Stage One – The Mountains
Welcome to the Rockies – Altitude, Blood, Sweat and Tears, we’ve had it all during stage 1.
The stage started at 9400ft inside the Crested Butte Mountain Resort with glorious sunshine and the majestic Mount Crested Butte as our backdrop. It wasn’t lost on all of us organisers that our chirpy group of competitors had taken a turn for the solemn; smiles and laughter had been replaced with a thousand mile stare. Who could blame them, today was their first real taste of this race, a race we have been billing as the toughest in our series.
We knew once they got going, their experience would get them through the dayand at 8:00am the first ever Mountain Ultra got underway. The competitors started their journey by running around Mount Crested Butte with views over the picturesque town below before descending to CP1, which is also the first timing point for our Red Jersey Stage, King/Queen of the Mountains, an extreme climb of 11km, with 2500ft of vert! Climb, climb and more climb, all the way to the top timing station at Para Me Para Te, then through Ohio Pass and down, down and more down.
Burning hamstrings and bursting lungs, were exchanged for screaming quads, and slamming knees, not to mention the technical nature of some of these trails – needless to say this was an extreme test and an extreme 1st stage.
Stories of the day are wide and varied and in fact too numerous to mention all of them here. One of our favourites was Mimi Anderson’s bear sighting between CP3 & 4, some people spend their life running in these mountains without meeting a bear and needless to say Mimi was overjoyed, her only regret being that she couldn’t locate her camera in time to snap a quick pic! Hugh Glynn-Jones teamed up with our local hero Hurricane Carter for most of the stage, Hurricane taking the opportunity to show Hugh the local sights and history en-route. Simon Grimstrup (our JU2013 winner and Red Jersey holder) spoke to us before the stage started and said that he felt a little apprehensive about the race and that after spending just over a week at altitude felt that he was going to find this race tough.
Simon did find the race tough but he gutted out an extremely impressive performance, both winning the stage and the Red Jersey in the process. It has to be said that Simon is one of the most humble and incredible competitors we have had the privilege to see compete. Camilla Gry-Elmann also started strong, even with a small miss-queue after Ohio Pass she took the stage as 1st female and collected the Queen of the Mountains Red Jersey Stage to boot.
A couple of other stand out performances today, Tommaso De Motoni finished the stage despite suffering a terrible re-occurrence of a Shingles type virus – feeling pain deep inside his bones he managed himself exceptionally well and crossed the finish line in fine form. Also of note was Pierre Caron’s performance, Pierre not only lost half of his kit just after the start (meaning he lost valuable time retracing his steps to collect it back again) but also finished the stage when he was quite obviously suffering with early stage Altitude Sickness.
All competitors are camped out beneath Mount Crested Butte this evening, this afternoon’s thunder storms have cleared to leave a beautiful (if a little cold) clear night, complete with crescent moon and shooting stars. Tomorrow’s stage, Paradise, is 43km long and incorporates the beautiful yet deadly “Devils Punchbowl”. Paradise starts at 7:00am MT, we’re hoping tomorrow will be half as great as today.