Wednesday, October 22, 2014

One Second! - Tour de Flatirons Concludes

Mark Oveson high on the North Ridge of the First Flatiron while previewing the course

One second. Less than a second, actually.

That was all that divided first place from second place. A tiny stumble just before the line cost Matthias the victory and Stefan reigns supreme once again. It's also the difference between his time today and his course record.

The 2014 Tour de Flatirons concluded today with Stage Five on the ultra-classic Direct East Face of the First Flatiron. It was another banner stage with a big field and competitive races occurring all across the ranks. Up front, though, it was still the Big Three of Stefan, Matthias, and Ryan, despite the entry of Anton Krupicka, whose times on the First rival the top scramblers. Alas, Anton was injured, somewhat, and only pressed a bit on the ascent and hiked the entire way down. This allowed for some of us to take our first and likely only victory over the international ultrarunning superstar.

The incredible First Flatiron

The course was once again expertly rigged by Stuart Paul and Chris George and his crew. Despite this, many of the scramblers skipped the rappel, preferring to run sans harness.

I was excited to see my good friends and great rivals, Buzz and Willie at the start and indeed things went as they have in the other stages. I start out at the front because I start the stage, but it isn't long before Willie comes by me, where he stays just a few seconds ahead of me into the base. Surprisingly, Buzz didn't come by before we hit the rock, and I tried desperately to maintain my lead to the summit.

Early on, Willie stepped aside for me to pass and I motored up this lower section, spurred on the spectors at the base. Homie and Jeff Valliere were on hand to witness the battle. I climbed efficiently and with no mistakes, polishing off the first 200-foot pitch in around two minutes. On the second pitch I caught David and he graciously let me by as well. I poured on the speed and put a nice gap on him over some of the more technical ground. But below me I could see Buzz coming. He wasn't gaining fast, but he was relentlessly closing the gap.

I pushed hard, probably a bit too hard, to stay in front. I got to the Route Junction Know - about the halfway mark and still had ten seconds or more, but I was fading, hurting badly. I pushed to keep my lead up to "no passing possible" slot. I went through that with Buzz directly on my heels. The jig was up and I stepped aside just after the slot to let Buzz by. I tried to stay with him, but I'd given too much to keep my lead until now. I quickly fell back and was surprised when Davide appeared on the ridge above me and overtook me. I stayed right on his heels and snuck by him just before the summit. He did the downclimb, like Buzz, and I got on rappel.
The full course: 3 miles, 1600 vertical feet, 11 guidebook-pitches of 5-star slab climbing! 
I hit the ground pretty quickly and had some trouble getting off rappel because the rope was stuck around a tree, but soon I was off and running. As I came around the west side of the First and started to descend the trail, there was Buzz. He hit the trail directly behind me, telling me "Great job, Bill." I said the same, though with considerable less breath. I was pushing hard to get away from Buzz and David. Buzz was supposed to be taking the descent easy and I wasn't worried about him, but then he stayed way too close for comfort down the first couple of switchbacks. I took some chances here to get a gap.

Further down was Homie, watching the racers. He fell in behind me, going as fast as I was. I tried to put on some speed here. I am sensitive to Homie's opinion and wanted to put in at least a decent showing. He stayed right on me and I know he could have descended faster, which is why last week, when he raced I had pushed so hard to beat him to the rappel lines.

With Homie spurring me on, I descended as best I could. A couple of glances over my shoulder did not reveal any signs of Buzz or David. I was probably secure in my position, but never relaxed my effort. There were quite a few people on the trails, but they always gave me track before I got to them. I guess I was making about as much noise as a herd of elephants.

Further down, almost out of the woods, I passed Anton walking down with Jeff Valliere. They cheered me on and I almost yelled over my shoulder, "Hey, this will be my first time beating Anton!" The only reason I did not was because I was afraid he'd start running, despite his injury, and deprive me of my one and only chance. I wisely stayed silent and only uttered this remark later, at the finish line.

I tried to push it under 43 minutes, but I didn't have the foot speed or the agility to get it done. I finished in 43:10.

Of note was Joe Grant. He's also a very accomplished, international ultrarunner, photographer, writer, filmmaker, etc. This was his inaugural Tour de Flatirons stage, though he's quite familiar with zipping up these rocks. He finished a solid fourth. Impressive!

I'll update/add other stories as I get them, along with the results. I know I'm forgetting some races, but it's late and I'm tired. No offense intended. Overall Tour results are still being calculated, by double-secret formula. Send me updates/times, please:

1. Stefan Griebel, 33:06
2. Matthias Messner, 33:06.5
3. Ryan Franz, 35:43
4. Joe Grant, 37:59
5. Michal Matyjasik, 38:39
6. Scott Bennett, 39:15
7. Dylan, 41:20
8. Jon Sargent, 41:40?
9. Bill Wright, 43:10
10. Buzz Burrell, 45:10
11. David Glennon, 45:10
12. Willie Mein, 46:??
13. Anton Krupicka, 49:25
14. Tony Bubb, 51:??
15. Adam Massey, 56:12
16. Alan Doak, 1:01:??
17. Mike Schlaugh, 1:03:??
18. Stuart Paul, 2:00:??

Stefan's comments:

That was, without a doubt, the closest Flatiron race I've ever participated in! Only a high-speed stumble and near digger at the end prevented it from being an outright tie.  Still, considering the self-timed margin for error is around a couple seconds, I claim it was a grand tie for the stage win AND the overall FKT on the 1st Flatiron!

What is most impressive to me is that this was Matthias' first 1st Flatiron race! During the race last year, I was running down the switchbacks chasing some unknown guy wearing jeans and a backpack, who wasn't even part of our little event.  I tried my hardest to catch him, but never made up any ground. Once down at Chautauqua, I met the backpack-jeanie Matthias for the first time and told him about the Minions and Tour de Flatirons. Earlier in 2013, I also met Ryan Franz while riding Sargents Mesa, the most demoralizing part of the entire Colorado Trail Race. Since then I also convinced him to come out for the Flatiron races he's crushed every one.

Enter 2014, and these two have had the most impressive rookie SMSC Race Season ever! If Matthias comes back again next year, it is doubtful anyone will be able to catch him on any course. The only reason I beat him on earlier courses, was seriously 100% due to route-finding. This evening, we both knew the course well, and my marginally faster scrambling proved to be an perfectly even match for his faster trail running.

I love that we've had such a great turn-out this year, and I hope everyone has enjoyed pushing themselves as much as I have for these. Most of all, I'm stoked that every last beer I've brought to the finish gets consumed!! Strong work, Minions!

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