40 miles by foot and/or bike[ by Than Acuff ]
While the winter ski version of Crested Butte Nordic’s Grand Traverse race from Crested Butte to Aspen has been long established, the summer version has gained massive momentum over the past nine years and for the 10th time runners will line up Saturday morning, September 2 in Mt. Crested Butte bound for Aspen in the Montane Grand Traverse Mountain Run race. The next morning, 150 bikers will line up in downtown Aspen bound for Crested Butte as part of the Montane Grand Traverse Mountain Bike race.
“The mountain bike race sold out before the ski race even happened,” says Crested Butte Nordic Events Director Becky Nation.
Both races roughly follow the winter ski route taking runners one day and bikers the following day on a 40-mile tour of the Elk Mountains between Crested Butte and Aspen reaching over 12,000 feet in altitude at one point. The run has 6,000 feet of vertical gain stretched out over the 40 miles while the mountain bikers have 7,800 feet of vertical gain total throughout the race.
While the courses are relatively well-established for both events, race organizers made some tweaks to cutoff spots for the running race. Typically, if runners did not make it to Star Pass, the high point of the course, by a certain time, they were turned around and sent back to Crested Butte. This year the cutoff station has been moved closer to Crested Butte to allow runners an opportunity to at least make it to Taylor Pass. Then, if they are struggling, they can get to Aspen easier and to their families and friends waiting for them in Aspen.
“We did that in an effort to keep people moving toward Aspen,” says Nation. “It will take a minimum pace of an 18-minute mile to get to the finish line.”
Runners will leave from the Emmons Road parking lot at 6 a.m. covering trails at the base of Crested Butte Mountain before jumping onto the Upper Loop. They will then turn onto Brush Creek Road, jump onto the Canal Trail, return to Brush Creek Road and eventually head up Trail 400 up and over Star Pass with Taylor Pass and Richmond Ridge between them and the finish line in Ajax Park. Nation expects the leaders to reach the finish line by noon.
Bikers depart Aspen at 7 a.m. on Sunday, September 3 and have a soul-crushing start heading straight up Aspen Mountain for 3,000 feet before following nearly the same route as the runners backwards. Nation expects the top riders to cross the finish line by the base of the Silver Queen lift at 11 a.m.
Among the expected 350 runners and 150 bikers racing are 70 athletes who will run to Aspen on Saturday and then turn around and bike the next day back to Crested Butte. Among those 70 are folks gunning for the Triple Crown award with the individuals posting the fastest combined times between the ski race back in March, the running race and the bike race taking the men’s and women’s titles.
Thanks to a grant from TAPP, there is prize money for the top five men and women runners and top five men and women bikers with the winners taking home $1,000 in cash.
New this year are cash awards for the Triple Crown winners. Funds from the admissions tax grant in the town of Mt. Crested Butte will provide $200 for the Triple Crown men’s and women’s winners. Also new this year, Icebreaker has prize packages for the Trailblazer Award, the first man and woman to reach Star Pass in the running race.
There will be no live tracking of racers out on course, but Crested Butte Nordic encourages friends, fans and families to line the start of the running race at 6 a.m. to send runners off into the morning air and then gather at the finish line Sunday to bring in the mountain bikers after they have spent 40 miles in the saddle.