Haley Smith and Payson McElveen win Rebecca’s Private Idaho Queen’s Stage Race

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Haley Smith and Payson McElveen walked away from a long racing weekend with wins in the Queen’s Stage Race at Rebecca’s Private Idaho.

The three-day stage race (with a rest day between days 2 and 3) included an intense day of mountain biking, a 4.5-mile uphill time trial and a century of gravel to top it all off.

Smith won all three stages, while McElveen won the points race finishing second each day.

Rebecca Rusch is a constant source of encouragement at RPI (Photo: Adventure Scout Media)

Serena Bishop-Gordon and Cecily Decker rounded out the women’s podium, while Brennan Wertz and Andrew L’Esperance rounded out the men’s podium.

Sam Hansen, Bethel Steele and Henriette Watts made up the non-binary podium, while the para vertical categories went 1-2 to Hannah Raymond and Meg Fisher, and Thiago Costa and William Stewart.

It was Smith’s first appearance at the RPI, and the course and format seemed to suit the Canadian mountain bike professional. Smith is a relative newcomer to the off-road endurance scene this year, having incorporated the Life Time Grand Prix Series and other gravel races into his lightweight cross-country World Cup schedule.

The 28-year-old has clearly found her niche: the RPI victory comes after a blowout 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 busy opening day of singletrack. The hour and more of singletrack at the start of the stage helped her establish an early lead, and although a wrong turn requiring a rollback set her back, Smith was able to make a huge dig and solo until arrival.

rebecca private idaho
An exceptional cast of gravel women after stage 1 (Photo: Linda Guerrette)

On Stage 2, she completed the uphill TT in 26:07, with Bishop-Gordon and Sarah Max behind at 27:26 and 27:33. On Friday, many riders swapped high-volume gravel tires for near-skinny slicks; Bishop-Gordon went from the Schwalbe G-One Bite 2.0″ to the thinnest gravel tires I’ve used this year.”

Day three proved to be much more tactical in the 102-mile gravel stage, and Smith took a first step up a climb that didn’t stick. Nonetheless, she fought back to take the stage seven minutes ahead of Bishop-Gordon, who finished second on the day and overall.

After falling ill at the RPI in 2019 and not being able to complete the stage race, McElveen has found more than redemption this year.

On Stage 1, the off-road endurance specialist took the first steps together with fellow mountain bikers Andrew L’Esperance and Bradyn Lange. The trio pushed the pace and pulled out a small gap. Although McElveen said he was “on the back foot for a long out and back on the gravel”, he managed to hang on until the finish where L’Esperance had the last legs for the sprint.

Former pro rower Brennan Wertz was the star of the day on Stage 2, setting a new men’s course record of 20:34.48 on the uphill TT. Nevertheless, McElveen was only 20 seconds away.

Neutral 20-mile deployment gives teammates Bradyn Lange and Brennan Wertz time to have fun (Photo: Adventure Scout Media)

Fresh off a big win at Wasatch All-Road, Griffin Easter was also the first to complete RPI Stage 3, also known as “Baked Potato.” Easter also won the 102-mile gravel course last year. McElveen and Wertz finished second and third on the day.

In addition to the Queen’s Stage Race, a total of 1,800 runners took part in the RPI this year, competing in the Tater Tot, French Fry or Baked Potato courses in a myriad of categories.

Another notable result was recently retired WorldTour pro Kiel Reijnen and his five-year-old daughter, EmmyLou, taking victory in the tandem class on the 102-mile course of Baked Potatoes.

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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