By Shannon Boffeli –
Park City MTB Race Features 75 Miles of Singletrack
Park City, Utah – In its 8th year the Park City Point 2 Point continues to establish itself as a favorite of racers throughout the country. Over 75 miles the Point 2 Point circumnavigates the resort town of Park City, Utah, traversing the Wasatch mountains and the two world-class ski resorts of Deer Valley and Park City/Canyons.
A classic fall scene greeted the riders on September 3, 2016 as the maples of the Wasatch range speckled the 9,000 foot peaks with shades of red and yellow and temperatures on race day hovered in the mid-seventies. Overnight rains tamped down the dust on a landscape that hadn’t seen rain in almost 80 days.
Riders were twitching with anticipation as Fruit Loops, fired from a potato gun, rained from the sky signifying the start of the race.
Pro Men’s and Women’s Recap
The race was won by Keegan Swenson (Cannondale) who posted a mind-bending and record time of 6:11:04, winning the race over Ben Sonntag (Clif Bar), and Rob Squire (Felt/Assos).
Colorado-based rider Gretchen Reeves took the women’s title, her second win of the Park City event. Marlee Dixon (Pivot/DNA Cycling) crossed the line in second followed by Sofia Gomez-Villafane (Competitive Cyclist).
In the open men’s group everyone expected a showdown between Park City native Keegan Swenson (Cannondale), who also happens to be one of the United States top World Cup racers, last year’s winner Rob Squire (Felt/Assos), and multi-year Point 2 Point runner-up Ben Sonntag (Clif Bar).
And the trio didn’t disappoint as the created a clear separation early in the race and continued to power away from the chasers.
Around mile 32 the three leaders approached the base of the Team Big Bear climb, the steepest of the races early climbs, Swenson’s pace opened a slight gap that Sonntag was unable to cover. Squire attacked around the Clif Bar rider in an effort to close the gap but the separation stayed.
“I felt it might be a little early for me to be on my own,” Swenson shared after the finish, “But I figured if I kept Robbie off my wheel on the descents and didn’t let him follow my line I could keep putting time on him.”
The strategy seemed to work as Swenson crushed the enduro segment by over a minute on Squire and Sonntag.
With some climbing mixed in, Swenson went to work on the John’s trail, Powerline, and Crescent Mine Grade descents and had over 8 minutes in hand by the time he reached the Park City feedzone at mile 55. Still looking fresh with an all but insurmountable gap all that was left for the young Cannondale phenom was the course record, set by his teammate and 6-time Point 2 Point winner Alex Grant, of 6:16:31.
Out front most of the day, Keegan Swenson steered clear of any trouble and hammered his way through the final sections of the course in record time. He crossed the line 15 minutes in front of second place with an incredible finish time of 6:11:04 to take home the $2,000 race winner’s purse plus an extra $100 for posting the fastest time in the enduro segment.
Sonntag cross the line with a time that would have won in 2015 of 6:26:00. Rob Squire put his misfortune behind him for third place at 6:33:17.
The women’s group packed equal punch with previous winner Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joe’s), multi-year runner-up Marlee Dixon (Pivot/DNA Cycling), Canada’s U23 national champion in 2011 Mikaela Kofman (Ridebiker/Liv), reigning collegiate cyclocross national champion Sofia Gomez-Villafane, and local speedster Nicole Tittensor (Scott).
The front group formed early with Kofman, Reeves, Dixon, and Gomez-Villafane establishing an early lead.
Kofman and Reeves would break away to form a lead group surging ahead on the climbs and rollers in Round Valley and on their way to Deer Valley Resort.
Kofman eventually faded, and Marlee Dixon took her place in second.
By the end Reeves would claim her second Point 2 Point title by just over 16 minutes with a time of 7:34:52. The Avon, Colorado, rider posted on Facebook later that the Point 2 Point is the toughest single-day race she has done.
Marlee Dixon powered through the finishing miles of the race to take another second place at Canyons Resort with a time of 7:49:59.
Sofia Gomez-Villafane finished in third, Nicole Tittensor in fourth, with Kofman rounding out the top five.
Point to Point Not Just About the Pros
While it’s a premier professional event, the Park City Point 2 Point isn’t only about the pros. Originator of several unique event promotions the Point 2 Point strives to provide a rewarding experience for everyone. A raffle just for showing up to the pre-race meeting sent one rider home with a $500 cooler from Yeti. The “I’m Somebody” award sent Robert McDonald home with a brand new frame from Scott for being the 68th rider to cross the finish line.
The most difficult of all awards to take home from the Point 2 Point however is the Red Lantern award for the final rider to finish the race.
While the race winner completed the course in just over 6 hours the annual Red Lantern winner usually rolls in closer to the 12 hour mark, a truly heroic effort that takes all the strength and perseverance someone has, an effort that should clearly be rewarded. This year the prize went to Lyna Saffell (Bingham’s Cyclery) with a time of 12:23:45. Lyna was greeted at the finish by her husband Bob and the traditional red lantern along with a bike shower kit provided by Rinse Kit. Lyna is a veteran and finisher of multiple editions of the Point 2 Point but this one may have been her most challenging. At the finish she shared some of her thoughts:
“I do the Point 2 Point because of the super fun trail system, it’s a well run event and to challenge myself. I wasn’t the last rider on the course until Armstrong trail (the final long climb on the course at about 2,000 vertical feet).
I thought about turning around a lot. In fact, I have never entertained the idea of calling it quits for as long as I did on Armstrong. We all know Armstrong is a gradual smooth climb and I am walking, riding, walking, riding. Other riders would cheer me on or ask if I was ok when they passed. I was pretty frustrated with myself but I had already ridden 58 miles. So, if I did turn around now, would I be ok with it tomorrow?
I didn’t have a mechanical or a crash or even a single flat. My body didn’t want to go anymore.
I forced myself to eat even though I felt sick to my stomach and keep moving forward. I looked up and saw Ed Chauner (former director of the Intermountain Cup)! All of a sudden it took me back to when I first started riding/racing in the Intermountain Cup racing series and smiled. He gave me a biker push and next thing I knew I made it to Mid-Mountain trail. No turning back on Mid-Mountain. No bale out points. I knew once I was on that trail I had made my choice. As, I neared the Colony, I was hopeful of a Coke. And, YES! there was a Coke waiting for me. There was talk of the first finisher completed the course in 6 hours and something. I looked down at my Garmin and felt discouraged. Ten miles left, at least 5 of that would be descending. Ok, even if I have to walk five miles I can do it.
I am not going to lie, there were some dark thoughts, even tears, but I want to finish this thing. It is a bit uncomfortable how close you get to your inner self. But I chose this, I wanted this, I freely elected to participate in this.
“Riding my bike is a gift”, Bob says this all the time. He is right. It is a gift. Just like all the trees and turning leaves. But when I am physically suffering it can be hard to remember. All, I can say, is I was so happy to cross the finish line. For me, it is about finishing. I felt so loved and supported when I finished. I have the best hubby and some amazing friends.
I’ll be back next year. Maybe as a volunteer, maybe as a racer. But the truth is, sometimes we don’t know if we get to do something again. So, for today, I am really happy I pushed through the darkness, it sure is bright now.”
After the crossing the line riders and spectators spread out onto the lush lawn surrounding the finishing at Canyons Resort. Both exhausted and elated, riders of all levels spun tales of their shared 75-mile struggles over free drinks and meals provided by the event organizers. After 8 years the quality of the Park City Point 2 Point remains high; from the racecourse to the volunteers and race organizers, this five-star event keeps packing in the participants year after year.
Registration for the 2017 Park City Point 2 Point starts in February. The event has sold out in under 10 minutes that past 6 years so get ready when the exact date is announced.
See the results section in this issue category placings.