While high water spelled flushy conditions for competitors at the Teva Mountain Games’ Bud Light Lime freestyle event, it also meant big air for the riders and even bigger applause from the crowd surrounding the raucous venue in downtown Vail, Colo.
“I haven’t seen it this high in all the years I’ve been here,” says local kayaker Steve Conlin, one of hundreds of spectators on hand to watch the event. “The hole was as big as I’ve ever seen it.”
It was as big as competitors had ever seen it also. Where organizers used to have to dial in an adjustable inflatable barrier to funnel flow toward the feature, this time there was almost too much of a good thing. Indeed, its flushy nature knocked world freestyle kayak champion Nick Troutman out of the final bracket. Competitors like Dustin Urban, meanwhile, were able to work it to their advantage. Urban, a big air maestro from Buena Vista, Colo., used its power to out-duel second-place finisher Jason Craig for the top spot with a 590-point ride, with Casper Van Kalmthout of the Netherlands taking third.
For the women, current world freestyle kayak champion Emily Jackson took control of the hole to throw down an impressive final run en route to a victory over Australia’s Tanya Faux, who was well on her way to sweeping the women’s kayaking comps with victories in both Thursday’s Steep Creek Championship on nearby Homestake Creek and the Down River Sprint held earlier in the day.
Jackson spoke with Paddling Life about the difficulties at this years event: “My final ride was pretty hectic, the score needed to win was one of the lowest of the whole event, but with the higher water it felt like the hardest score to beat ever. After my first ride where I didn’t get any points due to a flush on each one, I was losing confidence in my game plan. But I stuck with it and it paid out in the end.”
Haley Mills from Salida, Colo., rounded out the women’s competition with a third-place finish.
While the high flows might have made things more difficult for the freestyle competitors, they made the course faster for the Bud Light Lime Down River Sprint held earlier in the morning, with racers paddling the three-mile course from East Vail down to the Covered Bridge finish in record time. Mike Dawson eclipsed Homestake Creek Race winner Sam Sutton of New Zealand by just over six seconds to notch the win, with Tao Berman settling for his second third-place finish of the weekend another seven seconds back (Berman also finished third in the Homestake race).
“It went well,” says Sutton, who as well as Homestake also won the creek race in the Paddling Life Invitational a week earlier. “But I just couldn’t catch Dawson. He was just paddling too fast.”
For the women, Faux topped the podium six second ahead of North Carolina’s Adriene Levknecht and 11 seconds ahead of New Zealand’s Nikki Kelly.
Showing you can, in fact, have too much of a good thing, organizers cancelled all of Sunday’s whitewater events due high water.
In all, the Games drew more than 2,000 athletes from around the world to the mountains and rivers of Colorado to compete in eight sports and 24 disciplines for over $100,000 in prize money. Events included kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, road cycling, World Cup Bouldering, amateur climbing, fly-fishing, road and trail running, and stand-up paddling.
BUD LIGHT LIME KAYAK FREESTYLE
PRESENTED BY FIRST ASCENT
1. Dustin Urban – 590 (Buena Vista, CO)
2. Jason Craig – 500 (Reno, NV)
3. Casper Van Kalmthout – 355 (Den Haag, NTL)
1. Emily Jackson – 260 (Rock Island, TN)
2. Tanya Faux – 180 (Alexandra, NZ)
3. Haley Mills – 140 (Salida, CO)
BUD LIGHT LIME DOWN RIVER SPRINT
PRESENTED BY JACKSON KAYAK
1. Mike Dawson – 15:38.34 (Tauranga, BOP)
2. Sam Sutton – 15:46.70 (Rotorua, NZ)
3. Tao Berman – 15:53.26 (White Salmon, WA)
1. Tanya Faux – 16:23.21 (Alexandra, VIC)
2. Adriene Levknecht – 16:29.87 (Flat Rock, NC)
3. Nikki Kelly – 16:34.07 (Rotorua, NZ)