Haley Smith and Payson McElveen win Rebecca’s Private Idaho Queen’s Stage Race
This article originally appeared on Velo News
Haley Smith and Payson McElveen walked away from a long weekend of racing with victories in the Queen’s Stage Race at Rebecca’s Private Idaho.
The three-day stage race (with a day of rest between days 2 and 3) included a mountain bike-heavy day, a 4.5-mile uphill time trial, and a gravel century to top it off.
Smith won all three stages, while McElveen won the points race by finishing second every day.
Serena Bishop-Gordon and Cecily Decker rounded out the women’s podium, while Brennan Wertz and Andrew L’Esperance completed the men’s.
Sam Hansen, Bethel Steele, and Henriette Watts made up the non-binary podium, while the upright para categories went 1-2 to Hannah Raymond and Meg Fisher, and Thiago Costa and William Stewart.
It was Smith’s first appearance at RPI, and the course and format seemed to suit the Canadian MTB pro. Smith is a relative newcomer to the off-road endurance scene this year, having blended the Life Time Grand Prix series and other gravel races into her light cross-country World Cup schedule.
The 28-year-old has clearly found her niche: the win at RPI comes after a breakout victory at Crusher in the Tushar and a third-place finish at the Leadville Trail 100. She also leads the Grand Prix series.
Smith put in impressive performances each day of the race, finishing five minutes ahead of second place on the singletrack-heavy first day. The hour plus of singletrack early in the stage helped her establish an early lead, and even though a wrong turn requiring a backtrack set her back, Smith was able to put in a huge dig and solo to the finish.
On stage 2, she completed the uphill TT in 26:07, with Bishop-Gordon and Sarah Max trailing at 27:26 and 27:33. Many riders swapped high volume gravel tires for near skinny slicks on Friday; Bishop-Gordon went from Schwalbe G-One Bite 2.0s “to the skinniest gravel tires I've run this year.”
The third day proved far more tactical in the 102-mile gravel stage, and Smith made an early move on a climb that didn’t stick. Nevertheless, she fought back to take the stage seven minutes ahead of Bishop-Gordon, who finished second on the day and overall.
After getting sick at RPI in 2019 and not being able to finish the stage race, McElveen found more than redemption this year.
On stage 1, the off-road endurance specialist made early moves with fellow mountain bikers Andrew L’Esperance and Bradyn Lange. The trio pushed the pace and formed a small gap. Although McElveen said he was “on the back foot for a bit for the long gravel out and back,” he managed to hang on all the way to the finish where L’Esperance had the last bit of legs for the sprint.
Former pro rower Brennan Wertz was the star of the day on stage 2, laying down a new men’s course record of 20:34.48 on the uphill TT. Nevertheless, McElveen was only 20 seconds back.
Fresh off a big win at the Wasatch All-Road, Griffin Easter was also the first to finish stage 3 of RPI, also known as the ‘Baked Potato.’ Easter also won the 102-mile gravel course last year. McElveen and Wertz were second and third on the day.
In addition to the Queen’s Stage Race, a total of 1,800 riders took part in RPI this year, racing either the Tater Tot, French Fry, or Baked Potato courses across a myriad of categories.
Another notable result is recently retired WorldTour pro Kiel Reijnen and his five-year-old daughter EmmyLou taking the win in the tandem category on the 102-mile Baked Potato course.
2022 marked the 10th anniversary of RPI, founded in 2013 by Rebecca Rusch. Full results for all distances and categories can be found here.
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