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Cyclocross racer and Colorado Mesa University almost-graduate Scott Funston (Blue) won the third Wild Horse Gravel from a front group of three in an event that included six-time Leadville winner Dave Wiens, world individual pursuit champion Ashton Lambie, and Olympic medalist Bobby Julich, among others.
Nick Gould (Mazda-Lauf) and Nate Maddox were second and third on a day that saw many a rider flat or drop their chain on a rough, backcountry course in western Colorado.
Funston put his ’cross skills to use to catch an attacking Gould on the final long downhill.
“Cyclocross is my main thing,” said Funston, for whom Wild Horse was his second-ever gravel event. “I am very adequate on the bike. The distance is what gets me.”
Although relatively short at 65 miles, Wild Horse Gravel featured 5,500 feet of climbing on a course that topped out at 8,200 feet.
How it played out
After a neutral start, racers wound up the pace from the small town of De Beque, Colorado, with Jake Magee (Vantage Freight) stringing out the group as soon as the race proper began.
Gould was aggressive early, taking a solo flyer with the chase taken up by Wiens and Lambie.
Within 10 miles of racing, the front group was down to about 10 riders.
Magee would be one of many riders sidelined with a flat tire. Tony Olson (Rio Grande) broke a wheel, taking him out for the day. Chris Schroeder was one of a few riders on 1x bikes who would drop a chain, and be forced to stop and put it back on by hand.
A few collegiate riders from the nearby Colorado Mesa University made a strong showing, including Troy Fields.
As the course continued to climb and the road narrowed into the width of a two-track, Fields, Funston, and Gould found themselves alone off the front.
The stiffest climb of the day came about 15 miles from the finish, where the grade pitched to over 20 percent and forced many riders to walk.
Gould was able to drop Funston on this climb.
“Nick pushed the pace up the hill,” Funston said. “He was starting to get away from me, then we hit the walls at the top, and while I kinda came back to him, but I did it a little too aggressively and I paid for it. So he had maybe 10 seconds on me over the top.”
While most riders walked, Funston and Gould stayed on the bike.
“The $1,200 was the only thing that kept me on my bike,” Funston said with a laugh, referencing the winner’s prize money. “Let me tell you, any other time, I would have been off my bike.”
Fields would suffer bike trouble, though, which had him sitting down at the mechanic’s tent atop the course’s high point.
On the fast descent that followed, Funston caught Gould and the pair rode together, thinking that perhaps a two-up sprint at the race’s homebase of The High Lonesome Ranch would be how the winner would be determined.
Instead, yet another mechanical came into play. Blazing over a cattle guard, Gould’s chain popped off. As others had done multiple times in the race, Gould stopped and hopped off to put it back on. However, Gould had a chain guard on his bike, and he was unable to simply put the chain back on. Instead, out came his multitool to loosen the chain guard, and up the road went Funston.
“The dropped chain was a bummer, but I graduate college next week, and I don’t have a job yet,” Funston said. “So I gotta make some money somehow. I just time trialed it in. It was the longest 7 miles of downhill I have ever done. On those rollers, I was so shot, I was just doing maybe 300 watts over the top.”
At day’s end, it was enough to notch Funston’s first gravel win, with the prize money a nice college graduation present to himself.
2022 Wild Horse Gravel
- Scott Funston (Blue), 3:06:30
- Nick Gould (Mazda-Lauf), 3:08:45
- Nate Maddox, 3:10:39
- Daxton Mock, 3:13:21
- David Wiens (Topeak-Ergon-Canyon), 3:13:30
- Tyler Jones (Kind Bikes and Skis), 3:19:25
- Joe Goettl (Scheels Utah), 3:20:19
- Ashton Lambie (Jukebox Cycling), 3:22:52
- Ben Delaney (VeloNews), 3:29:10
- John Breznicky, 3:33:47