By Shannon Boffeli
Saturday September 1, 2018 saw the 10th edition of the Park City Point 2 Point endurance mountain bike race in Park City, Utah.
In its tenth year, and ninth consecutive sellout, the Point 2 Point reached new heights in racer satisfaction and competition. With a field of 350 hearty souls and some the North America’s best mountain bike racers toeing the line, the Point 2 Point got rolling just as the sun crested the mountains; seventy-five miles of endless singletrack and over 10,000 feet of climbing lay ahead.
Riders come from all over to enjoy and suffer on the miles and miles of Park City’s IMBA Gold certified mountain bike trails capping off the racing season and hopefully taking home some cash and prizes too.
Giving away almost $12,000 in cash for podium finishers and thousands more in prizes, the Point 2 Point gives riders everything they could imagine and more. And once they throw in unique prizes like the “I am Somebody Prize,” a free Scott bike that goes to a randomly selected race finisher and the Red Lantern prize package, every participant has a chance to come away with more than just an exceptional singletrack experience.
This year’s event saw top-notch riders like Geoff Kabush (Yeti/Maxxis), teammates Ben Sonntag and Russell Finsterwald (Clif), Aussie Ryan Standish (Orange Seal/Merida), 6-time P2P winner Alex Grant (Cannondale/Gear Rush), Jamey Driscoll (Pivot/Maxxis), and youngster Zach Calton (Spry/Legacy).
The leaders started off on what seemed a leisurely pace for the first hour before Jamey Driscoll heated things up getting off the front and creating the first selection of the day.
The chase group made contact with Driscoll around mile 30, with all the top talent still represented in the group. Rob Squire briefly gave it a go trying to break things up on the long Corvair and John’s trail descents but couldn’t shake the top talent.
On the subsequent climb Finsterwald, Grant, and impressive 21-year-old Zach Calton began their rise to the top of the race.
At the Park City feedzone, mile-53 in the race, this trio attacked the final big climb of the day wheel to wheel. The climb up Armstrong trail is over 1,000 vertical feet of winding singletrack and unrelenting elevation gain. It has also been the location of the decisive attack in each of Alex Grant’s six previous P2P wins.
“We we’re rolling up Armstrong at a pretty good pace,” Grant shared after the finish. “Russell was leading and seemed to be feeling strong. I could feel Zach suffering a little bit and suddenly Russell said ‘I gotta stop’. I wasn’t sure what was up.”
After a few soft pedals to see if Finsterwald would continue on, Grant decided this was his time to go. The Cannondale rider flexed his climbing muscles and quickly opened a gap on his breakaway compatriots.
Behind the leader, Calton moved into the runner-up spot as Finsterwald was forced to dismount to negotiate a natural break of a secondary nature.
Sonntag, Standish, Driscoll, and Kabush were chasing hard behind.
Calton started to feel the first 55 miles in this final stretch and drifted back to the chasers with the Clif duo of Finsterwald and Sonntag shuffling Calton into the four spot.
In the end, no one could bring Alex Grant back. After missing several years because of injury and family life, Grant was back on the top step of the Park City Point 2 Point taking the win by over 4 minutes. This time greeted by his wife and daughters at the finish line.
Grant, the lone leader, was followed by Russell Finsterwald who was just seconds in front of his teammate Ben Sonntag.
Zach Calton looked poised to take the final podium spot. He put his head down sprinting toward what he thought was the line. In heartbreaking fashion however he missed the final turn into the finish. Calton was in sight of the finish line arch as dozens of spectators yelled, waived, jumped up and down and did anything they could to get his attention.
Sadly for the youngster, by the time he had corrected his route Jamey Driscoll and Geoff Kabush had snuck in to take the final step on the podium. Calton, recent winner of the Crusher in the Tushar, would have to settle for sixth.
Kabush had put in his familiar fast finish over the last 20 miles of the race. The former Canadian national champion passed Standish on his way to the finish before disaster struck almost within sight of the line.
“I was on the final rocky descent and things were going really well until they weren’t.” said a bruised and battered Kabush at the finish. “I felt like I was downhilling really fast until I hooked a tree and ended up on the ground.”
Unfortunately for the Canadian, he went down on the Iron Bill descent which has almost no actual “ground’ as it is mostly just rocks piled on top of rocks. Kabush limped in for the final podium spot with torn up shorts, a bleeding hip, deep abrasions down his back, and a deep laceration on his left elbow that would require stitches to close.
One of the most talented women’s field ever assembled for the Park City Point 2 Point took the start Saturday morning. Defending champion Larissa Connors (Twenty20/Felt) would be challenged by previous P2P winner Evelyn Dong (Spry Cycles/NoTubes), Singletrack 6 winner and Canadian Jena Greaser (Gear Hub Sports/Rocky Mountain), Aspen Power of 4 winner Marlee Dixon (Pearl Izumi/Pivot), and 23-year-old Luna rider Hannah Finchamp.
As she did last year, Larrisa Connors got off to a fast start already opening up a big lead by the first feed zone at Deer Valley resort. Not far behind was Evelyn Dong and Marlee Dixon who followed in third after getting past Greaser and Finchamp.
Connors appeared to be on a tear as she crested the first big climb before the Corvair descent. Dong continued to occupy the runner-up spot followed by Dixon with Finchamp closing in.
Dixon was able to hold off her challenger through the aspen-tree-maze of John’s trail but on the subsequent climb Finchamp’s climbing legs kicked in and she caught and passed Dixon opening up a several minute gap before the next descent where Dixon closed down the advantage to mere seconds before Finchamp dealt the final blow on the Armstrong climb.
All the action behind did nothing to bring back the sole leader as Larissa Connors’ lead continued to grow reaching just over 10 minutes by the finish.
Evelyn Dong rolled in second followed by Finchamp and Dixon in fourth.
The final podium spot of the day went to KC Holley (Kuhl) who is a veteran of the P2P and turned in one of her best rides overcoming Greaser, Meghan Sheridan (Bingham’s), and Nicole Tittensor (Scott) on her way to the podium.
As impressive a win as it was for Connors, what she did after the race was perhaps the highlight of her performance.
For the second year in a row, Connors, a school teacher, donated her $2,000 winner’s check to the Summit Bike Club junior development program. And after 75 miles and over 10,000 feet of climbing Connors took her turn on the podium, grabbed a bite to eat and went out to ride another 28 miles. Why? Because she wanted to get over 100 miles in for the day.
With all the podiums done and most the riders on their way home one prize was left for Jay Burke and the Park City Point 2 Point staff to hand out: The Red Lantern Prize Pack. An annual recognition of the final rider to cross the finish line, the red lantern is a special acknowledgement of the rider who pushed themselves the most to earn the title of Point 2 Point finisher.
This year’s lantern went to open women’s rider Lucie Kayser-Bril. Kayser-Bril dug deep and persevered to finish with a time of 12 hours and 45 minutes. Crossing the finish line just before dark with her husband and children cheering her in.
Over six hours after race leader Alex Grant finished, Lucie Kayser-Bril marked a successful end to the tenth edition of Utah’s premier mountain bike event; the Park City Point 2 Point.
Shannon Boffeli is the managing editor for mtbracenews.com and part of the @pearlizumi_pivotmtb_team