Breck Brawl wraps up SMC summer series
BRECKENRIDGE – Competitors in the A Racer’s Edge Summit Mountain Challenge couldn’t have asked for a better finale to their season – a challenging course and ideal weather came together to provide the setting for some great racing at Wednesday’s Breckenridge Brawl. Tim Graczyk proved he is the undisputed champion of the Summit Mountain Challenge as he rode to his fourth victory of the season. Graczyk powered through three 5.6-mile laps under the lifts of Breckenridge Ski Resort in 1 hour, 24 minutes and 49.55 seconds.Still, Graczyk’s performance didn’t come unchallenged, as his closest rival, Brett Morgan, came across the finish line only 23 seconds later (1:25:12.85).”I just can’t keep up with him on the climbs,” said an exasperated Morgan afterward.
Said Graczyk, “(Brett) was definitely my biggest concern (coming into this race). He’s capable of anything. We were close for most of the race and I could see him when I turned around, but I just pushed it as hard as I could.” Morgan’s time proved to be the third fastest of the day, as Todd Smith, starting a minute after Morgan and Graczyk in the 35-and-over men’s expert division, pedaled his way through the technical course in 1:24:04.69. “This was the last race of the season and I wanted to go out with a good showing,” said Smith, who won the division for the first time this season after battling Thane Wright and Jeff Covey for most of the summer. Wright and Covey finished second and third in the division behind Smith.In the women’s race, a familiar face came out of hibernation to dominate the SMC the way she did for the final three races in last year’s series.
Monique Merrill, who spends much of her summer adventure racing, won the only SMC race she participated in this year by riding two laps in 1:05:13.03.As is usually the case for Merrill, she made the decision to race only a few hours before it started. She said she was motivated to race by the quality of the course. “It kept all the women tight, it’s competitive and technical – it’s the reason I came out,” she said of the venue. Rebecca Hodgetts posted the second fastest women’s time (1:07:06.51), winning the 19-34 expert women’s division. Colleen Ihnken rounded out the women’s overall podium at 1:07:59.11. For many competitors, the biggest tactical challenge wasn’t necessarily beating each other, it was beating the course – which began with a sharp, energy-draining climb.
“When we started, (Morgan and I) were in, maybe, seventh or eighth,” said Graczyk. “We just watched everyone shoot up that climb and then they fizzled out less than halfway up it. That’s when I made a move and I just held on.” Despite the grueling climb, racers called the course a vast improvement over that of the year before. “I thought it was 100 times better than last year’s,” said Hampton Gewin, who won the men’s sport division, riding two laps in 1:01:46.42. “This course was more of a true mountain bike course. They spread out the singletrack and road sections, so there weren’t any passing problems.” Darron Cheek (1:03:40.99) finished second overall among sport men, winning the 35-44 division for the first time this season.
Katha Jenkins (1:12:45.80) won the women’s sport division, and Holly Wade finished second overall. As the final race of the series, the race was worth double points in the overall classifications. This distinction could prove pivotal in many divisions, where only a few points separate competitors. Final season standings will be announced tonight at the Backcountry Brewery, beginning at 6 p.m. Check Saturday’s edition for overall standings. Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236.
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