Mountain Bike Festival a big hit at Colorado Mesa

Colorado Mesa University’s Richard Geng kicks off of a rock Sunday as he concentrates on a rough stretch during the men’s Class A cross country mountain bike race. The CMU Mountain Bike Festival featured two days of cycling in the Bureau of Land Management’s Little Park Trail head area.

Colorado Mesa’s Patrick Rostel, 44, takes off from the starting line Sunday with the pack during the men’s Class A cross country mountain bike race.

A home race is a rarity for the Colorado Mesa University cycling team, so this weekend provided a nice change of pace.

Rather than heading out to unfamiliar territory, the team hosted the CMU Mountain Bike Festival, which finished Sunday at the Little Park Trail head south of Grand Junction.

It was the first home mountain bike race the team has hosted since 2009.

“That’s why we really wanted to put on this race again this year, because we missed out on it last year,” said CMU coach/rider Richard Geng. “We didn’t have the resources to do it, so we skipped last year.”

Saturday, the festival ran short track races from the trail head and had dual slalom races at Glade Park.

Sunday, the festival concluded with cross country races along the single and double track Gunny Loop Trail.

Races were held in the women’s A and B divisions, and men’s A, B, and C. Men and women’s open divisions were run at the same time as each gender’s collegiate races.

In the men’s A race, the top collegiate race, Fort Lewis rider Rotem Ishay narrowly beat teammate Howard Grotts.

Ishay finished the six lap ride, which totaled 18.6 miles, in 1:23:20.

Grotts was only seconds behind him, although no official times were kept aside from the winner of the men’s A race.

“We took the front lead from lap one and we just established a good pace,” Ishay said. “We switched between us and worked together.”

Although the two worked together for the majority of the race, Grotts said there wasn’t a conscious choice made to let Ishay have the win.

“He easily out sprinted me,” Grotts said.

Fort Lewis swept the top five spots in the race with Greg Carpenter, Dylan Stucki and Payson McElveen finishing behind Grotts.

Geng and Patrick Rostel were CMU’s only riders in the race and finished 20th and 21st, respectively. Both specialize in road racing, so neither was expecting much from the race, Geng said.

“We’re mostly road guys and we’re using this to stay fit rather than doing well,” he said.

CMU’s top female finisher was Alexis Skarda, a track and cross country runner who won the 9.3-mile women’s B race.

Skarda enjoyed the race so much once she finished, she asked race officials if she could take another lap “just for fun.”

Although she’s a two-time All American on CMU’s cross country team, Sunday was her first collegiate mountain bike race. Because of her commitment with other sports, she wasn’t sure whether she would race with the team again.

“I didn’t have any idea what the competition would be like, so I guess it’s good because if I do race again I’ll have a better chance of getting into A,” she said.

Geng said he was pleased with how the weekend turned out for the team.

The men’s A race had nearly 40 racers, along with over 40 more that raced in the other divisions.

The racers largely came from other schools in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference, including the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the University of Wyoming, the United States Air Force Academy, along with smaller schools such as Western State College and Fort Lewis.

One racer, Clayton Barrows, represented Penn State over the weekend.

“It’s still a growing sport here, so it’s not like soccer or football where the whole school’s out (to watch.) It’s on the weekend and early in the morning, so what college kid’s going to get up that early in the morning to watch a bike race?” Geng said.

“We’re growing and I see that we’re growing and that’s really exciting. A couple more years and we might be up there with some of the more established sports.”


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