Nash wins the ‘Ridge’ |

Nash wins the ‘Ridge’

Photo by David Ranson/Sun News ServiceMonte Boyle, left, of Reno, and Truckee's Katerina Nash, of the LUNA Women's Mountain Bike Team, begin their second loop at the Jetway Chevrolet Rainbow Ridge Challenge in Churchhill County, Nev., last Sunday. Nash placed first in the professional/semi-pro (female) division.

The sun peeked through the clouds at the right time Sunday on Rainbow Ridge.

While ominous clouds hugged Nevada’s Lahontan Valley, pelting the area with rain, the same storm system skirted the sixth running of the Jetway Chevrolet Rainbow Ridge Challenge, a mountain bike race that riders say covered some of the steepest hills in Churchill County.

With the completion of the Rainbow Ridge Challenge, a potful of prize money neighboring $3,000 also awaited the top winners in six categories. Approximately 44 racers competed in 15 divisions ranging from professional and semi-pro to junior beginner.

Truckee’s Katerina Nash and Kyle Dixon, a Fallon physical therapist, defended their respective divisions of the pro/semi-pro category. They each won last year. Their first-place victories earned them $500. The second-place finishers took home $250 and the third-place riders collected $175.

“There was so much climbing. It comes down to being in shape. I’ve been training specifically with interval and speed work,” Dixon said. “The course is so challenging.”

The course included one six-mile loop approximately 20 miles east of Fallon. The start and finish line began at the 4,150-feet elevation, but as the mountain bikers tackled the course, they soon discovered some of the steepest climbs. Between the third and fourth, the trail climbed to almost 4,750 feet and then steadily descended to the finish line.

Experienced racers such as Nash and Dixon had to complete three loops, while the sportsman classes required two laps and the beginners one loop.

As a professional racer, Nash has seen many courses in this country and in Europe. She was impressed with the difficulty Rainbow Ridge presents.

“I like that course. I like the challenge of the climbing, and some hills are steep. That’s good,” she said. “You have to push yourself harder. The downhills are also challenging.”

Nash finished the course in 1:41.41.

“Overall, it’s a great race, and I enjoyed it,” she said.

During the first weekend of May, Nash travels to Southern California to compete in a national race, and then heads to Europe for three weekends of international racing.

Even with a break in the weather, Jorge Guerrero, recreation supervisor with the Churchill County Parks and Recreation, said this year’s bike count was down.

“We were expecting about 100 racers. The weather knocked us out,” Guerrero said. “We had our doubts. We knew we had some diehards and some who waited until the morning to see (the weather).”

Actually, Guerrero half-heartedly said the most challenging part of race didn’t deal with the ridges; instead, the muddy, rutted clay road winding into the staging area from U.S. Highway 50 was virtually impassable for vehicles other than four-wheel drives.

Other racers, though, seemed pleased with their rides.

South Lake Tahoe, Calif., biker Dave Alexander raced in the beginners’ division even though he has been bike rider for 15 years.

“This was my first race ever and the first time on a bike in four months,” he said.

As a beginner, Alexander rode the loop once, finishing the course in 49 minutes, 6 seconds, good enough for first place in beginning master, males 40 and older.

“I’m happy with that” he said of his time.

Alexander, though, was impressed with the different challenges Rainbow Ridge presented to the bikers.

“There were a lot of technical hills,” Alexander said, explaining how technique works to a biker’s advantage in navigating certain climbs and descents.

Alexander’s wife, Valerie, said the hills presented her with many challenges. She also finished the loop in under one hour.

Tyler Blodgett, 15, of Reno, won last year’s Nevada state title as a junior racer. Sunday’s race seemed to invigorate the North Valleys High School student to repeat his title.

“I didn’t do the course last year, but this one has steep uphills,” said Blodgett, the race’s youngest racer.

His father, Eric Blodgett, said the race provided him with a good workout. The elder Blodgett finished second to Alexander in 57:47.

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