It was a different sport Saturday, but the mountain and the result were the same for Chad Hall.
In 2017, the now 33-year-old from San Diego competed in the USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championship on Pikes Peak, finishing second by nearly 90 seconds.
“The last time I raced Pikes Peak was on a road bike, and I got second place to Phil Gaimon,” Hall said Saturday.
“I’m always a prince on Pikes Peak.”
Joseph Gray was again crowned king of the mountain, finishing the Pikes Peak Ascent in 2 hours, 12 minutes and 7 seconds. Gray reached a cold and blustery summit more than 14 minutes before any other runner.
“I don’t go to any start line thinking that I’m going to lose. I come in knowing that I put in the work, but I do know it’s highly likely that you could lose, right? Things could go wrong,” Gray said as he added layers over his sleeveless racing top and running shorts inside the new summit house. “I come in and respect my competitors as well, but at the end of the day, I know I put in the work. I know I’ve done what it takes to win. So you just got to put it all together on race day. Nothing’s a given.”
The 37-year-old Colorado Springs resident has won each of the last four Ascents he’s entered, also winning in 2016, 2017 and 2019. There was no race last year due to the pandemic, and Gray did not participate in the 2018 Ascent, which included bad weather that forced runners to turn around at Barr Camp, because he was competing in Europe. With Gray winning again, Saturday’s event seemed like a bit of a return to normalcy.
“It was a cold day, so definitely frozen by the end of that race, but, you know, all in all, just happy to finally get back out here after the pandemic,” Gray said.
“We didn’t get an opportunity last year, so I’m just happy that we got the chance to race out here.”
Gray’s margin of victory would’ve probably been a bit narrower if not for a wrong turn. Hall said he lost the course near the top of the Manitou Incline and spent roughly 10 minutes finding his way back on the trail. With Gray in the field, however, the misstep was immaterial.
“At the end of the day, it didn’t make any difference,” Hall said. “I would have been second. I ended up second. It’s all the same.”
He's probably not the first person to feel that way after finishing second to Gray, whose time was a few minutes slower than his previous wins.
"Time was really not of concern today," Gray said.
Hall, a runner turned triathlete turned cyclist who returned to trail running, anticipates being back on Pikes Peak next year with a bit more course familiarity and a chance to end Gray’s reign on Pikes Peak.
“I think I’ll plan on coming out next year,” Hall said. “So, seeing the course and not making that wrong turn is huge.”
Louisville’s Galen Burrell was third in 2:29.10, while Alma’s Daniel Kraft was fourth in 2:31:09. No one else finished within 20 minutes of Gray.
“I feel great in terms of just being strong and feeling good, feeling healthy,” Gray said. “God willing, as long as I keep feeling that way, my prime can be stretched.”
Gray wasn’t certain what the rest of his racing schedule would look like this year after the World Mountain and Trail Running Championship was postponed until 2022, but a few races in Europe seem likely. Whatever he chooses to do, he’s off to a good start to the season.
“Pikes is always a great race for me getting ready for the upcoming season,” Gray said. “I’m just happy it was a great workout. I saw my splits early on, so before the weather got nasty I kind of knew what the effort was.”