Local mtn. bikers trying to qualify for Hellride 5
A bike race, where competitors must travel 70 miles, climbing 15,000 vertical feet on a 40-pound, nine-speed bike, may seem like cruel and unusual punishment to even the most avid of mountain bikers. But for Brecks Kate Chapman and Leadvilles Sterling Mudge, this is more than a race. Its a chance to show their mettle over one of the most grueling bike courses in the country.You aint haulin unless youre fallin, Mudge said. This is what it is all about. This is the type of stuff you have to love as a mountain biker.Both riders are in the semifinal qualifying stage for the adequately-named Santa Cruz Hellride 5, hosted in Northern California by the Santa Cruz Bicycle Company.Chapman and Mudge are using todays Firecracker 50 in Breck, where Chapman is the defending Open 19-29 champion, to gear up for the torturous Santa Cruz event.In its fifth year of existence, the Hellride has evolved from its early days. Originally devised as a way for Santa Cruz to showcase the abilities of their bikes, the race has now transformed into a three-day event, where four men and four women compete in their own gender classes for the title.Not only are the racers battling the elementswhich in the past has included snow and one another, but they also have to keep pace with world-class riders Mark Weir and Rachel Loyd. The winner in each division claims the top prize of keeping the Santa Cruz bike that they rode in the competition.In the past, the riders they picked would finish pretty far behind the pros, Mudge said. So, now you have to keep within a certain time of them in order to win.Chapman, 22, feels that she would be up to the task if she were selected, because of her already impressive biking resume.After her family moved to Summit County from Australia in 2000, Chapman has been on her bike almost as much as she has been off it. She first did 12-hour and 24-hour races when she was 14, she has competed in numerous off-road triathlons and has done many adventure races.Those type of races really make you have to have the foresight and planning aspects of racing just to get through the course, she said. Then you try to get through the course fast, and that adds so much more to it than just following a trail all the way through.Last weekend, Chapman finished fourth in the Norba Nationals in Park City, Utah. Mudge, who works for the Parkford Water District diggin holes and playing in the dirt, has been riding since he was in second grade and was instrumental in Leadville building a pump track for bikers.When I moved to Colorado in 2000, I was already an avid biker, but riding the trails here was the best way to see all of the great scenery and get a little adrenaline rush, Mudge, 27, said.This year Santa Cruz received over 500 applicants for the race, Chapman said. The Santa Cruz selection committee then widdled the field down to 15 men and 12 women as their semifinalists.Unlike past years when Santa Cruz chose the riders themselves, there is an open election this year where contestants must be in the top four of the voting polls to become selected. This is why Mudge and Chapman have been outwardly campaigning to get voted into the prestigious four male, four female field. You really do whatever you can, but it ends up being like American Idol and just a popularity contest, Chapman said. Usually you let your results speak for themselves, but you get to work on your campaigning skills, I guess.Chapman feels that, if chosen, she will be well prepared for the Hellride. She regularly takes the long way home from her job as a pine beetle inspector for the Town of Breck, which is a solid three-hour ride.I think that my lifestyle will be similar to what I will be doing (in the race), she said. So, I will just keep doing what I am doing.Both riders said that todays Firecracker will be a good tune up for the Hellride, not to mention a great chance to compete.Even if it doesn’t go the way that I would want it to, Chapman said of defending her Firecracker title, it will still be a great experience. This is the race that if you live in this area, you can’t skip it. It is just great.Mudge is currently eight votes out of fourth place, while Chapman, also in fifth place, is more than 100 votes back.Anyone can vote for Chapman and Mudge through the Santa Cruz website, or by going to http://www.santacruzbicycles.com/hellridefive/voteforpedro.php?hellrider=1&userid=0230 for Mudge and http://www.santacruzbicycles.com/hellridefive/voteforpedro.php?hellrider=1&userid=0451 for Chapman.Bryce Evans can be reached at (970)668-4634, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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