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Chile Challenge - Angel Fire, New Mexico

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |June 26, 2011 5:00 PM
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Chile Challenge – Angel Fire Resort, New Mexico

Mountain States Cup #4

The Mountain States Cup circus took its act south this past weekend, as Angel Fire, NM hosted the annual Chile Challenge.  A low winter snowpack and dry spring left the high altitude trails of Angel Fire bone dry for the sordid cast of downhill, cross country, and dual slalom racers who migrated from their respective hovels to light up this small mountain town.

The trails caught fire bright and early Saturday morning, as the pro’s took on the infamous Jalapeno Loops for the cross country race.  Mountain bike legend Travis Brown summed up this old World Cup course perfectly.  "It’s a classic old school course.  Instead of having segments of climbs and descents mixed in throughout the course, it’s just one big climb, and then one big descent.”  In classic ‘old school’ fashion, the pro’s took on over 5000 feet of climbing during the 3 lap, 23 mile race that peaked out at over 10,000 feet in elevation.  The climb was a mix of tame fire roads, buff snaking singletrack, and agonizingly steep and loose trail that had some of the best climbers from Colorado begging for mercy.  The descent was comprised almost entirely of plush  singletrack that had riders squeeling with delight as they threaded their way through aspen groves and wide open ski runs to make their way back to the bottom of the mountain.

A small but respectable pro women’s field got right down to business as Rebecca Gross (Velo Bella) attacked from the gun.  Jill Behlen (Tokyo Joe’s), Sarah Rawley (Yeti Betty), and Heidi Rentz all grabbed Gross’ wheel as the ladies headed into the dreaded series of climbs.  

In a fire road transition between singletrack, Rawley shifted to her big ring and made her move on a struggling Behlen to move into second with Gross in her sights. As the climb entered the tougher steeper sections of the course, the unknown Rentz began a surge of accelerations, catching and passing all of the contenders to take the lead before the long descent.  

With the top four all in contact of one another, tactical decisions became crucial to success. "The descent is my strong point, and I knew I had to cruise down as fast as I could before the start of the second lap.” Said Sarah Rawley.  With the descent the key to Rawley’s race, the climb became the answer to Rentz’s and Gross’.  

The girls would keep their places throughout the second lap, with the distances between them increasing as the race progressed.  Rentz would go on to take the win, with Gross, Rawley, and Behlen rounding out the top four.

The pro men’s cross country proved to hold some of the very same tactics as the women’s, but would result in a much closer race.  Kelly Magelky (Honey Stinger/Trek) took control of the race right from the line as the rest of the field scrambled to find a comfortable pace.  

Magelky opened up a solid 15-second gap as the climb progressed, with Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Travis Brown (Trek), Ernie Watenpaugh (Peloton/Specialized/Honey Stinger), and Mike West (Yeti) all exchanging places in the wake.  

As the climb increased in gradient, Watenpaugh made his move with Brown clinging to his wheel, and the two were able to bring back Magelky before the descent.  Brown then took the reins and completely left Magelky and Watenpaugh on the descent. 

Veteran downhiller West made up considerable ground and was able to pass both Magleky and Watenpaugh before the start of the second lap.  Watenpaugh caught a fading Magelky within the lower sections of the climb, and used his climbing prowess to reel in the two leaders before the start of the descent.  

West and Brown were again able to distance themselves from Watenpaugh on the long descent back, and by the beginning of the third and final lap had a comfortable gap on the newcomer.  

Brown was able to able to drop West on the final climb, but an always aggressive West would have the last word.  "Mike took me on the final berm leading into the finish.” Said Brown.  "I could have boxed him out, but I let him through.  He deserved it.”  After nearly an 1:45:00 minutes in the saddle, West beat Brown by an unbelievable 1.82 seconds.  Watenpaugh came in over two minutes later to claim third.

The MSC will return June 24-26 for the Wildflower Rush in Crested Butte, CO. And as MSC frontman Keith Darner told me, "Get your 40 miler ready!”



Pro Men


Mike West

Yeti Cycles



Travis Brown




Ernie Watenpaugh

Peloton Cycles/Specialized



Kelly Magelky

Honey Stinger/Trek



Peter Kalmes




Sem Gallegos

Crazy Cat Cyclery



Joe Schneider

3D Racing



David Olson




Lewis Gaffney

Team F1 Taos



Nick Truitt

Yeti/Jett XC



Doug Johnson

Bandwagon Racing



Dax Kastrin

Sport Systems



Matthew Connors

Bicycle Ranch



Pro Women


Heidi Rentz




Rebecca Gross

Velo Bella



Sarah Rawley

Yeti Beti



Jill Behlen

Tokyo Joe’s


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