By Shannon Boffeli
Each edition of the Park City Point 2 Point in Park City, Utah, seems to have its own unique defining characteristic. This year it was hero dirt. Two solid weeks of rain leading up to the event packed down the trail surface leaving riders with 72 miles of eminently shreddable singletrack loveliness to contest.
All of the 350 riders had nothing but smiles and compliments about the amazing trail conditions and never-ending one track at the sixth edition of the Point 2 Point.
Once again racing started bright and early at 7 a.m. with the open men and women categories leading the way.
The men’s group included a mix of the best ultra-endurance racers in the country including 5-time Point 2 Point winner and recent Breck Epic champion Alex Grant (Sho-Air/Cannondale). Joining Grant were High Cascades winner Cary Smith (Hub Cyclery), Colorado strongmen Jay Henry (Tokyo Joe’s) and Josh Tostado (Swiftwick/Santa Cruz), racing legend Tinker Juarez (Sho-Air/Cannondale), and local pro roadie Rob Squire (Jamis) fresh off the Tour of Utah and US Pro Challenge.
Squire took the early lead and led most of the rolling terrain in the first hour of the race. A large lead group of 15-20 riders formed at the front until Alex Grant decided to create the first separation with an attack into the Prospector trail network. His attack whittled the leaders down to just six until Squire turned the heat up even more taking just Grant and Juarez with him on the Snow Top climb.
Rob Squire, a former US National Team mountain biker, showed he hadn’t lost his trail riding ability even though he was on a borrowed bike and riding a 29er for the first time. Squire climbed with speed and power and with a lot more climbing to come Squire, Juarez, and Grant kept stretching their lead making this the critical move of the day.
Jay Henry stayed just in sight of the leaders about 20 seconds back.
After cresting the day first big climb at the top of Deer Valley it was Grant’s turn to get back to work. The Sho-Air rider moved in front just before the start of the new enduro segment downhill using the technical, twisting descent to open a gap between himself and Juarez and posting the fastest enduro time of the day. Squire meanwhile, had dropped back struggling with a soft tire that would need to be filled 10 times before the finish.
The young Jamis rider wouldn’t let a soft tire stop him as he overtook Juarez on the next long climbing section and held second position through the finish.
Alex Grant was long gone though. In previous editions, once out front the 5-time P2P champion leaves nothing to chance putting time on his rivals with every turn and berm on the course. This year was no different.
By the time Grant reached Park City Mountain Resort he had over 5 minutes in hand and would stretch that lead to 17 minutes by the finish breaking his previous course record with a time of 6 hours 16 minutes.
Robbie Squire nursed his squishy tire through the final 20 miles of rocks to take second in front of the always-astounding Tinker Juarez.
That left fourth place up for grabs with Nate Miller (Light & Motion) holding on to the spot until a flat at Iron Mountain dropped him behind the fast-finishing Jay Henry with less than 15 miles to go.
Miller was able to repair his tire just in time to preserve a podium finish in front of Josh Tostado who had been moving through the field late in the race.
The women put on an equally exciting show with recent Steamboat Stinger winner Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joe’s) leading the way early in the race. The Tokyo Joe’s rider started fast and put big time gaps on her competitors including local racer Meghan Sheridan (UtahMountainBiking.com) who occupied second place for much of the day and Kelly Boniface (Moots) riding in third.
Reeves out climbed everyone early on and did even more damage on the descents easily winning the mid-race enduro segment as well as every other descent on the 72-mile course.
As the riders descended into Park City Mountain Resort Reeves held close to 10 minutes on her nearest rival, which at that point was Kelly Boniface. Boniface had jumped in front of Sheridan but both left PCMR in sight of each other.
With just 20 miles between Park City Mountain Resort and the finish, some racers begin to relax, feeling like the finish is almost in their grasp. That strategy has been proven wrong in the past as a nasty mixture of big climbs, abusive rock gardens, and daunting downhills await riders in these last miles and can be the difference between a great and terrible finish.
A lot can happen in the final two hours of the Point 2 Point.
Reeves was so far ahead it seemed no one could catch her, certainly not the fourth placed rider Marlee Dixon (Epic Brewing/MTBRaceNews.com). No one told Dixon that however as she blew through the Park City feedzone without stopping and quickly gobbled up both Sheridan and Boniface.
Dixon, who recently won three stages at the Breck Epic, had been riding in fourth for most of the day but refused to have a worse finish than her third place here in 2013.
A slow start seemed to leave plenty of gas in her tank as she now focused on catching Reeves in first. At the same time Reeves seemed to be having her roughest patch of the race. Not feeling well throughout the final stretches of the race.
Luckily for the Tokyo Joe’s rider she had done enough work in the early miles of the race. Her lead dwindled throughout the final 20 miles but not enough to cost her a race win.
She crossed the line with a well-deserved win after 7 hours and 46 minutes of racing. Dixon crossed the line just 1 minute 12 seconds later. So close they could see each other on the final downhill.
Kelly Boniface stayed strong to the finish, coming home in third and avoiding the back issues that have plagued her in other long distance races.
Meghan Sheridan was the first Utah rider to cross the line in fourth followed by Carrie Porter in fifth.
– Park City Point 2 Point had equal purses for the open men and women with the winner taking home a check for $2,000.
– The Point 2 Point hosted a full field of 350 racers from 24 different states.
– 63-year-old Brad Mullen has raced every edition of the Point 2 Point and was this year’s oldest finisher.
– Cynthia Taff, from Murrieta, California, completed the race to become the oldest female finisher at age 51. She broke into tears after crossing the finish line.
See results in this issue.