Morgan Elliott repeats as Power of Four 50k champ; Van Horn wins Triple Crown title
Morgan Elliott tried his hand at alpine ski touring last winter, going as far as competing in the famed Grand Traverse ski-mountaineering race. It was fun and all, but as Elliott put it, “I’d rather run, man.”
Elliott, a 25-year-old originally from Pennsylvania, is pretty good at that running thing. Last year, he won the Audi Power of Four 50k ultra foot race in his first try. The race is part of the Altra U.S. Skyrunner Series, of which Elliott won the overall five-race ultra series in 2016, highlighted by his win in Aspen.
On Sunday, Elliott returned to defend his Power of Four title and did just that, winning the 50k race in 5 hours, 6 minutes, 22 seconds, roughly 11 minutes quicker than last year. The full 50k course took runners over all four area ski mountains, beginning with Aspen Mountain, then onto Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and finally Snowmass.
“It all went pretty well. Had a little bit of a mishap on injury two weeks ago, but fortunately it all came together,” Elliott said. “It was really cool this time around to see the mountain and know where I was this time, because I skied it all.”
Elliott, who now considers North Carolina home as that’s where his family currently lives, moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in October after being nudged by a few of his friends. He did the winter thing in Aspen, but his niche is certainly trail running in summer.
He currently works a couple times a week at Independence Run and Hike in Carbondale. His manager, Sean Van Horn, took second in Sunday’s 50k ultra, finishing in 5:25:02.1. Van Horn was close enough, at least early on, to give Elliott a little bit of motivation to keep his pace up.
“He definitely pushed me and made me scared going up Highlands because he was right there,” Elliott said. “So that was the difference (from last year) — turning around every now and then and seeing what he was up to.”
Van Horn, 30, was competing in the Power of Four foot race for the first time. With lingering back problems and fresh off competing in Saturday’s Power of Four mountain bike race, he held no dreams of being able to chase down Elliott over the 50-kilometer race Sunday, nor did he believe getting second was a real possibility.
“I had no plans of being anywhere near the front. It just kind of worked out that way,” Van Horn said. “Morgan is an amazing runner. He’s actually been injured, so the fact that he ran that fast today on limited mileage and having an injury is pretty impressive. He’s young and he’s hungry and he works hard. He’s going to keep getting faster.”
Rounding out the 50k podium on Sunday in Snowmass Village was Weston Hill. The New Zealander finished in 5:34:53.2, just over 28 minutes behind Elliott.
Van Horn took to the podium twice Sunday. The second time was to be recognized for being the Audi Power of Four Race Series Triple Crown champion. Winning the Triple Crown means having the best combined time between the three Power of Four races — the foot race, the mountain bike race and winter’s skimo race. He held off Aspen frequenter Bob Africa for the three-race title. Glenwood’s John Patrick was third.
“It was my first time doing it. I’m relatively new to skimo,” Van Horn said of his Triple Crown feat. “If you live in the Roaring Fork Valley it makes sense you are going to just get in the mountains as much as possible and skiing is the conduit to do that in the winter and running and biking in the summer.”
Van Horn hopes to compete a few more times this summer, but as of now has no big plans. Elliott will likely return to his nomadic lifestyle, racing around the country. He plans to help out with the upcoming Leadville 100 (he won’t be competing) before racing in “The Rut” in Big Sky, Montana, which also is part of the Skyrunner Series.
Seeing Elliott back in Aspen isn’t out of the question, although seeing him compete for the Power of Four Triple Crown anytime soon might be a stretch.
“I picked up alpine touring,” Elliott said. “That was one of the things that brought me out here. Did not like alpine touring. It’s not my thing.”
In Sunday’s 25k race, which started at the base of Tiehack at Buttermilk before finishing in Snowmass, California’s David Roche took the top spot. His time of 1:57:29.5 edged Pueblo’s Samson Mutua (2:00:28) and Oregon’s Devin Vanscoy (2:04:49.5).
Nevada’s Chris Kroger won the 10k race with a time of 46:24.5. In second was Houston’s Alan McClain (53:09.1) and third among men was Miami’s Jonathan Friedland (57:03).
Alone at the top
Basalt’s Maddy Fones was in a class of her own on Sunday.
As it turned out, she was the only woman to compete in all three Power of Four Race Series events in 2017 — Sunday’s foot race, Saturday’s mountain bike race and February’s ski mountaineering race — making her this year’s Triple Crown winner.
She had the podium completely to herself on Sunday in Snowmass Village.
“It was fun. Next year I’d like to have other females up there with me,” Fones said. “In the future all the fast people are going to come and they are just going to slaughter me, but since this is the first time, I got a free pass.”
February’s Power of Four skimo race was the first of its kind for the 25-year-old Fones. Her mountain biking career spans all of six weeks. She is an adept runner, however, although the longer distances are a bit new to her repertoire. Fones finished Sunday’s 50k race in 7:36:09.2, which was sixth among women.
Only seven women competed in the full Power of Four mountain bike race on Saturday. Fones proudly took seventh.
“So, I got last place of women on the bike. I started biking six weeks ago, so that was a little hilarious,” Fones said. “I really like the run. I don’t know about the mountain bike. I got to practice, because I fell like 15 times and I was saying sorry to every single person on the course. I told every aid station, ‘Just pray that I cross the finish line, because right now things aren’t looking great.’”
Still, Fones was the only woman to attempt all three races this year, giving her the Triple Crown spotlight on Sunday. Whether she goes for the crown again next year depends on her confidence on a mountain bike, which right now is a bit lacking.
“I’m not actually that fast, but I had a really fun time,” Fones said. “It’s not that fun when no one else does it. But it was good. It was my first mountain bike race and my first ski race. I’m happy that it gave me the opportunity to be up there.”
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