|Descending off the Hippo Head|
The 2017 Tour de Flatirons started with a huge turnout for stage 1. Twenty-five scramblers toed the line at the Lower Skunk Canyon Trailhead and reigning, but injured, champion Matthias was on hand to be the starter and timer. The course was a classic linkup, but with a new extension, and linked four rocks (Regency, Royal Arch, Fifth Flatiron, and the Hippo Head) in the longest continuous climb ever in a Tour stage. This stage was heavy on the tricky down climbing and it paid to have all of these wired. The level of competition is high enough where lots of scramblers do extensive previewing. This is in the true spirit of the Tour - learning and loving the Flatirons. Oh, and to suffer mightily.
|Winner Kyle Richardson trailed by Cordis Hall|
Will Porter was second last year and perhaps he thought, with Matthias out, it was his turn, but a couple of youngsters proclaimed their intentions. Loudly. t was clear almost from the gun that this was going to be a battle of youngsters. Kyle and Cordis, good friends and frequent adventure partners, were now arch rivals. Kyle took the lead early and held it all the way to the wire, though Cordis remained close the entire time and finished just ten seconds back. The battle for Tour Champion is going to be fierce. Will finished comfortably in third, but three minutes down on the young guns at 56 minutes. Darren and Greg duked it out for fourth and fifth and provided a great comparison of the descent routes, for Darren took the bushwhack south of the Regency and Greg took the Woods Quarry/Kohler Mesa trails. Watching on Strava Flyby the times appear near identical. Frequently podium finisher Ryan Franz was the last one to break an hour.
|Starting Stage 1|
As with last year, we had some first time Tour entrants, the fastest of which seems to be Jason Kilgore. He finished 7th and just barely over an hour in 1:00:15. My son Derek is in the Tour for the first time. He just started scrambling last year and college classes prevented him entering last year, but I think that was a wise choice anyway. Before entering the Tour you really need to be a very experienced scrambler. Derek started off strong, but the length of stage took its toll on him. Jason Well caught and passed Derek on the Royal Arch and I closed the gap by the summit of the Royal Arch. On the west side down climb of Royal Arch we found Jason trying to talk newcomer Craig Randall through the moves. I climbed down to Craig and observed for just a few moments before I told Craig to climb back up and go down the East Side. Apparently Craig had been there for awhile. This brings up a point I want to emphasize. Scramblers should be racing stages that they don’t have wired. If you cannot move continually on all the terrain in a stage then you shouldn’t be in the stage. Period. This is not the time to work out the moves to anything.
The last newcomer was Colleen Powers and she appears to be a serious threat for the women’s title as she took the first stage. At least four women are entered in the Tour this year including another newcomer Caitlin Ryan joining Angela and Sonia.
Danny Gilbert stepped up his game and was in a group with Dylan and Stefan for the most of the stage. Stefan is still somewhat hobbled from a serious injury to his foot while glissading in the Indian Peaks. If there was a Hall of Fame for Flatiron Scrambling, Stefan would be in it, along with Bill Briggs, Buzz Burrell, Dave Mackey, and Matthias Messner. He’s never not finished on the podium and has won the Tour five times. Not to bet against Stefan, but with his injury and the incredible competition this year, its going to be extremely difficult to extend that streak.