Hot and tired, caked with dirt and sweat, their legs nearly gone, the mountain bikers were the shining stars of last week's second annual Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival and 2012 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country National Championships on Baldy.
Supported by a strong group of volunteers and countless spectators, the four-day competition turned Ketchum's River Run area into the equivalent of Bike City. There were 1,128 riders—about 100 more than last year—and 1,509 race starts.
The Sun Valley Resort thus completed the second year of its two-year contract with USA Cycling to host the mountain bike cross country nationals and looked ahead to 2013-14.
That's when Sun Valley will stage the USA Cycling marathon national championships. Traditionally, that's a smaller competition over two days, one practice and one for the Stars- and-Stripes jerseys. Bend (Ore.) is staging the 2012 national marathon championships on a 52-mile course Sept. 15.
Meanwhile, the 2013-14 USA Cycling national cross country championships for mountain bikers will be held in the mid-Atlantic region for the first time, at Bear Creek Resort in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania next year.
Whether Sun Valley will host the national XC championships again isn't known. Yet USA Cycling, in announcing the new two-year sequence of its national championship sites last November, said in awarding the marathon finals, "Sun Valley has proven to be a huge hit as a destination."
Last week's competition was a huge hit for out-of-town racers and locals alike. There were 93 local riders competing and they scooped up 24 medals including nine golds, four silvers and 11 bronze. That's a 26% success rate for medaling.
Gold medalists were Hans Muehlegger, India Wysong, Muffy Ritz, Gabriele Andersen, Sara Schroeder, Miles Fink-Debray, Brad Walker, Timothy Harmon and Brett Stevenson.
Silver medalists were Megan Stevenson, Matthew McNeal, Mike Stemp and Mark Lovlien.
Bronze medalists were John Reuter, Terry Duran, Sara Schroeder, Rebecca Rusch, Scott Robinson, Gretchen Flint, Corinne Prevot, Laura Theis, Wendy Rector, Jet Turner and Jason Sellars.
The following outlines USA Cycling events by day, concentrating on local competitors.
Pro XC, singlespeed
Saturday's penultimate day for the Zions Bank Pro Men's and Women's cross-country races featured four U.S. Olympic racers. There was a repeat winner and a new Pro champ over their six-lap, 34.8 kilometer (21.5-mile) courses.
Georgia Gould of Fort Collins, Colo. and the LUNA Pro Team captured her third straight and fourth overall national XC crown (1.45:21) over fellow 2012 Olympian Lea Davison of Jericho, Vt./Specialized (1.47:03).
Missoula's Sam Schultz, 27, last year's runner-up from Subaru-Trek, earned his first Elite national title by a 64-second margin over fellow 2012 Olympian Todd Wells, 36, from Durango, Colo./Specialized. Defending champ Wells couldn't recover from a flat tire and Schultz pulled away.
Winning Pros pocketed the $425 top cash prizes out of the $1,000 purses going to the top five men and women.
Ketchum's India Wysong of Mud Honey finished her 19.5-mile race in 1.59:19 to win the Women's Singlespeed title, Specialized's Rebecca Rusch third in the category (2.10:03).
Other local gold medalists were Gabriele Andersen, Hans Muehlegger and Muffy Ritz.
There were 469 racers in the biggest day of nationals—36 in single speed, 77 in the Pro classes and 356 in Category 1. Other local results by class:
Pro Men: 33—David Harrison @ 1 lap. 41—Sam Young @ 1 lap (43 finishers).
Pro Women: 23—Jena Greaser @ 1 lap (26 finishers).
Men singlespeed: 13—Lee Roquet 1.47:38. 14—Kyle Rafford 1.49:29. 25—Roger Mankus 2.19:11. DNF—Peete Ross and Blasé Reardon (26 finishers).
Women singlespeed: 1—India Wysong 1.59:19. 3—Rebecca Rusch 2.10:03 (6 finishers).
Men Cat. 1 25-29: 3—John Reuter 1.36:46 (29 finishers).
Women Cat. 1 25-29: 3—Sara Schroeder 2.07:03 (6 finishers).
Men Master Cat. 1 30-34: 12—Jedd Young 1.48:07 (18 finishers).
Women Master Cat. 1 35-39: 2—Megan Stevenson 1.56:55 (8 finishers).
Men Master Cat. 1 40-44: 4—Christopher Pic 1.39:34. 8—Whit Albright 1.40:59. 18—Eric Carlson 1.50:25. 29—Greg Randolph 3.03:21 (29 finishers).
Women Master Cat. 1 40-44: 4—Liv Jensen 1.59:28. 5—Karoline Droege 2.02:38. 6—Susan Robinson 2.06:49. 7—Janelle Conners 2.07:28 (11 finishers).
Men Master Cat. 1 45-49: 22—Joel Brazil 1.53:36. 24—John Tormey 1.58:13 (26 finishers).
Men Master Cat. 1 50-54: 3—Terry Duran 1.40:10. 8—Steve Butler 1.44:30. 12—Chris Gardner 1.48:49. 22—Jim Santa 1.59:16 (26 finishers).
Women Master 50-54: 7—Karin Lindholm 2.25:20. DNF—Kathy Morell (10 finishers).
Men Master 55-59: 18—Dave Bell 2.08:12. 27—Steve Edsall 2.21:11 (30 finishers).
Women Master 55-59: 1—Muffy Ritz 2.03:51 (6 finishers).
Women Master 60-plus: 1—Gabriele Andersen 2.32:30.
Men Master 70-plus: 1—Hans Muehlegger 2.10:39. DNF—Andy Andrews (7 finishers).
U-23 and juniors
The first Stars-and-Stripes jerseys of the national championships were awarded Friday, July 6 after U-23 (41 racers) and Junior races (267 competitors).
U-23 races took place on the five-lap, 18-mile (29 kilometer) Baldy course. Juniors went four laps (23.2k, 14.4 miles) and three laps (17.4k, 10.8 miles). U-23 national champs were Russell Finsterwald of Colorado Springs, Colo. in 1.32:27 and Lauren Catlin, 19, of Fairfax, Ca. in 1.32:48.
The day started clear, sunny and warm before clouds rolled in and misted the early afternoon crowd—before it rained harder and drenched the late-starting youngest juniors. There were only nine local racers. Their times:
Junior Men 13-14: 28—Brody Buchwalter @ 1 lap. 34—Leo Corrales @ 1 lap. 37—Henry Raff @ 1 lap. 40—Cooper Roquet @ 1 lap (44 finishers).
Junior Women 13-14: 6—Luma Randolph @ 1 lap (18 finishers).
Junior Men 11-12: 15—Blake Harmon 47:39. 32—Walter Kriesien @ 2 laps (32 finishers).
Junior Men 10-and-under: 17—Zane Lyon @ 1 lap (23 finishers).
Junior Women 10-and-under: 4—Anja Jensen @ 1 lap (6 finishers).
Short Track XC
There were 95 men and 27 women in Sunday's 20-minute plus three-lap affair. Three U.S. Olympians—Todd Wells, Georgia Gould and Lea Davison—distinguished themselves as the cream of the crop.
Wells, last year's runner-up out for revenge, topped the 49-rider Pro Men's field by 16 seconds in capturing his third short track XC national title at 29:46. Sun Valley's David Harrison of the Wild Rockies Racing Team was 40th @ 4 laps.
Gould battled from the start with Davison, from Jericho, Vt. and Specialized Factory. In the end Davison—second to Gould in Saturday's cross country race—attacked Gould late in the final lap and won by one second, 29:23 to 29:24.
Ketchum's Jena Greaser placed 25th of 28 riders.
Starting at Roundhouse, Sunday's super downhill was a six-mile course that dropped 2,000 feet in elevation down the River Run side of Baldy.
There were 253 starters—193 men and 44 women—and only 16 DNFs out of the start crew.
Out of the 24 locals, there were five medalists—one gold, one silver and three bronze.
Gold medalist was Sara Schroeder of Hailey/Mud Honey (27:01) by over a minute in Women Senior 19-29. Schroeder earned the silver in the same event last year. In third place in Schroeder's class, 78 seconds behind, was Corinne Prevot of East Burke, Vt. (28:19).
Silver medalist was Matthew McNeal of Ketchum/Sun Valley Road & Dirt (23:11) in Men Master 30-39, just 23 seconds off the winning pace of Colorado's Ty Kady (22:48). McNeal placed seventh in 2011.
Repeating as the national bronze medalist in Men Master 40-49 was Scott Robinson of Ketchum/Road & Dirt (23:33). Fifth last year, Gretchen Flint of Ketchum/Mud Honey (30:21) moved up two places to capture bronze in Women 40-plus.
Pro winners were Adam Craig of Bend, Ore. (21:26), his seventh Super D national title and second straight, and Kelli Emmett of Colorado Springs, Colo. (24:33), her third Super D national crown. Last year's winner Lea Davison settled for the Super D bronze (24:58).
Craig said, "Super D is the essence of mountain biking. This is the strongest national championship field I've seen. It continues making people aware that we have Super D and enduro racing and that it's a pretty good time up there."
Said women's winner Emmett, "It was a pretty long Super D, almost 25 minutes with an eight-minute climb in thee. I tried to ride a smooth race on the descents. It was good. It was fun."
Here are other local results:
Pro Men: 29—David Harrison 23:23. 57—Todd Byle 30:46. DNF—Greg Randolph, Mal Prior (59 finishers).
Pro Women: 10—Simone Kastner 27:41 (11 finishers).
Junior Men 18-and-under: 45—Brody Buchwalter 28:39. 51—Alex LaFleur 33:20. 53—Cooper Roquet 35:35 (56 finishers).
Women Senior 19-29: 1—Sara Schroeder 27:01. 3—Corinne Prevot 28:19 (6 finishers).
Men Master 30-39: 2—Matthew McNeal 23:11. 6—Cory Smith 25:09. 10—Clay Sammis 27:08. 11—Adam Greene 28:36. 13—Zeban Stoebel-Haft 29:43 (13 finishers).
Men Master 40-49: 3—Scott Robinson 23:33. 12—Chris O'Donnell 25:21. 15—Jeffrey Roth 27:08. 16—Clint Lightner 27:19. 23—Caleb Baukol 30:22 (23 finishers).
Men Master 50-plus: 5—Ed Binnie 27:38. 6—Chris Kastner 28:06. 8—Jay Parker 31:30 (10 finishers).
Women Master 50-plus: 3—Gretchen Flint 30:21 (5 finishers).
Thursday's XC, short track
The USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country Nationals kicked off Thursday with Category 2/3 non-national championship races for 340 racers on the 19.5-mile course.
There were 21 local riders competing and they earned eight medals—four gold, two silver and two bronze.
Wood River Valley gold medalists were Miles Fink-Debray of Ketchum (Cat. 2 Men 19-29 in 1.41:51), Brad Walker of Hailey (Cat. 2 Men 30-34 in 1.39:40), Timothy Harmon of Sun Valley (Cat. 3 Master Men 50-54 in 1.52:30) and Brett Stevenson of Hailey (Cat. 2 Women 30-39 in 2.08:21).
Earning silver were Mike Stemp and Mark Lovlien of Ketchum. Bronze medalists were Laura Theis of Ketchum and Wendy Rector of Hailey.
Thursday also featured short track cross country for 65 riders including, for the first time, non-national championship handcycle and two-wheel paracycling classes.
Placing third in handcycle was Jet Turner of Bellevue (35:01). In third place in two-wheel paracycle was Jason Sellars of Ketchum (20:45).
Local XC results:
Men Cat. 2 Junior 15-18: 34—Will Harder 1.58:22 (48 finishers).
Men Cat. 2 Senior 19-29: 1—Miles Fink-Debray 1.41:51. 4—Taylor Benz 1.45:56 (22 finishers).
Women Cat. 2 Senior 19-29: 3—Laura Theis 2.22:39 (6 finishers).
Men Cat. 2 Master 30-34: 1—Brad Walker 1.39:40. 2—Mike Stemp 1.42:51. 4—Ben Flandro 1.47:37. 8—Zach Latham 1.59:10 (11 finishers).
Women Cat. 2 Master 30-34: 1—Brett Stevenson 2.08:21 (4 finishers).
Men Cat. 2 Master 35-39: 9—Cory Smith 1.57:27 (22 finishers).
Men Cat. 2 Master 40-44: 6—Brad Mitchell 1.52:14. 18—Tony Buoncristiani 2.05:57 (23 finishers).
Women Cat. 2 Master 40-49: 3—Wendy Rector 2.18:03 (8 finishers).
Men Cat. 2 Master 45-49: 4—Jeffrey Roth 1.53:46. 17—Herberth Corrales 2.08:14 (24 finishers).
Men Cat. 2 Master 50-54: 6—Lance Levy 1.56:16. 21—Daniel Nicholas 2.11:05 (27 finishers).
Men Cat. 3 Master 30-39: 2—Mark Lovlien 2.09:15 (5 finishers).
Men Cat. 3 Master 40-49: 7—Hank Dart 2.11:15. 12—Jeffrey Lyon 2.25:12 (21 finishers).
Men Cat. 3 Master 50-54: 1—Timothy Harmon 1.52:30 (12 finishers).