“Man it was groovy”
A crisp, clear morning greeted nearly 330 riders lining up in downtown Gunnison for the start of the third annual Original Growler on Sunday, May 30.
The Original Growler bike race offers two courses for competitors—a 32-mile tour of the Hartman Rocks recreational area and a 64-mile beat-down option.
With the race gaining in popularity, registration was full back in February, with several pro riders on scene.
“What we’re seeing is a little more depth in the field,” says race director Dave Wiens.
Sixty-five athletes from the Gunnison Valley showed up with a strong contingent of 21 Brick Oven/Crested Butte Builders riders on hand and fueled by Avery Brewing Company.
When the Growler concept first started, Wiens made a point of switching directions every year.
“It keeps it interesting,” says Wiens. “Some parts of the course ride better one way but in the end it’s a wash.”
“There’s a couple uphills that are brutal going backwards,” adds Brick Oven/Crested Butte Builders (BO/CBB) rider Ben Preston, “but I thought the trails rode better this direction.”
Trek pro rider Kelly Magelky won the 64-mile men’s race with a time of five hours, 32 minutes and 26 seconds.
Preston had the top local finish for the men in the 64-mile race finishing in eighth place with a time of five hours, 54 minutes and 24 seconds.
With a neutral start in town that turns into mayhem on the first climb up Kill Hill, it’s easy to lose your composure and max out early. Preston made a conscious decision to avoid the common mistake.
“I had to let some people go and ride my own race and luckily it worked out,” says Preston.
BO/CBB teammate Tommy Githens was close behind, rounding out the top 10 with a time of five hours, 56 minutes and 14 seconds, winning the singlespeed division.
Team Alpine Orthopaedics manager/rider Dave Ochs took third in the singlespeed and 21st overall.
“Man, it was groovy,” says Ochs. “I was a little nervous about doing the course on a singlespeed because I thought it was going to hurt—and it did.”
Tokyo Joes rider Melissa Thomas won the women’s 64-mile race in a time of six hours, 36 minutes and nine seconds. Three local women cracked the top 10 in the full Growler, led by Team Alpine Orthopaedics rider Jari Kirkland. It was Kirkland’s first attempt at the Growler so she paced herself on the first lap, almost too much when all was said and done.
“I dialed it down too much,” says Kirkland, “so on the second lap I let loose, felt awesome and started picking people off.”
Kirkland covered the course in a time of seven hours and 12 seconds to take third place.
Becky Sears of Gunnison finished in seventh and Carrie Weinberg took ninth place.
The Gunnison Valley contingent proved strong in the 32-mile race on both the men’s and the women’s sides.
A couple of young guns, i.e. riders in their 20s, for the BO/CBB team stole the show in the 32-mile race as Bryan Dillon won, finishing the half Growler in two hours, 57 minutes and 20 seconds. Teammate Kyle Crawley came in third just 10 minutes back.
“Our highlight was our new blood,” says Preston. “Our youth development team.”
The two riders sandwiched Team Alpine Orthopaedics rider Travis Scheefer, who suffered a flat early in the race but rallied back dodging a sea of humanity on the singletrack to take second place.
Jesse Rickert, who opened the weekend with a second-place finish in the 25-kilometer Sageburner on Saturday, returned to take fifth place in the half Growler and Torrey Carroll squeezed into the top 10 with a time of three hours, 20 minutes and 22 seconds.
Five local women placed in the top 10, with Jennifer Smith leading the way taking second place in a time of three hours, 16 minutes and 44 seconds.
Susan DeMattei was three minutes back in third place, Team Alpine Orthopaedics athlete Laura Anderson took fourth, Suzy Parker finished in ninth place and BO/CBB rider Heather McDowell broke top 10 in the 32-mile race posting a time of three hours, 46 minutes and 50 seconds.
Complete Growler results can be found on the gunnisontrails.com website. Sageburner results are available on live-timing.com.