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photo by Lydia Stern

Riders battle through Growler weekend

Bryan Dillon doubles up, Amy Beisel wins women’s title

by Than Acuff

Gunnison Trails hosted its annual Growler bike race weekend May 23-24, and over 450 riders dodged dicey weather, including a funnel cloud, to charge up, down and all around the trail system of Hartman Rocks.

photo by Lydia Stern

Questions swirled among racers leading up to the big weekend, as Mother Nature continued to unleash upon the Gunnison Valley with rains soaking the Hartman Rocks area. Fortunately, the trails there (described as non-clay, decomposed granite) have a tendency to take the water better than most trail systems, and the Growler race policy on rain is pretty straightforward. It starts by stating, “You will most likely get wet. The Original Growler is an all weather race,” and ending with, “All riders need to be dressed appropriately and prepared for the conditions on race day.”

Team Griggs Orthopedics (Team gO) rider Bryan Dillon put on a show over the course of the two days. Dillon saddled up for both races that weekend, placing second in the Half Growler on Saturday and then stepping onto the podium again on Sunday in third place in the Full Growler for a total of 96 miles of race pace riding over two days.

“Three years ago when the Growler was changed to two days I thought it would be kind of a good idea,” says Dillon. “I decided to go for it and see what happened. I thought it would be fun to make the Growler a two-day stage race.”

On Saturday, racers were met with a mud soaked course and Dillon found himself in a battle for the win with Kalan Beisel. He took a quick lead when Kalan crashed on a greasy part of Powerline but the two were soon neck-and-neck once again until the Ridge Trail when Kalan eventually built his slim 11-second lead and held on for the win.

“I didn’t have a lot left in me at that point,” says Dillon.

Dillon then rested, recovered and returned to downtown Gunnison early Sunday morning for the Full Growler, a 64-mile Hartman Rocks hammer session.

“I knew my legs were going to feel it,” says Dillon. “I knew I had to race my own race and conserve on the first lap.”

Fortunately, the weather cooperated and racers found the trails to be in prime condition for a 64-mile long race.

“The course was pretty much as good as Hartman’s gets,” says Dillon. “Just like velvet.”

While he admits he felt the burn from the Half Growler the day before during the early part of the Full Growler, as Dillon turned onto the second loop of the race, he was feeling good. The leaders had too big of a gap for Dillon to reel them in but he had enough room and gas left in the engine to hold off any threats from the pack behind him to finish in third place for back-to-back trips to the podium.

“I knew I had a pretty good gap and was feeling pretty good to hold that gap,” says Dillon.

Liv Co-Factory rider and Gunnison resident Amy Beisel led the local charge among the women. Beisel has been racing hard since the first week of March for her team and came into the Full Growler with several races under her belt, a week of rest and a couple more weeks of hard training.

“I’ve been getting after it for a while and the early season races gave me a little more fitness heading into the Growler,” says Beisel.

Still, this would be Beisel’s first go at the Full Growler and she was undecided on how to race on a 64-mile course until she lined up Sunday morning.

“I was going back and forth, should I go for it or sit in with a pack,” explains Beisel. “But I was just too excited at the start, so I just went for it.”

Beisel took off from the get go and never looked back keeping her lead through the entire race to take, the women’s title.

“I just had really good legs and kept telling myself that I was riding within my limits,” says Beisel.

Both Beisel and Dillon are headed to Grand Junction this coming weekend to compete in the Grand Junction Off-Road race for a shot at some of the best prize money on the racing circuit. Beisel will continue her frantic race schedule, competing the next six weekends in a row with her sights set on the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in Mammoth, California July 15-19.

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