SMC riders in for just a tough climb in Straight Creek race |

SMC riders in for just a tough climb in Straight Creek race

Shauna Farnell

SUMMIT COUNTY – In mountain biking, there are uphillers and there are downhillers. In cross country racing, the uphillers usually prevail.

This is one of the reasons Summit Mountain Challenge (SMC) race series organizers decided to cut the downhill portion out of Wednesday’s race at Straight Creek in Dillon. The race, which began three years ago as a hill climb from the Straight Creek trailhead in Dillon to the Eisenhower Tunnel on dirt road and singletrack, transformed into an out-and-back uphill-downhill format the previous two years but will return to the hill climb format Wednesday.

Unlike other hill climbs, such as the one in Vail’s mountain biking series or the Keystone Uphill, the Straight Creek climb is relentless climbing – gaining almost 2,000 feet in less than six miles, with plenty of technical sections and water crossings.

“It offers something totally different than the other (Summit Mountain Challenge) races,” said Jari Kirkland, who won the Straight Creek race for women last year and took 12th in Sunday’s terra triathlon at Keystone. “The Tour de Trash (SMC race No. 2) had some little climbs, but there were also sections of flat and downhill,” she said. “You got some time to recover. In (Straight Creek), there’s no place to recover. You have to keep pushing, keep pushing. In my mind a lot of the time, I think the only reason you go up is so you can go down. But this uphill is pretty short, and there’s some technical spots in it. One nice thing about doing just the hill climb is I don’t have to worry about wrecking myself on the downhill.”

An excess of injuries in the past two years on the downhill portion of the Straight Creek course is another reason series organizers decided to eliminate the timed descent this year.

“The whole genesis of the uphill-downhill idea stemmed from the first year we did the Straight Creek Hill Climb,” said SMC organizer Jeff Westcott. “We thought, hey, maybe there’s an opportunity to time the downhill, since all the riders have to go back down the course anyway. Maybe the downhillers will show up and survive the way up and crush the climbers on the downhill. But, it was still too much of a cross country course for the downhillers to make up for the disadvantage of pushing their heavy bikes up the hill. That, combined with safety issues and logistical challenges, helped us make the decision to go back to the hill climb format. It is way more technical than most hill climbs you’ll see. There are sections that are unridable. It’s steep, there’s roots, rocks and water crossings. It has it all. There are some sections of relief … but they’re pretty short.”

Series organizers toyed with the idea of making the race a downhill, but decided that wouldn’t be fair to the typical SMC competitor.

“There are some talented people that exist in both worlds – people who are incredible at bombing descents and can climb with the best guys in the series,” said SMC fellow organizer Mike McCormack. “You see that in the Tour (de France). But it would be ridiculous to see the downhillers win the race. Most cross country riders wrestle with demons on the downhill. It would be inappropriate to ask them to do a downhill race.”

Beginner women and some junior categories will race a shorter course Wednesday, but all other divisions will start at the trailhead and cross the finish line where the dirt road along Straight Creek ends almost six miles later and 2,000 feet higher at the Eisenhower Tunnel.

SMC No. 4: Straight Creek Hill Climb

Start waves begin at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday. Registration is $15 through Tuesday at A Racer’s Edge in Breckenridge or at On-site registration is $20. For more information and course maps, visit

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User