And the winner is … the reigning world champ! |

And the winner is … the reigning world champ!

RICHARD CHITTICKsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Reid Williams The Gold Rush is on: Parents help junior mountain bike racers unable to pedal up the first climb of the Summit Mountain Challenge race Wednesday by walking with them.

BRECKENRIDGE – If the reigning mountain bike world champion shows up to your local mountain bike race series, chances are, he’s going to win it.That’s exactly what Filip Meirhaeghe of Belgium did on Wednesday night when he began a two-month training sabbatical in Summit County by riding in the third event in the A Racer’s Edge Summit Mountain Challenge, the Gold Run Rush presented by the Wellington Neighborhood. Though Meirhaeghe was not available for comment afterwards, he tamed the brutal 2,500 vertical feet of climbing over 16 miles in 1 hour, 13 minutes and 27.74 seconds.Local racer Jeff Covey proved Meirhaeghe’s best competition, finishing only 32 seconds off the world champ’s pace at 1:13:59.50. Covey won the 35-and-over men’s expert division. Christian Ball also finished within a minute of the winning time at 1:14:18.80, taking third overall on the day. Though Meirhaeghe’s time might not seem particularly dominant, several in the know maintained that he wasn’t riding at the pace he used when he won the world championship gold medal in Lugano, Switzerland, on Sept. 7, 2003. “At best, he was riding at maybe 75 percent of his capacity,” said event organizer Mike McCormack. “He’s hands down four levels removed from the fastest guy here.”Still, competing against the world champ was plenty exciting for a local midweek race.

“It was fun riding with Filip for just a little bit,” said a grinning Tim Graczyk, pinching his thumb and forefinger together to show that he could only maintain Meirhaeghe’s pace for a fraction of the total distance.The fastest woman of the day was Colleen Ihnken, who finished the 11-mile women’s expert course in 1:06:24.22. “The usual suspects didn’t show up this week,” she said later, referring to SMC stalwarts Danelle Ballengee and Monique Merrill.Mary Scheifley pedaled to second overall at 1:07:10.81, while Graczyk’s wife, Ronie, came through in 1:07:43.26 to take the 19-34 women’s expert division.”It’s my first win all year,” Graczyk said. “Those girls are so fast.” Many consider the Gold Run Rush to be the most difficult race in the Summit Mountain Challenge, including those who run the series, McCormack and co-organizer Jeff Westcott. The course climbs more than 2,000 feet for all categories except beginner women and juniors, and the climbing begins within 500 yards of the start.”That start is painful,” said Fairplay’s James Dean. “It’s the hardest start of all of these races.” From there, the course undulates through the backcountry northeast of Breckenridge until it hits one of the most ominously named climbs in the entire series – Heinous Hill.

With loose rocks and hard-to-follow lines, Heinous forced many riders to hike much of the climb. In addition, the sky unleashed a wet fury on the race for the first time in this year’s series, pelting many of the racers just as the men’s sport class crested the hardest climb of the race.The rain forced those still on course to ride the next downhill while negotiating wet roots and muddy trails. “I’m used to the disc brakes on my other bike,” said Tim Graczyk, who managed a fifth-place finish in the 19-34 expert division despite riding his singlespeed bike, which has cantilever rim brakes that made braking difficult in the wet conditions.Graczyk took the overall lead in the Summit Mountain Challenge points race after Brett Morgan suffered a technical problem with five miles remaining in the race. Graczyk and Morgan came into the race tied for the lead.”I can’t say I beat him fair and square,” Graczyk said. “But there’s still, what, four races left in the series? Anything can happen.”Finish Line: Daniel Summerhill won the men’s sport competition, finishing the 11-mile sport course in 56:04.82, while Julie Howard finished first among sport women, riding the same course in 1:07:46.18 … Devin Curran won the men’s singlespeed division. … The next event in the series will be held at Copper Mountain on July 28 … For more comprehensive results, check Friday’s edition.

Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236 or at sidebar:Beginner men overall finishers*Tom Sheets 1:05:38.49Jeff Talkington1:08:37.46Josh Robertson1:08:44.21*Tom Richmond1:08:49.80Marshall Denkinger1:09:21.07

Beginner women overall finishers*Allison Seymour34:45.0Kristin Schwarck 35:06.2Nicole Ryan36:51.0Neale Miller36:58.5Kristin Arnold37:09.0*= age division winner

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