February 3, 2001
By Scott Schumaker
Photos by Larry Higgins
ISSUE #10, April/May 2001 – The forecast for the US Winter Triathlon Championships at Snow Mountain Ranch called for light snow with no accumulation likely. Hah! As the nine AM start time approached, six inches of white stuff layered the course and the blizzard showed no signs of relenting. For the competitors attacking the 10K run, 20K mountain bike, 10K skate ski course, the new snow turned an already challenging course into an adventure in staying upright. Runners did the best they could to follow in each other’s footsteps, occasionally stumbling through holes of powder. Mountain bikers cartwheeled off their bikes, creating mini snow tornadoes before they came to rest. By the time the racers hit the skate ski they were exhausted.
A cold transition area”The ski leg was like doing a mile of butterfly at then end of a summer triathlon. The race as a whole was one of the hardest and most frustrating things I’ve ever done. It was epic,” says pro triathlete Pat Brown, who suffered from a snow-caked cleat problem throughout the bike leg.
Pro cyclist/duathlete, Kimberely Bruckner adds, “It was an awesome experience and a great way to be training on what otherwise would have just been a cold and miserable day.”
For Bruckner, this “training” day meant being the first woman into the run-to-bike transition with a thirty-second lead over XTERRA star Lorraine Barrows. Barrows closed the gap in the transition area but a fight with pneumonia in the days leading up to the race caused her to fade badly during the mountain bike. Top mountain biker, Gretchen Reeves, on the other hand, was slicing through the powder and would regain two of the five minutes she lost to Bruckner’s 55:01 run split with a 1:10:45 bike leg. Reeves then used superior skate skiing ability to hunt Bruckner down and pass her with three kilometers to go. By finishing the ski in 43:20, Reeves’ winning time was 2:54:50. Bruckner was next to cross the line in 2:56:31 and Melissa Thomas was third in 3:00:20.
On the men’s side, age and experience ruled the day, which is the nice way of saying that the older guys kicked the younger guys’ butts. Olympian Ryan Bolton hit 43:34 for the 10K run and lead mountain bike legend Ned Overend, adventure racer Mike Kloser, and Pat Brown by thirty-five seconds going into the second leg. “I thought Pat, who has a ski background and is on a mountain bike all the time, and some of the dudes who could really ski, would rock everyone,” says Bolton. Bzzzzt! That would be wrong.
Overend’s two-wheeled prowess (58:06) gave him the fastest bike split and the lead with Mike Kloser close behind. “I pulled out a 30-second lead on Kloser. I think my tire setup was hooking up a little better and I was going all out because I was worried that he was a better skier,” says Overend. “But the soft conditions on the ski course favored my lack of technique. The faster the conditions the better for a real skier like Kloser, but, a slog through deep snow with your heart rate jammed through the roof, veins bulging in your forehead, and slobbering all over yourself from effort, that’s my specialty.”
“The Lung” snatched the fastest ski split by two minutes (33:16) and skated home to add another championship title to his name in 2:15:31. Kloser finished second in 2:17:49, while Bolton hung in for third at 2:19:56.
Finally, the race organizers, Mountain Quest Adventures, would like to thank Zoot Sports, Salomon, and adidas for their support and sponsorship of the race. Be on the look out for a three-race, US winter triathlon series coming in 2002.