Sixty-four athletes battled cold temperatures, strong winds, high altitudes, raging rapids, and rugged terrain in the second incarnation of Red Bull Divide and Conquer. By winning this year's event, returning team Specialized/Riversports (anchored by UCI's inaugural World Mountain Bike Champion Ned Overend) set a new race record, beating last year's winning team by more than 21 minutes.
The multi-sport relay race featured a 7.5 miles trail run 6,000 feet up Kendall Mountain, a paraglide leg launched from the13,100 ft. peak of Kendall Mountain, the highest altitude competition launch in North America, a 24-mile kayak leg through the Class IV and V rapids of the Animas River and, finally, a 28-mile, 7,000 feet-of-climbing mountain bike leg.
It was on the mountain-bike leg that forty-nine year old Overend took the baton. "The bike leg is about three hours long but starts with a 3,000 foot climb in about 4 miles, a super steep climb, so it kind of sets the tone for the whole ride because your legs are blown after that," Overend said at the finish. "The combination of the prolonged steepness and the altitude, is just brutal, more than any other race I do."
Overend was the decider in the relay. The second-place team were neck-and-neck until the final leg when, with world-class mountain bike skill, Overend took the lead for his team on the final downhill.
Overend retired from World Cup mountain biking in 1996 but never fully retired from active competition. "I went right into, unexpectedly, the X-Terra mountain bike triathlons," he said in an interview from his home in Durango, Colorado. "Did the first one at the end of '96 and stayed with the circuit until 2002."
These days, he picks events that he finds interesting and that fit into his busy lifestyle. The Red Bull race worked because "it was local, which is always nice," he says. "It's also unique. I didn't know anything about it until a buddy of mine (Andy Corra, owner of Four-Corners Riversports and a teammate for the Red Bull event), suggested we put a team together. It was a different kind of race for me because it was a team event and I had never done that before."
The race has been good PR for Overend and his employer, Specialized. "My job with Specialized doesn't say anything specific but it is a mixture of product development, PR and community relations. This event pulled all those things together for me."
Overend says the race was such a good time, you can expect to see him at next year's edition.
The Red Bull Divide and Conquer debuted in Durango, Colo. in 2004 and is fashioned after the Red Bull Dolomitenmann race that has been hosted in Austria for 17 years. The race features four-person mountain sports relay teams dividing efforts by specialty to conquer specialized trail running, paragliding, kayaking and mountain biking courses.
The winning relay team took home their share of the $17,500 prize purse and a guaranteed seed to compete in the 18th annual Red Bull Dolomitenmann race in Austria in September 2005. Athletes with the fastest split times were also awarded a special trophy and $500 prize.
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