Schnell overtakes Hiatt to win Grand Mesa Grind

Schnell overtakes Hiatt to win Grand Mesa Grind

The two leaders finally met about a quarter of the way up Horse Mountain. A nod of their heads, and they were riding seat to seat. The dryness and heat, the scraping and sandy wind over rocky terrain, proved to be a battering heavyweight. Both acknowledged to each other they had the “chills.”

Troy Hiatt was out of water.

Ross Schnell had a splash. He offered it to Hiatt.

With arms peppered by goose bumps — one of his body’s reactions to exercise so beyond its physical norm —  Hiatt replied: “No. That’s yours.”

With that on Saturday morning, Schnell passed Hiatt, raising off his seat to thrust away.

“That was his way of saying, ‘I feel good,’ ” Hiatt said. “It’s was like, ‘OK. It’s yours. You win.’ “

And Schnell, 32, of Grand Junction, churned over Horse Mountain and back into Palisade, ending his 34-mile Grand Mesa Grind mountain bike race by peeling onto Main Street.

He won the race up the base of Grand Mesa, into desert and over Horse Mountain and back to Palisade — the race gains a total elevation of 4,800 feet — in a time of one hour, 48 minutes, 28 seconds.

Upon stopping, he was again united with his bride of two weeks.

Cathryn Schnell, hot chocolate in hand, told people who gathered she is expecting a baby in September.

Husband and wife kissed.

It’s been a victorious time for the Schnells.

Ross Schnell said he only rode his mountain bike a couple times during a recent honeymoon, a road trip through the Midwest.

“This spring has been the busiest time of my life, for sure,” Schnell said. “But I’ve been riding minimally.”

“Ross is lucky,” Cathryn Schnell said. “He inherited a better set of fitness genes than most of us. Just a baseline (of training) off the couch, then he pulls this out of his (butt) and wins.”

Hiatt, after Schnell passed, found what some runners might know as their “happy spot.”

The runner in front is too far ahead to be caught.

The runner behind is far away as well.

Ahh ...

Finally, Hiatt, of Gunnison, could relax and not tempt ensuing fatigue stages — the first of which could be considered the goose bumps — that possibly could lead to passing out.

“I started walking on the steeper parts,” Hiatt said. “That’s a different pain.”

Hiatt, 38, finished five minutes behind Schnell.

Ryan Jordan won the sport division, a 24-mile ride, in 1:48:28, four seconds ahead of second-place Christopher Farney.

But a 12-year-old turned Main Street finish-line heads as much as any rider. Birget Morris won the beginner division in a time of 1:58:03.

The first female finisher in all divisions, she won her division by eight minutes.

She was a Messiah Lutheran middle school student surrounded by grown men with muscles seemingly carved by a hatchet.

“It was scary sometimes because I felt like I didn’t keep up,” she said. “But it was fun. The riders are all real nice.”

Birget’s mother, Stephanie Morris, said she knew early in her daughter’s life that she would be a standout athlete.

But it began on powder. And in March, Morris, who skis with the Powderhorn Racing Club, was the overall age-group champion at the Junior Championships at Steamboat Ski Resort.

“Probably when we saw her at 3 or 4 years old on skis, we knew,”  Stephanie said. “She could just carve turns, leave those tight railroad tracks.”

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