Alex Grant, Larissa Connors, win Park City Point 2 Point
September 5, 2018
The Park City Point 2 Point mountain bike race rolled through Summit County's trails last weekend. The 75-mile race drew a deep roster of competitive cyclists, especially on the men's side.
Race director Jay Burke said there were 15 competitors who could have easily been contenders for the top spot in the race.
Among those competitors were international-level athletes like U.S. national cyclocross champion Jamey Driscoll, a Parkite, three-time Olympian and 15-time Canadian national champion bike racer Geoff Kaubush, USA Cycling U23 cross-country mountain bike national champion and 2015 short-track national champion Russell Finsterwald and up-and-comer Zack Kalter, who recently won the Crusher in the Tushar race in Beaver.
But this year's event also featured the winningest Point 2 Point racer, Alex Grant, and his experience proved valuable in taking his seventh win.
Burke called the Salt Lake rider the "undisputed king of the race" after the 37-year old crossed the finish line in 6 hours, 8 minutes and 24 seconds, just a couple minutes behind the overall record set by local rider Keegan Swenson last year at 6:06:57.
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Grant said he started the race slowly, getting a stick wedged in his dérailleur as he entered the first dirt section of the race. He chased back up near the front of the group, then kept a "mellow" pace among the leaders through Round Valley, where Driscoll made a break away from the peloton. According to Grant, Driscoll led by more than two minutes going into the Prospector area.
"We slowly started chipping it back," Grant said, and by the time he had reached the Shadow Lake trail, Kalter, Finsterwald and Grant broke away. Grant took the lead on the Armstrong trail, holding it through the finish line at the Skullcandy headquarters.
"It was just one of those (races where) people were showing their cards and you don't know until Armstrong who is going to be the strongest," he said.
Grant hadn't been in that shakeout for a long time.
The last time Grant raced the Point 2 Point was in 2014, when he won for the sixth time and was still the only person to have won the overall race. In 2015 he was double booked with the cross-country mountain bike World Championship. Then, in 2016, he broke his calcaneus bone in his heel, and last year his second child was born two days before the race.
"I couldn't be happier to come back and get another win in," he said. "It's crazy. It feels good. I've obviously had a good run here, and this race treats me well, so I'm lucky to be a part of it."
The champion's post-race plans included dinner and bath time for his two kids, then bed.
Next, he plans on riding in the Epic Rides finals in Bentonville, Arkansas, in early October.
While the women's pro competition was not quite as stacked as the men's, it too drew a heavy-hitting roster which included previous winner Marlee Dixon, Midway rider Evelyn Dong, who took 17th in this year's U.S. cross-country national championships, and Salt Lake resident Hannah Finchamp, who took ninth in the same competition.
But it was Larissa Connors, of Silverado, California, who finished first. She crossed the finish line with a time of 7:16.20. It was the second year running that the elite endurance racer had won both the Point 2 Point and the Leadville 100.
Connors, a teacher in her life outside of racing, said she had a great day on her bike. After a strong start she kept pushing through the competition and led for most of the race.
"I knew most of the girls, and they mostly race shorter stuff and I mostly race longer than this, so we were meeting in the middle," she said. "It was an interesting field and I didn't know how things were going to go down."
She finished with a solid 10 minute lead over Dong, who finished in 7:26:22.
Connors said she was drawn to the race after not having a chance to ride in Utah over the summer. The 32-year old has a strong group of friends in the area, and said she was looking forward to seeing them.
Connors said she would donate her $2,000 in prize money to Summit Bike Club, a cycling club in Salt Lake City, to help more cyclists get into mountain bike racing.
"This race pays really well, but one of my biggest issues with the world of cycling is the disparity of access that young people have," she said. "If you come from money it's a lot easier to get involved with the sport and to be successful. (Summit Bike Club) does a really good job giving kids opportunities who wouldn't otherwise have them to go race in Europe and give them the exposure they need to develop their skills. And I think that's really cool and really valuable to me. That's why I love this race."
A full list of results is available at: thepcpp.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/2018-Overall-Resultsver2.pdf
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