Riveros takes over Off-Road race during uphill battles

#31,Fernando Riveros Paez from Colorado springs wins the Pro Mens 40 Grand Race Sunday morning.

Photos by CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/The Daily Sentinel Grand Junction Off-Road professional racers weave through a section of the Lunch Loop Trail on Sunday morning. Fernando Riveros, below, won the the race. For video of Saturday’s amateur race, visit GJSentinel.com.

Colombians have long been known as climbers in the world of cycling.

When the big seven-mile Windmill Road climb approached, Fernando Riveros took center stage at the Grand Junction Off-Road professional race on Sunday.

“I’m a Columbian, I’m a climber, I have to take (advantage of the climbs),” he said.

That’s what he did, breaking away from several riders and hanging on to win the 40-mile race in 3 hours, 7 minutes and one second.

When he arrived at the finish line, Riveros slammed on the brakes, dismounted and hoisted his bike over his head in celebration.

It was a combination of exhilaration and putting to rest some frustration.

“The season has been a success for me but I’ve been taking second and third, and it was the same at the Whiskey 50, I was second,” Riveros said.

Last year in Grand Junction, Riveros had trouble with his hard-tail bike, then had five flat tires in the race that ended his day

“Last year I didn’t have a chance to go that far,” he said about the climb, “so I didn’t know the course that well.”

But he knew there was the seven-mile climb past the midway point.

That was also the place where Ben Sonntag attacked last year to win the race. This year, the 34-year-old German riding out of Durango, turned in a gutsy effort to take second just 47 seconds behind Riveros.

Sonntag said he didn’t feel that good early in the race and dropped considerably off the pace. But he slowly worked himself back into the race, then he made a furious push to try to catch Riveros.

“I’ve been around long enough that sometimes you just come around and I came around,” he said. “Sometimes when you get into the zone and just attack, you don’t feel that tired.”

He was chewing into Riveros’ lead but he was taking chances on the descents and singletrack sections.

Then he crashed.

“I went all out on the descent but on the first part of Andy’s (Loop) I crashed. But that’s racing, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but I’m super happy with second place,” he said.

After his frustrating trip to Grand Junction in 2013, Riveros knew the course was more suited for a full-suspension bike and that’s what he rode on Sunday.

“It’s really technical and a rough course, so full suspension is the way to go,” he said.

With a solid lead after the climb, Riveros knew he had to keep pushing, not wanting to settle for another second or third place.

“I just put in a hard pace and kept that pace and got a good gap,” he said.

Brian Matter of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, finished third moving up from 12th with great riding through the late technical sections.

Women’s race

Chloe Woodruff came to Grand Junction wanting and expecting to win. But she also wanted to stay healthy.

The Prescott, Arizona, rider continued her strong season with a win at the Grand Junction Off-Road, finishing the 40 miles in 3:46:39.

Canadian Kate Aardal finished second with a time of 3:48.36. Gunnison’s Jennifer Smith was third at 3:50.06.

As Woodruff, 26, set a fast pace, she opened a gap for a large part of the race but Aardal caught her as they went into the Butterknife section.

The two women raced through the flowing singletrack section with Woodruff leading the way.

“I was pushing it a little more than I really wanted to,” she said. “It’s good to have that motivation, it keeps you focused.”

Woodruff knew the Windmill Road climb loomed ahead.

“I had an idea that the climb was where I had to be strong,” she said. “I had a pretty good gap coming up at the top and then I just limped through the Andy’s Loop section. That’s such a hard section when you’re tired.”

All through the race, Norway was in the back of Woodruff’s mind.

She left today for the World Championships and she didn’t want the Grand Junction race to ruin her chances for a strong finish in Norway.

That was the main reason she really slowed down on Andy’s Loop.

“I was pretty cautious going through that rocky section,” she said.

She also sucked down water constantly.

“I was really on top of things like hydrating, almost to a crazy point,” she said. “I didn’t want to be crushed after today, I didn’t want to overdo it.”

Both Riveros and Woodruff won $4,000 for finishing first. The total purse was $20,000 with equal payout to the men and women.

The professional races concluded the second-annual Grand Junction Off-Road, which was three days of mountain bike racing and other festivities.


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