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Fat tire sisterhood flourishes and Katie Compton wins pro/open race at Beti Bike Bash

June 3, 2014
Jenny Smith enjoys luxury treatment at the Beti Bike Bash pro/open race start line

Jenny Smith enjoys luxury treatment at the Beti Bike Bash pro/open race start line

[updated 6/3/2014 with video]

Is Beti Bike Bash about mountain bike racing or community support for women on fat tires?

Riders who started Sunday’s pro/open competition included well-known ladies like Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective), Luna Pro Team’s Teal Stetson-Lee, Heather Irmiger (Trek Factory Enduro), and Nicole Duke (Marin/Spy), all current or former national champions in a cycling discipline. The group battled for a $4,000 purse. The pace? Fast for a mountain bike race. Twenty miles in 75 minutes for the top finishers.

“I wasn’t under threshold at any time,” said Deirdre York (Red Ace Organics) about the pro/open race effort.

Smells like a race.

They competed on a four-mile undulating circuit consisting predominantly of beginner’s singletrack: smooth, packed surface with short climbs and descents. In fact, York summarized the track in total as “flat.” She explained: “The climbs aren’t long enough to make a difference and there aren’t any technical sections to separate the riders.”

There’s a reason for the course selection at the Bear Creek Lake Park venue in Morrison, Colorado. It’s designed to attract any level of rider so even the “never-evers” can enter a race in a low pressure environment.

Little Bella brigade in Bear Creek Lake Park

Little Bella brigade in Bear Creek Lake Park

“I specifically asked my team to be at this race,” Stetson-Lee said, after signing another jersey on the back of a Little Bella girl.

“I wanted Luna to have a presence here. It’s great for all women. Just look at all these girls.” Steps away from where she stood in the park after the day’s racing was done, a flotilla of Little Bellas adorned in sparkly face paint, helmets secure, readied their bikes for a ride.

Little Bellas is a mountain bike program which aims to help young women realize their potential through cycling. The Beti formed part of a two-day camp for the girls.

Wigman

Wigman

Ask one of the men present under the intense sunshine on Sunday if it would make sense to add a token men’s race to the Beti Bike Bash. He’d vigorously shake his head “no.” He’d say it’s a day for the men to support the women. They filled water bottles. They shepherded the children. Wigman cheered everyone up the last hill into the finish line.

Sounds like support for women on fat tires. Or any bike tire, really.

In fact, the Beti Bike Bash succeeded on all accounts. Race director Amy Thomas said registered riders numbered about 400, the largest in a now five-year history. Most sponsors have continued to support the event since year one; Stan’s NoTubes joined in year two. The event’s website claims it’s the largest women’s mountain bike event in the country.

Here the definition of women embraces all age groups. The latest races on the schedule belonged not to the headliner adults, but the junior girls. Even after cheering for their favorite women who raced earlier in the day – including mom, aunt, and sister, they sped off the mini-circuit start line with mouths set in straight lines.

Larry Grossman interviews a Beti Bike Bash junior competitor

Larry Grossman interviews a Beti Bike Bash junior competitor

Several braved short interviews with race announcer Larry Grossman. “What’s the best thing about today?” he asked one girl who had just completed her race.

“It’s fun,” she replied.

Grossman had his hands full as one after another the young ladies arrived under the finish line. An hour earlier Grossman kept busy commentating on the pro/open race; while short on time at 75 minutes, it was long on action at the front.

Pro/open race action

Over twenty riders took the start. In the front row Jenny Smith (Stan’s NoTubes) enjoyed the luxury of an escort shading her with an umbrella. That would be the only relief from the sun during five laps on a nearly treeless course flush with tall grass thanks to recent rain.

2014 Beti Bike Bash pro/open start

2014 Beti Bike Bash pro/open start

Stetson-Lee and Amy Beisel (Giant Tuff Shed) took the early lead in lap one and gained about twenty seconds on a large chase group. Those pursers included Compton – who had worked her way to fourth on the trail after starting in the back of the grid, Alexis Skarda (Bicycle Outfitters), Tough Girl’s Rebecca Gross, Rebecca Dussault (Mass Start), Smith, and Megan Carrington (Naked Women’s Racing).

“I knew if we rode around slow the first lap then we would be battling with 15 or 20 women instead of like five or six,” Stetson-Lee said after the race. “So I drilled it super-hard on the first lap and it paid off because I won the prime but then I also was really tired after that.”

Beisel and the Luna rider worked well together. In the second lap Beisel took over at the front while Stetson-Lee recovered and began to think the pair could stay away. However, as she later recounted, by the third lap several chasers were gaining ground.

“And then Katie Compton made a pass – she was holding onto our wheel – and blew by us. And I could tell she was just trying to ride off the front, doing her solo cyclocross-style thing. And so Amy [Beisel] and I were like, ‘Don’t let that wheel go, hold on!’”

Stetson-Lee & Amy Beisel hunt Compton's wheel in the flats, while Megan Carrington fights to catch them

Stetson-Lee & Amy Beisel hunt Compton’s wheel in the flats, while Megan Carrington fights to catch them

Carrington reached them and the lead group became a foursome that built an unbridgeable gap with two laps remaining.

“Going into the fourth lap Katie looked over her shoulder and full on pulled over to the side to let us by because she realized that she couldn’t ride us off,” the Luna rider said. “So then she got real tactical and held onto all of us for the next lap and a half.”

Compton and Stetson-Lee peeled away from their companions in the final lap.

“And then Katie just put the hammer down on the flats and popped me off the back,” Stetson-Lee recalled.

In the meantime Carrington surged. She passed the Luna rider on one of the last climbs and moved into second on course.

“It was one of those things where I was like, I know I should dig and try to get that wheel up there, but I was pretty blown up by that point,” Stetson-Lee said.

Ahead Compton prepared to celebrate with a victory salute at the line. Just seconds behind Carrington tried to catch the national cyclocross champion on the final punchy ascent. She fell short by only four seconds. Stetson-Lee arrived 21 seconds later for third.

Katie Compton wins the 2014 Beti Bike Bash

Katie Compton wins the 2014 Beti Bike Bash

Before the podium ceremonies – which recognized all classes of competitors together, Compton commented on her result.

“It felt really good because I haven’t won a mountain bike race in a while. I definitely suffered today because it’s warmer than I like, so I think the heat bothered me. But I managed and I actually felt better I think than everybody else in the last lap. It all came together.

“I’m pretty happy with winning simply because I’ve struggled here a couple of times. It’s an early season mountain bike race and it’s warmer.” She laughed as she added, “And I haven’t gone really hard, yet.”

Since ‘cross season ended, Compton’s been riding but not at intensity race effort. She wasn’t sure how the Beti race would go. “But apparently some endurance riding and just pedaling helped me out. It worked.”

She loves riding the mountain bike; racing it, though, is another matter.

“I just like riding at a comfortable pace and going hard on the downhills. Whereas, mountain bike racing, you kind of have to go hard the whole time…you have to go hard in all the places I want to go easy,” she said, speaking about the flats and the climbs.

“So I struggle with the mental part, just sucking up and doing it.”

Many of the 400 Beti participants would likely nod their heads in agreement, thinking of whatever they struggled with across the dry track on Sunday. Even so, they showed up, perhaps because they knew they’d struggle in good company.

After Beisel finished in fourth place, she shared her view on the Beti’s vibe. “Super-friendly, girls to the world. We’re all super-supportive of each other. It’s a great, great event to get women cycling.”

For full results, see the Beti Bike Bash website.

2014 Beti Bike Bash pro/open podium

2014 Beti Bike Bash pro/open podium

Pro/open race video with special guests

Beti photo gallery (more to come)

 

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