Community mountain bike racing returns to Breckenridge at Gold Run Rush

Todd Greenwood (left) and Thomas Messerschmitt race during Wednesday’s Summit Mountain Challenge Gold Run Rush mountain bike race in Breckenridge.
Photo by Antonio Olivero / [email protected]

Eager local cyclists had to wait a week, but the Summit Mountain Challenge gold rush returned Wednesday in all its communal glory to mountain bike-loving neighborhoods of Wellington and Lincoln Park.

After an air quality postponement pushed the scheduled race from last Wednesday to this week, riders pedaled through dark Rocky Mountain mud on some of Breckenridge’s most legendary trails.

Breckenridge local Taylor Shelden repeated his men’s pro-open victory at the Frisco Roundup series opener earlier this month with a winning time Wednesday of 1 hour, 9 minutes and 39 seconds on the course of 16.2 mile cross country.

Another Summit local, Tai-Lee Smith, a 2021 Summit High School graduate, won the women’s pro-open race in a time of 1:21:31. Smith said racing meant a lot to her because Jeff Westcott’s Summit Mountain Challenge series had been a staple of her cycling life since she was four years old.

“I feel so old with all these little kids everywhere, because I was literally them,” Smith said. “…If I wasn’t doing those Westy errands – I attribute to them, definitely, my love for the sport and where I am now.”

A few weeks ago, Smith competed in his first Union Cycliste International World Cup races in Europe. Next year she will race for the Colorado Mesa University collegiate mountain bike powerhouse in Grand Junction.

“I had this chance to go to World Cups and get some European racing experience, but I really got into the sport at those races,” Smith said.

With his move to Grand Junction and his family’s move to Idaho, Smith was nostalgic on Wednesday that this could be his last summer of Summit Mountain Challenge racing. But there are riders waiting in the wings to follow his journey from the 10-and-under junior mountain bike league to the pro-open division. This includes riders from The Cycle Effect, including Lupita Casillas.

Casillas finished on the podium in third place – to loud applause from the team – in the Junior Girls 13-15 division, finishing the 9.4-mile race in 1:11:20.

Cycle Effect coach Fabiana Graspan said Casillas is encouraged to stay in the sport of mountain biking because of the community it offers her. Graspan said Casillas is one of many girls the organization provides transport to and from the Dillon Valley and the races.

The coach was particularly proud of Casillas on Wednesday, not only for finishing on the podium in her first race, but for stopping to help a teammate with a mechanical problem during the race.

“It was tough, the climbs – there were a lot of climbs,” Casillas said. “I like having fun, challenging myself and doing new things.”

Peak dweller Jay Irwin crossed the finish line as the winner of the Sport Men 50+ division before dropping his bike onto the sodden grass to recover. After completing the 11.5-mile loop in 1:09:02, Irwin said the muddy and wet conditions were welcome as he navigated an inventive network of some of the county’s most popular trails.

“I love some of those segments on this course, but I’ve never done that – all of it on a loop like that,” Irwin said. “This is one of the best ridings in Summit County right here.”

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