Despite fears of potential thunder storms, the Montane Grand Traverse summer edition dawned on an unusually hot weekend for early September. With Colorado and the mid-west in the grips of a historical area of high pressure, the stage was set for a hot and dusty race in the Rockies. Hydration would be key for those seeking to succeed on the trail this year.
Much like the winter edition (for those unfamiliar take a look at our dedicated story behind to discover more about the race’s origins and route highlights), the summer edition of the GT run sets off from Crested Butte. Runners head across the mountains to Aspen on a 40-mile route with plenty of high altitude challenges along the way. For those brave enough, they’ll then hop on a bike and attempt to ride back to Crested Butte on the same 40-mile journey, the following day. This 2nd part of the race can also be attempted as a solo race in itself - opening out the GT to even more racers eager to take on the Rockies.
Alongside the obvious lack of snow and skis, what sets this race apart from its more established winter edition in April, is the ability for those competing to claim the Triple Crown. One racer seeking ultimate GT glory was local resident and #TeamMontane athlete Alyssa Wendt, who took part in all three races this year. Alyssa tells us more about why the triple crown is the ultimate test of mountain endurance. Joining Alyssa in the years summer races were a mix of both local and international participants, including other Montane representatives (keep reading to hear how they got on!).
A special mention also goes out to Julie and Andrew, a couple who returned for their 3rd summer GT, having taken on the 2019 edition as their official 3rd date. They got engaged in 2020 and will be married in just a few weeks. As always, there were countless of inspiring tales towing the start line, each drawn to take on this uniquely challenging race through the Rockies. The reward? A beautiful day in the mountains of course…
Day 1: Run to Aspen (03 September)
With a 6am start in sight, runners gathered in the dark with their head torches in tow. Crested Butte Nordic Development Director Laura Pucket Daniels kicked things off with a pre-race blessing, providing much-needed motivation to ‘run like the wind’ and courage to take on the challenge. As the 252 runners set off, spirits were high with the outline of Mt. Crested Butte becoming more visible in the break of the day.
Before reaching Aspen, racers were pre-warned they would encounter lots of cattle along the way (alongside potential other local wildlife including marmots and elk). Not only this, they were going to get wet feet as they traversed several rivers, thanks to rain earlier in the season. As ever, several checkpoints along the way kept racers refuelled and provided the opportunity for a quick breather. For those that made it to the end, they were treated to a dramatic descent into the mountain resort town of Aspen, before culminating their efforts in Ajax Park.
Two Montane racers made it into the top 20 of this race, including Brandon Johanns, another local Crested Butte resident, who placed 5th overall. This also included Alyssa Wendt, who came in 15th, placing first in her age group. Hear how Alyssa (and fellow racer Fanny) got on in this post-race debrief video. Overall winners of the run race went to Gary Messina (1st man) and Sophia Gorman (1st woman). Significantly, 2022 also saw a record breaking year for women with 4 placing in the top 10 of this run race - an incredible achievement not seen in before in the Montane Grand Traverse.
Day 2: Bike to Crested Butte (04 September)
With 1 race down, GT day 2 dawned and it was time for the 134 bikers to get going. Several runners from the previous day had little time to recover, many also hoping to secure Triple Crown status. Whilst feeling weary, they had the added benefit of having already seen the race course (and which trails to look out for en route!) For the fresher faces joining them - this was their turn to take on the challenging cross-country trails in between Aspen and Crested Butte. Setting off at 7am, the bikers rode up into another spectacular sunrise in the Rockies. Whilst many people know this area of Colorado to be a back country skiing mecca, it is also an incredible place to mountain bike. Crested Butte in particular attracts thousands of enthusiastic bikers each summer to take on their extensive network of downhill single track, easily accessed via chairlift.
With tons of hard earned prizes up for grabs, including Montane base layers, as well as ice chilled Montane Neck chiefs to help cool down the racers, the stage was set for a grand finale at the base of Mt. Crested Butte. Things got off to a thrilling start with a dramatic 1st and 2nd fight to the finish. Brian Smith managed to inch just ahead of Carter Hall, to claim GT biking glory.
Montane racer Jessica Yeaton then went on to become the first women to cruise into Crested Butte. Both a keen biker and skier, Jessica who was born in Australia, is no stranger to big competitions, having represented Australia in the Olympics and attended 4 World Championships. Now a US-resident and bonafide GT legend, we hope to see her returning next year to take on the coveted ski race!
Triple Crown Glory
Despite an admittedly difficult run the day before, beset with lots of leg cramping, #TeamMontane racer Alyssa Wendt managed to fight off exhaustion and finish the bike race in good time (giving her an overall time of 24:36:05). Combined with her 3rd place in the Ski race back in April, this earned her the coveted Triple Crown, and placed her 2nd female overall. An incredible culmination of all her hard work this season - hats off Alyssa.
Beating Alyssa to 1st place was 3 x GT finisher Nikki LaRochelle, who completed all races in a total time of 21:52:20 - giving her the best overall time out of all participants. Male Triple Crown winner went to Vince Rogers, who completed the races in 23:20:33, whilst male runner up went to local legend Billy Laird with a time of 25:38:18, Billy also won the Triple Crown last year!
Looking for more Grand Traverse action?
Undeniably the jewel in the Grand Traverse crown is the much anticipated ski event, which takes place every April. We’ll be back in 2023 to bring you all the action from this incredible back country ski race in the Rocky mountains of Colorado. Keep your eyes peeled for more updates on this, coming nearer the time…