Friday, January 4, 2013

Hill climb has become a Miles show

Six times a winner up Baldy

Miles Fink-Debray captures his sixth Baldy Hill Climb in Sept. 2012 near the summit of Sun Valley’s ski mountain. Photo by Willy Cook

This past September, 24-year-old Miles Fink-Debray (36:09) won his sixth Baldy Hill Climb in seven years by a 46-second margin over world-class Nordic ski racer Reid Pletcher, 24, and by two minutes over Boise’s Michael Tobin, 49.

The 1-3 finish between Fink-Debray and Tobin reversed the outcome of 2011, when third-place Fink-Debray (39:10) trailed winner Tobin (37:08). It was the slowest Fink-Debray time since he was 15 years old.

He was determined to have a better race this year. “I like to set goals and have something to train for,” said Miles.

It’s possible Fink-Debray will pass noted endurance athlete and Community School graduate Tobin as the all-time leader in Baldy Hill Climb wins sometime in the near future.

Tobin has won seven times, from 1983-86 and 1988-89 plus 2011. He holds the course record of 35:11 in 1989. Fink-Debray holds the record of five straight Hill Climb wins from 2006-10. The only other male athlete close to them in 34 years of the hill climb is Ketchum’s Bill Nurge with four wins.

You can make a case based on winning times that Fink-Debray is already the hill climb king. He has finished under 37 minutes on six different occasions including a personal-best 35:31 in 2006. Tobin has beaten 37 minutes only twice.

Actually, Fink-Debray has done the 1.86-mile, 3,140 vertical foot challenge half of his life, 12 times in all, starting as a 12-year-old hiker posting a 1.24:10 time in 2000. He placed 13th among racers as a 14-year-old in 2002 at 44:20. He moved up to eighth at 42:11 in 2003.

Since 2004 covering nine straight hill climbs, Fink-Debray has either been third (twice), second (once) or first (six times). His winning times from 2006-10 were 35:31, 36:31, 37:29, 36:31 and 36:23. He very nearly won his first climb in 2005, at age 17, but finished less than a second (36:56.19) behind Whit Albright (36:56.10) in the closest-ever summit finish.

Fink-Debray said he does compare notes with Tobin, but the two athletes are very different physically and in styles.

Miles said, “Michael (at 6-2) has long legs and doesn’t use poles. I’m 5-9 and use poles. I train on the course and use music when I do, but I don’t use music during the race.

“What’s so remarkable about the race is that one minute into it, you’re already pegged physically. Your body is telling you to stop. You have to keep telling it to go faster.

What does winning the Baldy Hill Climb mean to him? Fink-Debray said, “It never gets old. It’s a great feeling.”


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