By Kirsten Le Roux
Special to The SUN
Last weekend, more than 100 athletes descended on Pagosa Springs, hoping to race their way to a golden pay day at the Epic Mountain Challenge.
With $60,000 at stake across three categories (Epic Solo, Epic Open Team and Epic Female Team), the key to winning was consistency across all four events, over two grueling days.
Saturday morning was a half marathon on trails; Saturday afternoon was a 20-mile cross country mountain bike; Sunday morning was a 10k road running criterion and Saturday afternoon was a 3k uphill mountain bike time trial starting up Reservoir Hill and extending over the switchbacks to finish at the top (known as Rez D’Huez). Teams paired up as runner with biker and this created a unique situation where the best athletes from multiple sporting arenas were all competing. The top mountain bikers, road runners, trail runners, mountain runners, triathletes and XTERRA athletes were all racing together.
While the focus was on the Epic Duos and Solos, it was the individual events that captured the attention of the spectators, with mind-blowing performances across all categories. Exceptionally memorable was the run stage finishers — both impressive duals between road runner Mcdonard Ondara of Kenya and U.S. Mountain Running Champion Joseph Gray, with the Kenyan getting the win each time.
Trail Half Marathon:
Overall Male winner: Mcdonard Ondara (Open Team) 1 hour, 21 minutes.
Overall Female winner: Stevie Kramer (Female Team) 1 hour, 39 minutes.
The Hub Hammer 20-mile Cross Country Mountain Bike:
Overall Male winner: Russell Finsterwald (Open Team) 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Overall Female winner: Megan Carrington (Female Team) 1 hour, 30 minutes.
10km Road Running Criterion:
Overall Male winner: McDonard Ondara (Open Team) 32 minutes, 1 second.
Overall Female winner: Stevie Kramer (Female Team) 38 minutes 41 seconds.
Rez D’huez 3k Uphill Mountain Bike Time Trial:
Overall Male winner: Howard Grotts (Epic Solo) 8 minutes, 16 seconds.
Overall Female winner: Megan Carrington (Female Team) 10 minutes, 12 seconds.
Epic Mountain Challenge
First: Josiah Middaugh.
Second: Howard Grotts.
Third: Brian Smith.
Fourth: Jason Donald.
Fifth: Bradley Weiss (South Africa).
First: Emma Garrard.
Second: Heidi Rentz.
Third: Shonny Vanlandingham.
Fourth: Renata Bucher (Switzerland).
Fifth: Fabiola Corona (Mexico).
Epic Duo-Open Team (runner and biker):
First: Joseph Gray and Russell Finsterwald.
Second: Mcdonard Ondara (Kenya) and Michael McCalla.
Third: Jared Scott and Bryan Alders.
Fourth: Sylvan Ellefson and Taylor Sheldon.
Fifth: Greg Krause and Mike Friedberg.
Epic Duo-Female Team (runner and biker):
First: Lindsay Krause and Megan Carrington.
Second: Rachel Viele and Gretchen Reeves.
Third: Stevie Kremer and Sarah Stubbe.
Fourth: Flora Duffy and Courtenay Brown.
Fifth: Jaime Brede and Marlee Dixon.
GECKO surveyed all the athletes racing and each athlete interviewed agreed that they would be back to race next year and enjoyed this unique format of racing and competition.