Stage 2 Report: Up and over Hope Pass

Vickburg-Twin Lakes Dam
13.4 miles/3200ft climbing

Every year, it seems that the GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run gets its biggest shakeup in the standings between the first and second stages. Whether it’s that some racers need a day of racing to find their stage racing legs or that some don’t enjoy the transition from rolling desert conditions to classic high alpine trails, Stage 2 is always a very different race than Stage 1. For the fifth straight year, the pattern held to form with new winners in categories and close races where there had been big gaps the day before.

One thing that was common across all the categories was speed—winning times were often ten minutes faster than the year before on exactly the same course. As a spent Max King said at the finish “last year was a Trail Run, but this year it’s a Trail Race”. He and partner Ryan Bak finished in 1:53:26, over 10 minutes faster than last year’s winning time and still finished second behind the Salomon pair of Ricky Lightfoot and Tom Owens who crossed the line in 1:52:50. Stage 1 winners Mike Smith and Jason Wolfe finished nearly two minutes down but held onto their overall lead. As if to prove how competitive and deep the Open Men’s Division is this year, Nick Hirsch and Mario Mendoza finished 4th today in a time which would have won 2010 by 4 minutes. Stay tuned to this category for a battle to the finish line.

While the Arnold sisters once again stamped their authority on the GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run another stage win in 2:20:21, a full 12 minutes faster than last year, a new pair of faces jumped onto the podium as Amy Lane and Sabrina Moran of Team INOV-8/GORE-TEX grabbed a strong second place ahead of the Arc’Teryx duo of Amy Golumbia and Roser Gerspacher. Cynthia and Ashley Arnold are already over 20 minutes ahead on the overall standing but the teams in 2nd-4th are separated by only a few minutes in a daily battle for the podium.

The Open Men and Open Women’s RUN3 races saw exactly the pattern unfold as Justin Ricks, who was dominant on Stage 1, was pushed to the finish by Phil Villeneuve, who seems to have recovered from Leadville 100 pacing duties—and the pizza and beer that followed—to finish less than 2 minutes behind Ricks sneaking into second place in the overall standings just a handful of seconds ahead of third-placed Brian Rusieki. After finishing third on Stage 1 Susie Howery found the high-alpine terrain of Hope Pass much more to her liking, winning the stage in 3:08:29. She was able to cut second-place Deborah Davies overall lead down to less than five minutes. With just one more stage to run tomorrow, the RUN3 podium places are up for grabs during the 24.3 miles from Leadville to Nova Guides.

With the incredible diversity of participants, Ultrarunning sometimes seems like a utopia of sporting democracy, and the start line of the GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run is no exception. Nearly as many women as men take part in the TransRockies Run, and just as many athletes over 40 as under choose to take on this challenge.

Let’s be clear, though, this isn’t affirmative action on the trails—the women and masters can be fast. Case in point, New Zealander Anna Frost who’s back at the TransRockies Run in 2011 racing in the Open Mixed category with partner Rickey Gates. Today they beat all but five of the Men’s teams who raced Stage 2. Likewise, the Top 80+ Masters Men’s Women’s and Mixed teams would be competing for Top 5 Open after 2 stages despite being a combined 25-30 years older than the teams running in the Open Divisions.

With runners from 13 different countries in Colorado to be part of the TransRockies, there’s a fair-sized slice of the United Nations in the race village as well!

For the third straight stage, participants in the 2011 GORE-TEX™ TransRockies Run and RUN3 will see another facet of Colorado’s natural beauty with a rolling 24 mile run from Leadville to Nova Guides Camp through peaceful Aspen forests, over the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass and along the Colorado Trail. The course finishes with a run through historic Camp Hale before finishing at Nova Guides Camp. If it sounds like a postcard, remember that it’s almost a full marathon in length at an average elevation of over 10,000 feet with 2,700 feet of climbing thrown in and it should be the longest day yet on the trails yet at the TransRockies Run.

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