Community mountain bike racing returns to Breckenridge at Gold Run Rush
Tai-Lee Smith completes Summit Mountain Challenge journey with pro-open win
Eager local cyclists had to wait a week, but the Summit Mountain Challenge’s Gold Run Rush returned in all of its community-centric glory to the mountain bike-loving Wellington and Lincoln Park neighborhoods on Wednesday.
After an air quality postponement pushed last Wednesday’s scheduled race to this week, racers pedaled through dark Rocky Mountain mud on some of Breckenridge’s most fabled trails.
Breckenridge local Taylor Shelden repeated his pro-open men’s victory from the series-opening Frisco Roundup earlier this month with a winning time Wednesday of 1 hour, 9 minutes and 39 seconds on the 16.2-mile cross-country course.
Fellow Summit local Tai-Lee Smith, a 2021 graduate of Summit High School, won the pro-open women’s race in a time of 1:21:31. Smith said the race meant a lot to her because Jeff Westcott’s Summit Mountain Challenge Series has been a staple in her cycling life since she’s four years old.
“I feel so old with all of these little children everywhere, because I used to literally be them,” Smith said. “…If I wasn’t doing these races of Westy’s — I credit them, definitely, for my love for the sport and where I am now.”
A few weeks ago, Smith raced in her first Union Cycliste International World Cup races in Europe. Next year she’ll race for collegiate mountain bike powerhouse Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
“I got this chance to race World Cups and get European racing experience but I really got into the sport at these races,” Smith said.
With her move to Grand Junction, and her family’s move to Idaho, Smith was nostalgic Wednesday that this may be her final summer of Summit Mountain Challenge races. But there are racers waiting in the wings to follow her journey from 10-and-under junior mountain bike league to the pro-open division. That includes the racers for The Cycle Effect, including Lupita Casillas.
Casillas finished on the podium in third place — to raucous team applause — in the junior girls 13-15 division, finishing the 9.4-mile race in 1:11:20.
Cycle Effect coach Fabiana Graspan said Casillas was encouraged to stick with the sport of mountain biking because of the community it provides her. Graspan said Casillas is one of several girls the organization provides transportation to and from Dillon Valley and races.
The coach was especially proud of Casillas on Wednesday, not just because she podiumed in her first race, but because she stopped to help a teammate with a mechanical issue during the race.
“It was hard, the uphills — there were a lot of uphills,” Casillas said. “I like having fun, challenging myself and doing new things.”
Summit local Jay Irwin crossed the finish line as the winner of the sport men 50+ division before he dropped with his bike to the rain-soaked grass to recover. After finishing the 11.5-mile loop in 1:09:02, Irwin said the muddy, wet conditions were welcome as he ground through an inventive web of some of the county’s most popular trails.
“I love some of these segments on this course, but I’ve never done this — all these looped like this,” Irwin said. “This is some of the best riding Summit County has to offer, right here.”
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