Boulderite dominates winter triathlon
BRECKENRIDGE – It was all about the fast start for Russell Bollig. An early lead allowed the Boulderite to avoid the travails of a brutal snow mountain bike leg and cruise to victory in Saturday’s Gold Run Winter Triathlon.
Bollig was unchallenged by a small (about 20) but high-quality field in the second annual event, which combined a 3-kilometer snowshoe, a 10K snow mountain bike and a 10K freestyle ski at the Gold Run Nordic Center. He finished in one hour, 39 minutes and six seconds, more than eight minutes ahead of Pete Swenson, another one of Boulder’s world-class multi-sport racers. Vail’s Dawes Wilson finished third, nine minutes back.
“We see each other every weekend,” Bollig said of his closest competitors. “last week Dawes got me in the Wilson Cup (a Nordic race at Beaver Creek), and a few weeks before, Pete got us both in another race, so definitely, on any given day, if someone’s feeling good, they’re gonna be up front.”
Bollig’s strength is the snowshoe, and he built a quick cushion. Leading the pack allowed him to catch the snow when it was firm and avoid the mushiness that slowed the field and caused major problems in the bike leg.
“It’s the difference between sinking in 18 inches or so or just staying right on the top. And when you punch through you waste so much energy recovering,” Bollig explained. “On the mountain bike, the same held true. Before everyone got on the course and roughed it up a bit, I was able to stay on top of it pretty well … the first three or four people probably had an advantage.”
Don’t need to tell that to Gordon Herwig, one of the citizen-class racers who struggled so much with with the snow bike leg that he called it off after the first of two loops. In the softer sections, riding on the groomed Nordic trails was like riding on a beach, and many of the racers ended up walking their bikes.
“It was pretty miserable on the bike,” said Herwig, a Breckenridge resident. “It was just too soft, you couldn’t ride. I rode for maybe 200 yards and pushed it the rest of the (5K) loop.”
He wasn’t the only one, and event organizer Scott Yule made a mid-race decision to add a one-bike-loop category to the event instead of disqualifying people. But good biking technique allowed some competitors to power through the soft snow.
“When it gets real soft, the bike wants to weave, and you have to keep it going straight even if you go slow,” Swenson said. “You just have to be patient and have a lot of power.”
Yule watched the race from the start/finish/transition area , where he could listen to mid-race comments from competitors and pick up ideas about how to tweak the course for the future. He shortened the snowshoe from last year and said the bike leg may be shortened for next year.
“We make changes to this course to try to make it better for everyone,” Yule said. “And we rely on the response of these competitors to help let us know what changes we need to make.”
Monique Merrill, of Breckenridge, won the women’s race in 2:01:27.6. Broomfield’s Julie Hudetz was second, 14 minutes behind.
Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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