Jenny and Brian defend home turf
Gunnison residents Brian and Jenny Smith served the Xterra racing circuit a dose of hometown hospitality, winning the men’s and women’s pro categories at the Sixth Annual Crested Butte Bank Xterra on Sunday, July 27.
The race continues to gain fame and popularity throughout the Xterra off-road triathlon racing world with more than 160 athletes in this year’s race, including a strong contingent of pros.
“The prize money that Eagle Resort Development donates has been a huge help and we get a lot of support from the homeowners,” says race co-director Ashley Burt. “And once people race it, they want to come back.”
Suffice to say that the Crested Butte Bank Xterra is a big reason why both Jenny and Brian made the move to off-road triathlons after establishing themselves on the mountain bike racing circuit.
“They’re both racing really well and are now some of the top Xterra racers in the world,” says Burt.
Jenny found herself in the thick of things in her race as she battled two of the top women in the world, Shonny Vanlandingham and Melanie McQuaid, to defend her title from last year.
“It was like a national race came to Crested Butte,” says Jenny. “There was really good competition.”
The race opened with a one-kilometer swim in Grant Lake and, as always, it was anything but smooth for Jenny in the water.
“I had a little bit of a rough patch in the swim,” explains Jenny.
Yet any and all troubles in the water were soon washed away as Jenny hopped on her bike and headed out with the leaders in her sights for the 24-kilometer bike section. Jenny made quick work to move into second place as she turned up the double-track climb on Strand Hill.
With McQuaid out in front, Jenny proceeded to chip away at her lead, catching McQuaid by the top. Jenny turned down the single track descent with McQuaid on her rear wheel until they reached the Canal Trail section of the course. At that point, Jenny started to build her gap, a gap that she would take into the final transition, posting the fastest bike split of the women, fourth fastest split of the entire pro field of men and women.
“I just tried to ride the bike really smooth,” says Jenny. “The course was in great shape with the recent rains.”
Jenny held her lead through the final nine-kilometer run section with the second fastest run split to finish in a time of 2:12:15, five minutes faster than her winning time last year.
Gunnison resident Rebecca Dussault joined Jenny in the pro category holding her own against some of the top women off-road triathletes in the nation, finishing in fourth place with a time of 2:25:05.
Meanwhile, Brian was busy battling in the men’s pro class.
Brian is also plagued by the swim a bit and continues to push his limit in the water to keep the leaders within reach as he transitions into his strength, biking.
“I made it through the swim without any major hiccups,” explains Brian. “I was pretty much redlined.”
Once Brian was on his bike though, the race proceeded as always, with Brian picking off competitors right and left, except one. Despite Brian posting the fastest split on the bike, a familiar face from past races was surprisingly stronger than usual on his bike, much to Brian’s surprise.
“I couldn’t catch Branden on the bike,” says Brian.
But, Brian’s effort to reel in Branden Rakita helped the two racers to pull away from the rest of the field and when Brian and Rakita pulled into the final transition, they were neck-and-neck.
Brain came out of the transition still in second place but could tell from the leader’s pace that it was just a matter of time before he could reel him in.
“During the run it was just a matter of getting comfortable,” says Brian.
After the first mile, Brian took the lead and held it with the fastest run split of the day and crossing the finish line in a time of 1:58:33, shaving more than 12 minutes off his time from last year.
“It was definitely an exciting way to finish,” says Brian. “It was a good day and it never hurts to win a local event.”
Both Brian and Jenny believe they are one step closer to peaking, with the Xterra Mountain Championships in three weeks.
“I’m feeling good, really strong,” says Brian. “I’m starting to feel like a well-rounded triathlete instead of a mountain biker racing triathlons.”
“I’m right on track,” adds Jenny. “I’m really happy with the way everything’s working out. I’m just going to fine tune some things.”
Several other locals threw themselves into the mix at the race on Sunday with a handful finishing top five in several open class age groups.
Ryan Sutter had the fastest local time of the open class racers, taking fifth place in the men’s age class 30-34 with a time of 2:23:52.
Lee Cannon, the Dick Clark of the triathlon world, finished in second place among men ages 60-64 with a time of 2:59:19, and Jack Huckins took fourth place in the men’s age class 55-59 with a time of 3:05:48.
Susan Petronio took first place among women ages 45-49, and posted the fastest time among local age group women, with an overall time of 2:57:09.
Sarah Huckins took third place in the 25-29 age group with a time of 2:58:19, and Elizabeth Smith won the women’s age class 40-44 finishing in a time of 3:02:05.
Three thousand dollars was doled out to the winners and the largest cache of prizes to date was handed out, including ski and stay packages donated by Crested Butte Lodging and Crested Butte Mountain Resort, as well as a titanium frame by Litespeed, donated by the Tune Up Bike Shop.
The frame was awarded to Roger Villmow, who best represented the Embodiment of the Spirit of XTERRA—that is, provided assistance to others at the expense of their own race.
Villmow gave his repair kit to an athlete who flatted, only to suffer a flat himself. He couldn’t finish as a result of his charity.
“He’s the kind of guy that would do that without thinking,” says Burt