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Athletes gearing up for summer Grand Traverse

Triple Crown title on the line, plus $5000 cash

by Than Acuff

Athletes will line up on Saturday and Sunday, September 3-4, for the summer version of the Grand Traverse, dubbed the Icebreaker Grand Traverse Mountain Run and Bike, presented by Adidas (All Day I Dream About Suffering).

In just its third year, the race has nearly doubled in numbers, with close to 250 people jumping into the fold. It helps that there is $5,000 in cash up for grabs for the runners and bikers, a dual sport division and the men’s and women’s 2016 Triple Crown titles on the line, attracting all types from around the country to compete.

“It has increased considerably from last year,” says race director Andrew Arell. “I think the race is catching the attention of the more elite athletes, multi-sport athletes and the allure of connecting these two iconic mountain communities attracts people.”

The idea originated to expand the brand of the original Grand Traverse winter race and offer a summer version following the same course linking Crested Butte and Aspen.

While the winter race always goes from Crested Butte to Aspen and is one long day starting at midnight, the Icebreaker Grand Traverse Mountain Run and Bike is spread out over two days with a trail running race from Crested Butte to Aspen one day, and a mountain bike race from Aspen back to Crested Butte the next.

In addition, while the winter race must be done in teams of two, the summer versions are solo races.

As of press time, 150 people are signed up to toe the line Saturday, September 3 at 6 a.m. in front of the Crested Butte post office, bound for Aspen on their feet. They will follow a course that includes the Upper Upper Loop, the infamous Death Pass, running up and over Star Pass via trail 400, up and over Taylor Pass and along Richmond Ridge before dropping down Ajax Mountain (Aspen ski area) to the finish line at the base.

Arell expects the winners to finish the 40-mile high altitude course in a little over six hours.

Sunday, September 4, more than 100 bikers are expected to line up at 7 a.m. bound for Crested Butte. The bike race follows a similar course, opening with a brutal 3,000-foot vertical climb up Ajax right from the start line.

“That just punishes people,” says Arell.

Bikers will then continue along Richmond Ridge, over Taylor Pass, Star Pass, down trail 400 and then link Upper Upper Loop to the finish line at the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Arell expects the winners to finish in just over four hours.

Among the throngs of solo sport athletes, Arell has 30 people signed up in the dual-sport division, which means running to Aspen on Saturday and then turning around and riding their bike back to Crested Butte the next day.

“I’ve been blown away by the interest in the dual-sport,” says Arell.

Both the top three men and women runners and top three men and women bikers will take home some cold hard cash for their efforts, and race organizers will award the kings and queens of the mountain. The first male and female runners to Star Pass will take the titles in that discipline while the first male and female bikers to the top of Ajax Mountain claim the titles.

In addition, following the mountain bike race Sunday, the men’s and women’s 2016 Triple Crown winners will be announced, recognizing the individuals who have the lowest cumulative time in the ski race, the running race and the mountain bike race in the past year.

Arell has big plans for the Triple Crown title in the near future as well. First of all, the $5,000 cash purse will be moved to the Triple Crown podium. Second, there will be a pre-registration day for the 2017 Triple Crown in October of this year and the first 50 to pre-register will secure a highly coveted spot for their team in the winter Grand Traverse race.

“That’s pretty good incentive to sign up for the Triple Crown,” says Arell. “We want to stir the excitement there and we expect to have at least 50 competing for the 2017 Triple Crown.”

Feeling the itch to line up for either of the races, if not both? There will be one last chance to sign up for the races in person on Friday, September 2 at the Four-way Stop in Crested Butte from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Online registration for the running race will be open until 6 p.m. on Friday and open until 6 p.m. on Saturday for the mountain bike race.

Registration and additional information can all be found at summer.thegrandtraverse.org.

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