Battles top professional outdoor athletes
Crested Butte’s own Travis Scheefer continues his assault on the national endurance race circuit, taking third place in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail Thursday through Sunday, June 4-7.
The Teva Mountain games attract the top outdoor athletes on both the national and international scene with sizeable cash purses up for grabs in a variety of disciplines including climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and trail running.
Yet only one competition blends four of the events together into a two-day event dubbed the Ultimate Mountain Challenge.
It wasn’t until days before the competition that Scheefer decided to give the Ultimate Mountain Challenge a shot.
“I wanted to go over there and just do the mountain bike race but I decided last minute to do the Ultimate Mountain thing,” says Scheefer. “I thought it’d be fun.”
The event opened with a kayak race followed by a mountain bike race on day one and finished with a trail run and road bike time trial hill climb on day two.
While Scheefer felt confident on the bike portions he had not sat in his kayak in three years and rarely, if ever, runs.
Scheefer opened the competition with a solid paddle down three miles of frigid class II and class III water.
“My hands went completely numb about halfway down the course,” says Scheefer.
The top four, including Scheefer, all finished within 45 seconds of each other, sending them into the mountain bike portion that afternoon clustered at the top of the standings.
The Ultimate Mountain Challenge athletes were then thrown into the pro class of the mountain bike race at the Teva Games and required to complete four laps on a 5.5-mile loop.
Scheefer found himself lining up with 74 other pro riders, including four former Olympians. Rather than get caught up in the frenzy of the race, Scheefer bided his time through the first lap and then started picking off riders on the final three laps to finish the race 19th overall. The result pushed Scheefer up into second place in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge standings and built a time gap on Mountain Challenge adversaries Mike Kloser and Travis Macy.
“I was able to throw down consistent lap times,” says Scheefer. “I was just focused on having a good bike race. After that first day I had seven and a half minutes on Kloser and Travis Macy, which I figured I needed on the run.”
Day two opened with the 10-kilometer trail run, a run Scheefer describes as “the most brutal running race I’ve ever done.”
Several portions of the course took runners nearly straight up and then straight down ski runs.
Leader Josiah Middaugh continued his quest for a repeat Mountain Challenge title, building a 20-minute gap on the rest of the field during the run. Scheefer opted to take a conservative approach to his 10-kilometer trail run experience.
“I didn’t want to cook my legs,” says Scheefer. “I wanted to save them for the road bike event.”
Heading into the final event, a 9.9-mile time trial hill climb, Scheefer was in a battle for third place with Kloser and gunning for Macy in second place.
The interval start format had single riders heading out every 30 seconds. As it happened, Scheefer started a minute behind Macy and decided to make his move.
“My goal was to catch and pass him,” says Scheefer. “He tried to ride with me but I dropped him.”
In the end Scheefer was unable to erase the 14-minute gap Macy had on him prior to the hill climb, but he did put a minute on Kloser to take third place and win $500.
Scheefer now heads to Colorado Springs to compete in a NORBA-sanctioned national mountain bike race on Saturday, June 13.