Alex Grant wins Grand Junction Off-Road

Katerina Nash takes convincing victory

On a picture perfect day in western Colorado, some of the best pros on the continent toed the line on Main Street in Grand Junction to compete on some of the most spectacular trails anywhere. Alex Grant (Ridebiker Alliance) came from behind to win by nine seconds over second place finisher Ben Sonntag (Cliff Bar). Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport) seemed to ride nearly a flawless race to capture the bronze medal. Defending champion Fernando Paez (Raleigh Clement) suffered an untimely puncture but managed to finish fourth. Josiah Middaugh (ENVE Composites), better known for his X-Terra racing, finished fifth.

The racecourse has become known as one of the most difficult in the USA. Held largely on Bureau of Land Management trails outside of Grand Junction, riders faced 5,344 feet of climbing with virtually no flat section of the course over the 40-mile distance. It started at an elevation of 4,600 feet and reached over 6,500 feet at its highest point. With temperatures near ninety degrees, the lack of any shade played an important factor in the race. Many racers’ kits had salt stains on them at the finish.

At the top of the first climb, USA ChampionTodd Wells (Specialized) led Alex Grant, followed by Jeremiah Bishop (Topeak Ergon). Paez had been gapped on the climb but sat solidly in fourth place. It appeared that all the favorites were off and running.

Alex Grant explained the race dynamics from that point on, "There were four of us at the first feed zone…Jeremiah, Wells, and Fernando. Going in to Butterknife Todd was leading, Jeremiah crashed, and Fernando bobbled. Then it was just Todd and I, but those guys came back at the bottom."

Grant continued, "Fernando attacked on the longest climb and actually got a gap on us. I rode back to Todd (who flatted) and then rode back to Fernando. I just kept it steady and felt good on the downhill…and that was that."

Wells had to repair a sidewall with a tire plug and then struggled to keep it inflated. In addition to Bishop’s crash, he too had more than one flat tire. Fernando made it three out of the four leaders who punctured.

Ben Sonntag capitalized on the other’s misfortunes. He detailed his outing, "I wasn’t steady on purpose. I made too many mistakes/bobbles early on and lost the group. At some point I said, 'OK, if I’m going to do something today I’ve got to push it.' I felt strong all day, but I’m a little disappointed because I lost the race early with stupid mistakes."

With seven miles to go, Alex Grant led Sonntag by as much as 500 meters. When Grant dropped into the last major technical bowl, Sonntag was not in sight. But, once they reached the long pavement stretch back into town, Sonntag began to close down the gap.

Grant said, "I know Ben really well. We ride together a lot and I know what his strengths are. I know he’s good at the end of a race. So, when I saw him back there…I was so over the limit on the pavement I barely made it to the finish."

Defending champion Fernando Paez was visibly down after the race. He remarked, "I’m a little disappointed. I was in the front trying to defend the title with Alex Grant. Unfortunately, I had a rear flat tire on one of the descents and six people passed me.’

This race required several skills. The distance slightly favored endurance riders. However, the technical riding, especially the 7-mile Butterknife section of the course required excellent technical skills. There were also climbs and descents lasting several miles. It took a well-rounded rider to master all of these demands.

The winner took home a $5,000 check out of the $30,000 in prize money that was given out today.

One thing is for sure, next year many riders will err on the side of caution when making their tire and inflation choices.

Pro Women

As was expected, Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) was stronger than her rivals today. Despite a mid-race mishap, she had enough in the tank to ride across the finish alone for the win. USA Marathon Champion Rose Grant (Stan’s NoTubes) did her best to keep Nash in sight, but ultimately lost nearly six minutes to the Czech rider. Amy Beisel (Liv-SRAM), who has also been having a solid season, finished third, five minutes behind Grant. Rebecca Hodgett (Alp Cycles Coaching) finished fourth, and Evelyn Dong (Sho-Air Cannondale) took fifth place after a dash to the line with Jenny Smith (Stan’s NoTubes).

The Pro Women started ten minutes after the Pro Men,which meant that the leaders would pass some of the slower men. There were times when long stretches of singltrack made that a difficult task.

Nash came over the initial climb with a gap of less than a minute over
Grant. At this point, the top five finishing order had already been established.

Nash commented after the race, "It was a great course and I was riding a full-suspension bike. Rose Grant, who is an amazing climber, was on a hardtail. So, I took my chance and went really fast on Butterknife (highly technical) and unfortunately got a flat at the bottom. It did get pretty dramatic because my nice lead suddenly shrank to zero."

Nash added, "I was a little stressed out the last half of the race because the tire wasn’t rally fully inflated. But, I really, really enjoyed the trails and the people here in Grand Juntion."

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alex Grant (Ridebiker Alliance, Cannondale, Gear Rush)2:58:58 
2Benjamin Sonntag (Clif Bar, Niner Bikes, SRAM)0:00:09 
3Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport, Yogaglo)0:04:36 
4Hector Fernando Riveros Paez (Raleigh, Clement, Shimano)0:05:08 
5Josiah Middaugh (ENVE Composites, Felt Bicycles, Optic Nerve)0:07:17 
6Ernie Watenpaugh (Jack Daniels, Telluride Venture Accelerator, BMC Bikes)0:09:05 
7Jamey Driscoll (Raleigh Clement)0:09:14 
8Jeremiah Bishop (Topeak, Ergon, Canyon Bicycles)0:10:25 
9Ryan Standish (San Juan Cycles, Steamworks Brewing)0:10:28 
10Patrick Chartrand (Louis Garneau, Powerwatts Nord, Monty Sylvestre)0:13:18 
11Brian Smith (Griggs Orthopedics, Stan's NoTubes)0:14:18 
12Mitch Hoke (The Pros Closet, Kenda, Stans Notubes)0:16:53 
13Jay Henry (Tokyo Joes, Scott Bikes, Pearl Izumi)0:17:12 
14Todd Wells (Specialized, Clif Bar, Oakley)0:17:22 
15Kris Sneddon (Kona Bikes, Mom and Dad, Logging)0:18:05 
16Brad Bingham (Kent Eriksen Cycles, DT Swiss, Honey Stinger)0:18:40 
17Dana Weber (Stage 21)0:19:22 
18Nick Truitt (Breck Bike Guides, Shimano, Naturally Fast)0:20:48 
19Tj Woodruff (Pivot, Stans NoTubes, Momentum Endurance)0:23:17 
20Bryan Alders (TrainingPeaks, Yeti, Pactimo)0:24:34 
21Tim Racette (McDowell Mountain Cycles, Mikes Mix Recovery Drink, Schwalbe Tires)0:24:43 
22Nick Gould (Ska Brewing, Zia Taqueria, Trek Bikes)0:27:02 
23Bryan Dillon (SRAM, Pivot, Griggs Orthopedics)0:27:09 
24Barkley Robinson (Orange Peel)0:31:04 
25Mark Currie (Champion System, Swiftwick, Adrenalin Cycles)0:34:12 
26Jason Hanson (Rotor Components)0:36:11 
27Nick Skaggs (Nationwide Insurance, Trek Bicycle, Flat Tire Bike Shop)0:36:47 
28Donny Warbritton (Stages Cycling)0:38:05 
29Cody Cupp (Raleigh Bicycles, SET Coaching, Alberg's Sports)0:40:15 
30Brett Denney (Honey Stinger, Bontrager, Beet Elite)0:40:24 
31Elliot Reinecke (Book a Bike Mechanic.com, Teleost Fins, Focus Bikes)0:41:44 
32Brady Kappius (Clif Bar, Kappius Components, SRAM)0:41:45 
33Jeff Minotto (Steamboat Velo p/b Moots, Centennial Bank)0:42:13 
34Scott Leonard (Mountain Flyer Magazine, Basalt Bike & Ski)0:42:16 
35Jason Hilimire (FasCat Coaching-Geneva Bicycle Center)0:49:51 
36Colby Lash (Chocolay ACE Hardware, KMK Cyclery)0:51:12 
37Ricky Willis (Paragon Outdoors, Bootdoctors, Telluride Cycling Club)0:53:20 
38Jt Toepel (Groove Subaru/Excel Sports, Rudy Project, Domahidy Designs)0:55:15 
39Eric Landis (Mountain Racing Products, Deity Components, Bicycle Outfitters)1:00:31 
Women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Katerina Nash (Luna, Orbea, Shimano)3:33:47 
2Rose Grant (Stan's NoTubes, Cannondale Bicycles, Griggs Orthopedics Performance)0:05:54 
3Amy Beisel (LIV Co-Factory, SRAM, OSMOnutrition)0:11:01 
4Rebecca Hodgett (ALP Cycles Coaching)0:11:40 
5Evelyn Dong (Team Sho-Air/Cannondale)0:12:59 
6Jennifer Smith (Stans NoTubes, Cannondale Bicycles, Griggs Orthopedics Performance)0:13:00 
7Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joes)0:20:48 
8Sarah Kaufmann (Stan's NoTubes, Kenda Tires, Griggs Orthopedics Performance)0:25:28 
9Heidi Rentz (Ibis, The Cycling House, GU Energy)0:29:47 
10Liz Carrington (CRC Janitorial, Cannondale, Hassle Free Sports)0:34:40 
11Amanda Miller (Boulder Cycle Sport, Yoga Glo)0:43:17 
12Becky Edmiston (Rock N Roll Sports, Steamboat Velo)1:02:54 
13Meredith Miller (Noosa Yoghurt, ENVE)1:11:25 
14Katie Compton (Trek Factory Racing, Bontrager, Shimano)1:11:26 
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