Alex Grant Takes a Dramatic Win in Park City with Local Speedster Evelyn Dong Taking the Women’s Event
With none of the thunderstorms that plagued last year’s Park City Point 2 Point, riders were treated to a near-perfect day of mild temperatures, sunny skies, and prime trail conditions.
Rains throughout the week had dampened the trails preparing the perfect treat for the 350 hardy riders capable of taking on one of the nation’s toughest single-day mountain bike races. An event like none other, the Park City Point 2 Point takes riders on well over 70 miles of purpose-built singletrack in America’s first IMBA Gold certified trail system. Making it even more unique is the fact that in 75 miles riders never hit the same piece of trail twice-a trait that pushes many riders into singletrack overload by the time they reach the finish.
Racing started at 7am with the open men and women’s fields taking a charge at the 75 miles of singletrack and over 12,000 feet of climbing that lay ahead.
Evan Plews (Ibis/Kenda) took the early lead guiding the pack through the first miles of one-track. Plews did his best to push the pace at the front creating the days first separation. Plews was joined by Coloradoan Jay Henry (Tokyo Joe’s), Alex Grant (Sho-Air/Cannondale), Nick Fisher (Rooster’s/Bikers Edge), and Nate Miller (Pivot/Light in-Motion). The lead group of five stayed close through the first 15 miles of the 75-mile course until Sho-Air rider Grant decided to take over at the front of the race.
Once out front Grant’s pace was too much for his companions as the slim climber pulled away from the group. Jay Henry quickly bridged that gap to the lone leader and the two of them quickly stretched their advantage.By mile 25 Grant and Henry were well clear of the others riding comfortably together heading through the first feed zone at Deer Valley Resort. Miller and Plews came through next followed by Nick Fisher who was starting to feel the effects of a fast start.
The lead duo stayed together passing the halfway point with just seconds between the two. That’s when Grant started putting pressure on his companion gapping him briefly on the Empire Link climb. Henry survived and scratched his way back to the leader as the two attacked the unending twists and turns of John’s trail, a local favorite in the Park City trail system. The next big climb on the Steps trail saw Grant riding away again. This attack proved too much for Jay Henry, who was now chasing the lone leader.
By mile 50 Alex Grant was well out front holding a roughly 4-minute advantage on Henry and 10 minutes on Nate Miller who was riding solo in third place for most of the race.
Never one to coast into the finish line Alex Grant attacked again on the day’s final long climb stretching his lead up to almost 10 minutes at the top of the Armstrong trail. Grant cruised through the high-speed descents in and around the world-renowned Canyons Resort and just as the feeling that he might have his fifth Point 2 Point win in the bag he cut his rear tire on a rock. The leader was less than 5 miles from the finish and unable to get his tire to hold more than 10 psi. Not knowing how much of a lead he held, Grant was afraid fixing his tire would cost too much time and possibly the lead, Grant decided to press his luck and ride the flat over the ensuing rocky climb and descent to the finish. His gamble paid losing some time but not enough to cost him a fifth consecutive Park City Point 2 Point win. Alex Grant limped across the line with a record-setting time of 6:24:37.
Jay Henry had no problem holding onto his second place spot crossing the line just over 7 minutes behind. Nate Miller crossed the line in third. Fourth place went to Cary Smith (Team CF) who was just a week out from having pins placed in his broken left hand. Fifth place went to another Park City resident, Sam Sweetser (Cole Sport), who struggled after a slow start. Sweetser was mired outside the top-20 in the early portions of the race. He crept up through the pack all day and looked fresh after 50 miles attacking the final third of the race to finish just seconds behind Cary Smith.
The women’s race packed an equal amount of drama as local lady Evelyn Dong (White Pine Touring) lined up against Colorado mountain bike superstar Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joe’s). Both riders got off to a great start as Dong enjoyed big cheers from the home crowd.
The petite White Pine rider took the early lead cruising into the Deer Valley feed with some breathing space between her and chaser Reeves. Following the feed riders attacked the steep Team Big Bear climb and Flagstaff Loop before crossing a paved road on their way to a ripping descent down the Corvair trail.
This crossing could have cost Evelyn the race as she turned left on the road climbing a long section before realizing her mistake. “Being a local you’d think I wouldn’t get off course” she said after the race, “I came out on the road and climbed up to the top of the pavement even though I knew [Corvair] was the other way. I don’t know what I was thinking.” By the time she turned around and got back on course Reeves had closed the deficit between them and the two were together once again.
Now halfway through the race the leader had lost all her advantage and the two rode together through Corvair. “I just really tried to stay calm and not let it get to me.” Evelyn shared after the race. When the climbing started again Dong was able to start rebuilding her lead. Reeves was still within a couple minutes at mile 50 but the leader used the final 25 miles to her advantage hammering through the rock-strewn Iron Mountain section and cruising in to Canyons Resort 20 minutes clear of her chaser.
Gretchen Reeves had an impressive ride herself finishing second with a time that would have put her just outside the top-20 in the Open Men’s category.
Reeves was followed by a duo of Colorado riders with Breckenridge resident Marlee Dixon coming home in third and Aspen local Rachel Hadley taking fourth. Fifth place went to Sarah Kaufmann (Stan’s NoTubes Elite). Kaufmann had been focusing on the Point 2 Point as her first big endurance race since being severely injured in an auto versus bicycle accident in 2012. The NoTubes rider was certainly satisfied with her accomplishment just a year out from breaking her pelvis and elbow.
CAN YOU DO IT? 2014 Park City Point 2 Point, August 30th! Get your spot, February 19th (7PM)