|The course: Stairway to Heaven to the Ameboid to the Fifth Flatiron|
|Start and finish at NCAR|
At the front was Galen and defending champion Matthias and they ran together to the base of Stairway to Heaven. At that point, Matthias dropped the hammer, went off the front, and absolutely annihilated the field. He made a very strong statement that he plans to repeat this year. The usual podium was broken by Will, so finish second and then Stefan took third. Stefan hasn't finished below second overall in the Tour in about a decade.
|Defending champion Matthias Messner|
My fast descent and nailing the bushwhack to the Ameboid, with Kyle right on my heels, allowed me to leapfrog past a number of scramblers, including our sponsor the Imperial Grand Poobah of Sportiva, Jonathan Lantz. I nearly caught up to Jon Sargent and David Glennon. Jon saw and cried out, "Ack! Here comes Satan!" Not for long, I was so gassed. Going up Ameboid, I was passed by Kyle and maybe another scrambler, but the gap I got was rapidly closing.
I scrambled down the ground and nailed the bushwhack over to the Fifth. On my way over I heard cries of "Rock, Rock!" Apparently a scrambler (Matthias?) had trundled a large rock while descending the Fifth Flatiron. In the past we've given a 1-minute penalty to anyone that knocks off a rock that descends down the course. Stefan did this while scrambling Atalanta and assessed himself a 1-minute penalty. I didn't say this before the start, so no penalty this time (and it wouldn't have changed the order), but that's the rule going forward, so take note.
|Trying to stay ahead of Buzz and Sonja on Stairway to Heaven|
I descended the Fifth rather quickly passing everyone near me, including Jon Sargent, who was ahead of me, but missed the south-side descent ramp. I too went too low, but only lost maybe 15 seconds. Jon lost at least 30 seconds. I reversed and took the ledge with Buzz about five feet behind me. I cruised the descent, hit the ground and descended the fastest I've done in years. Usually, with our historically smaller fields, I wasn't in the midst of so many scramblers near my speed. I had made great strides descending the Fifth and I wondered how long I could hold off these fitter, faster runners.
I nailed the descent all the way down the Mesa Trail, blasting past Galen Burrell (first time I've ever wrote that line! Probably the last time too). I didn't know that he had DNFed by skipping the Fifth, but I was coming down a lot faster. I touched down a couple of times, but did no damage. I was able to maintain my lead all the way down to the Mesa Trail, but just after I reached it, David Glennon comes cruising on by, complimenting my descending skills, while running about twice as fast as me. He quickly disappeared. Next to come by was Nikita, running strong. I was hurting bad here and barely caught and passed a couple of chicks out for a casual run with their dog. Ugh.
I then passed Joe Grant, limping badly and under the watchful eye of Jason Wells, who gets the award for most compassionate scrambler. Joe had hurt his foot and I hope he's okay and will be able to continue with the Tour. I dropped into Skunk Canyon and had to power hike out of it. Here Jon Sargent came running by me, complaining about the lack of aid stations. I sure could have used one.
I was running scared now. I'd lost three places since hitting the Mesa Trail. I got over the Water Tank Hill and ran down the other side, but looking over my shoulder saw Buzz just a little ways back! Ack! I thought Buzz didn't run downhill fast anymore. I just did my fastest descent in years and here's Buzz right on me. Dang it. I know he's a threat to me on the ascent, but thought he'd just take it easy on the descent. Wrong. I ran as hard as I dared, trying not to hurl, over to the last hill up to the NCAR Mesa and then power hiked up it, looking over my shoulder constantly. I got to the top just as Buzz started up the last steep section, only 20 seconds back or so. He had the class and the breath to call up, "Nice job, Bill!" I barely eked out a "You too", but I had no breath to spare and not sure it was even loud enough to be heard. I ran scared the last 90 seconds, prepared to sprint if necessary, but held Buzz off by 22 seconds.
I finished in 1:05:47, which really surprised me. I figured I'd do 1:20 to 1:30, but having so many scramblers around me for almost the entire stage was motivating and I pushed into the pain zone way more that I would on a solo time trial.
What a fun, painful time! Loved it!