Fireworks in the rain at SMC finals |

Fireworks in the rain at SMC finals

BRECKENRIDGE – Tight turns, twisty singletrack, rocks and roots and a race worth double points made Wednesday’s Summit Mountain Challenge event one of the most, well, challenging.

That was before it started to rain.

Nary a half hour before the first wave of racers were to head out onto the difficult Breckenridge Brawl course, Peak 10 decided to play cloud catcher, trapping a summer squall that come over the Tenmile Range. The temperature dropped, the rain started falling, and when the 5:45 p.m. start time hit, everyone was soaking wet – as was the course.

Eventually the rain tapered off, and Tim Graczyk pedaled through the slop to win his second race of the season and secure the top spot in the overall standings.

“I hurt pretty bad coming into the finish,” said an excited Graczyk after the race. “The rain made it slippery. I crashed twice.”

Tim Faia, who entered the race tied with Graczyk for the series lead, started strong but eventually faded.

Brett Morgan actually finished ahead of Graczyk at the line, but it was later determined that Morgan missed the official start and jumped into the field at an unofficial spot, roughly 500 yards up the course. This essentially disqualified Morgan, and he was given a finish at the back of the expert class in the official standings.

“I’ve ski raced all my life,” said a diplomatic Morgan, “and if you miss a start, that’s what happens.”

Much of the confusion was caused when the race starts were moved up 15 minutes to squeeze in the racing before sunset. Several racers, including Morgan, were caught off guard by the change.

The rain took it’s toll on many racers, as several small bridges on the course became extremely slick. Several racers came across the line with bloody shins and knees to show for their efforts.

Perhaps the best race of the evening wasn’t even for an overall victory as Jari Kirkland outsprinted Kelli Anthony at the line for second place in the women’s expert division.

“I didn’t even know she was there,” said Kirkland.

When several of her supporters started screaming at her to sprint, she pushed as hard as she could.

“So I told myself, “I didn’t race this hard to get third.”

It was unclear at press time whether Kirkland’s consistent performance over the season earned her the top spot in the overall series.

Monique Merrill dominated the women’s field in a fashion that has become typical of her late season racing, but since she only raced – and won – three races, the overall victory may still go to Kirkland.

“I found out at 4 (p.m.) there was a bike race,” said Merrill. “I had no clue.”

FINISH LINE: Mike Skellion of Minturn raced the fastest time of the sport class – on a singlespeed … James Dean turned the best performance of his racing career by finishing second behind Graczyk in the men’s expert race … An awards party for the overall series winners will be held tonight at Backcountry Brewery … Be sure to check the weekend editions of the Summit Daily for full results.

Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at

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