ‘Do whatever you want. Ride beginner, expert — as long as you are out there having fun, having a good time, we can bump you up after.’ Just knowing that and how encouraging everyone was, how relaxed, it’s been a really cool, fun, positive environment.”

Manzo said she is looking forward to riding trails more familiar to her at the Summit Mountain Challenge’s next event, the Soda Creek Scramble, slated for July 28 at Keystone Stables in Keystone.

Shelden concurs with Manzo’s sentiment toward the importance of the community essence of the race series.

“It’s nice being part of the community up here, and mountain biking is — in general — a big part of the community,” Shelden said. “It’s always good to do these and support local. To be able to do a race in addition to being part of the community is a good combo for sure.”

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