Gunnison Valley skiers attack COSMIC rando series opener

“We’re going to need a miracle this year”

The first race of the year for the Gunnison Valley contingent of randonnee racers was the opening stop on the COSMIC Tour, at Sunlight Ski Resort near Aspen. 

 

 

Everyone was sporting the newest gear, with Team Crested Butte on the new Goode’s, SCARPA F1 race boots and Low Tech bindings.  
The race opened up with 1,711 feet of climbing to the top of the resort at 8 a.m. under beautiful “blue bird” skies and 13 degrees Fahrenheit.  
With a mix of groomed slopes and off-piste climbing Bryan Wickenhauser led the race to the top by about 10 seconds over the pack containing second to sixth place, but where was Brian Smith?
The sound of skins being ripped was all you could hear at the top and then soon it was finding the perfect tuck for 20 seconds before throwing the brakes on for the long technical descent down the double diamond run, The Heathen. The second climb retraced the route of the opening climb with Wickenhauser still hanging on to a 10 second lead, still Smith was no where to be found.  
The second descent lead competitors down another off-piste double diamond for the final skin change at the bottom. As Wickenhauser and Max Taam were heading up for the final 1,831-foot climb, Smith finally showed his face.  Binding issues at the start forced him to battle back through the pack and now 85 minutes into the race he found the lead group.
This technical last climb found the racers negotiating 32 switch back kick turns (thank Goode-ness for light, short skis) and then into a five-minute boot pack.  
The boot pack is where Smith ultimately took the lead and never looked back as he skied away to the top.  It was now a race for second.  
At the top of the final climb Wickenhauser had a 10 second lead over Aspen ski patroller Taam, but that lead was whittled down near the end of the descent to a dead heat. With Taam taking a more aggressive line he pulled through the finish line three seconds in front to grab second place, with Wickenhauser settling for third. Coming in fifth was Travis Scheefer of the Scheefer skiing dynasty. Jon Brown took sixth place and 24 Hour World Record holder Eric “Sully” Sullivan coming in another five minutes later for eighth. With Smith coming from behind and passing the entire field, it may take a miracle to beat him!
Other results of note came from Jake Jones in 12th place, Dave Wiens in 13th and Jason Stubbe in 15th place.
In the women’s race it was Jari Kirkland coming in third for her first race of the season, only a minute plus out of second. So close!
Stats for the race totaled 5,253 feet of climbing and 5,240 feet of descent in under two hours for the top five men and under two and a half hours for the top three women. Next stop for the COSMIC Tour is the Crested Butte Rando Rally Saturday, February 7.

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