Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Boulder Mountain Tour Comes Down to a Photo Finish
Anja Gruber, Johnny Hagenbuch, Peter Holmes, Erika Flowers, Matt Liebsch and Katie Feldman shared the podium.
Sunday, February 3, 2019


Seven skiers raced to a photo finish in the Zions Boulder Mountain Tour Saturday. And Sun Valley’s teenage wunderkind just missed becoming the youngest to ever win the race in its 46 years.

Seven men kept each other within a ski’s length as they raced down the 34-kilometer race course in light falling snow.

And it took more than a half-hour after they crossed the finish line for one to be pronounced the winner after the finish line camera somehow became unplugged.

Katie Feldman shows off the giant gingerbread cookies the winners received.

Race officials used official race photographer Nils Ribi's photos to declare Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team member Peter Holmes the winner.

His runner-up Matt Liebsch of Lake Minnetonka, Minn., looked at a couple iPhone videos, which appeared to be inconclusive.

“That’s the way it goes,” he shrugged.

Sun Valley Community School Junior Johnny Hagenbuch, who skis with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, shrugged off jet lag to take third, earning his second medal, earning around-the-world glory.

Peter Holmes lies in the snow exhausted following a photo finish.

The 17-year-old's bronze medal came just a week after he won a gold medal as a member of the U.S. U-20 men’s 4x5-kilometer relay team in the 2019 FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships at Lahti, Finland. It was the first-every U.S. gold medal in the FIS Junior World Championships, with the U.S. beating Russia and Germany.

 “We’re proud of him. It’s taken years and years of hard work—since sixth-grade, I think. It was exciting to see him be part of a historic team. And now to watch him to so well in the Boulder…” said Kim Hagenbuch.

Holmes, meanwhile, spent some tense moments waiting to learn if he had won first. Holmes, originally  from Tahoe, joined the SVSEF Gold Team in June choosing it over the program at Bozeman, which he said was the only other elite team in the West.

He covered the course in 1 hour and 24 minutes--14 minutes slower than last year, even though last-minute grooming left no new snow piled up on the course.

Johnny Hagenbuch, Peter Holmes and Matt Liebsch cross the finish line.

“The race was hard—a lot of good guys,” he said. “We broke off from the rest at 10 K and had a couple breaks into the finish line.”

Hagenbuch admitted he was still jet lagged after returning home from Finland earlier in the week.

"My skis weren’t running as well as I would have liked but I caught up to the group and we all kind of drafted onto offeach other tointo the finish line. It felt good—It was a lot of fun—the Boulder Mountain Tour is famous around the nation and it has such beautiful scenery—not cold and dark like it was in Finland..”

The first three females to cross the line were tightly bunched, even if it wasn’t a photo finish.

Peter Holmes leads Matt Liebsch and the others, with Johnny Hagenbuch in fourth place as they pass Baker Creek.

Erika Flowers, a former Junior Olympics champion, took first; SVSEF Gold Team member Katie Feldman, second, and German-born Anja Gruber, third.

“The three of us skied together from Baker Creek into the stadium, taking turns leading as we went,” said Feldman, who grew up in Sun Valley. “I did the Half-Boulder in 2014, went to Middlebury College where I majored in art history and came back to be on the Gold Team because I wanted to keep racing and I love Sun Valley.”

And did her father—national champion road cyclist Richard Feldman--have a any words of wisdom for his daughter?

“He told me to race together with people and not wait too long to make a move,” she said.

This year’s Boulder registered 914 racers—with 92-year-old Charley French and 84-year-old Shauna Thoreson the oldest.

The souvenir hats bore the Norwegian colors and cross with the initials JE in honor of Jon Engen, the three-time Olympic biathlete and Nordic racer who died of pancreatic cancer in April 2018. Eight of his wife Darlene Engen’s friends donned tutus, skiing the course with her.

Jon Engen’s teammate Erich Wilbrecht, who was on the 1992 Olympic team at Albertville with him, also raced in Jon’s memory.

“We first tried to make the 1988 team together in biathlon. But we were both sick and didn’t make the cut,” he recalled. “Jon was always very independent and organized and disciplined. And he decided he was going to go out for cross country Olympic team.

He had a big beard that year—he looked like a Viking. And he passed every guy up to win the 50K. We were all so proud of him,” Wilbrecht added as he headed to the soup kitchen where Galena Lodge had prepared 55 gallons of tomato and butternut soup.

Among the racer chasers were Jenny and Nello Busdon. They first raced in the BMT in 1984 when it followed a different route on the opposite side of the highway and they raced in it every year until recently.

 “I think my best time was one hour 18 minutes,” said Nello Busdon, now 81.

“We can thank the Boulder Mountain Tour for the Harriman Trail,” added Jenny Busdon. “A group of us went to Blaine County Recreation District after one of the races and asked if we could groom the Boulder Mountain Trail regularly—not just once a year for the race. She said, ‘Show me the money,’ and we did. And today the Harriman Trail is a gem.”

Sloan Storey, meanwhile, raised $6,000 in pledges for The Hunger Coalition. "I exceeded my original goal of $5,000 a couple days before the race so I pushed it to $8,000--enough to fund the 4,000 lunches I'll make this summer on the Bloom Truck."


Peter Holmes 1:24:21:85; Matt Liebsch, 1:24:21:92; Johnny Hagenbuch 1:24:23:09.

Other top 10 men: Rogen Brown, Luke Brown, Adam Loben, Bryan Cook, Tucker McCleary, Matt Gelso, Daniel Fisher.

Erika Flowers 1:33:49:49; Katie Feldman 1:33:49:53; Anja Gruber, 1:33:50:07

Other top 10 women: Mary Rose, Elizabeth Stephens, Sloan Storey, Maddie Morgan, Rose Kjesbo, Brooke Hovey, Betsy Youngman.


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