APPLEGATE LAKE — Two veteran mountain bike racers traded leads several times in the Granite Man triathlon Saturday at Applegate Lake. In the end, a foot race determined the winner.

APPLEGATE LAKE — Two veteran mountain bike racers traded leads several times in the Granite Man triathlon Saturday at Applegate Lake. In the end, a foot race determined the winner.

David Conley and Ryan Evans went back and forth for the bulk of the competition, and were neck-and-neck over the final portion of the triathlon — a 5-mile trail run — before Conley finally made a move that Evans couldn't counter in the grueling competition.

Just past the 1-mile mark of the run, Evans opened up a gap on an extended hill on the highway and Conley knew he had a choice to make.

"I caught him back and we were talking, side by side, and I thought, 'It's either put the hammer down now or you're not going to see him," said Conley, who moved to Talent recently from southern Florida.

Conley put the hammer down and nailed the race, finishing in a time of 1 hour, 59 minutes, 26 seconds — 3 minutes, 54 seconds ahead of Evans.

The winning triathlon time was well of the course record set last year by Chad Wikander, who traded his cap and goggles for a walkie-talkie this year as the new race director for Granite Man.

Melyssa Glatte of Central Point earned her third straight Granite Man victory, but first in the triathlon. Glatte won the women's duathlon in 2008 and 2009, but decided to add swimming to the mix this year.

"This is my second triathlon, but I kept having to tell myself I can do it," said Glatte. "The key for me was practicing open water swimming, both in Emigrant Lake and here at Applegate. The bike was harder this year. Because it's later in the year, the trails were drier and at times it felt like riding on ball bearings. It's also more rutted this year."

The Granite Man triathlon consists of swimming three-quarters of a mile in Applegate Lake, followed by a 13-mile mountain bike ride and 5-mile trail run around the lake. Fifty athletes finished the triathlon and thirty completed the duathlon.

Evans placed second in the inaugural Granite Man triathlon in 2007 and the Grants Pass mountain bike team racer had hoped for a win this year.

He was in second place for most of the bicycle leg behind Conley — also a bike racer — before overtaking him at the end of the leg.

"I'd never raced in a wetsuit before because I'm from Florida and we have warmer temperatures," Conley said. "The wetsuit was a great advantage. I felt awesome. I was third coming out of the water, and my strong suit is the bike."

After being passed by Evans in the bike leg, Conley made up the time with a quick bike-to-run transition at the Seattle Bar camping area. The two men started the run together until the fateful first hill.

While general athleticism and experience can go a long way in events like the Granite Man, Phoenix's Nikki Dinger showed that bicycle repair skills just might help you win a race, too.

Dinger felt her tire go flat early on in the duathlon Granite Man race but, fortunately, she had planned for that possibility.

"A friend had me practice changing flats, she timed me," said Dinger. "Today I think I changed it in like two minutes. Then I took off and started passing people one by one."

Dinger passed enough women to finish first in the duathlon with a time of 1:46:22, a course record by 2 minutes, 44 seconds.

Crater High School senior Max Runia repeated his victory in the men's duathlon — a 13-mile mountain bike ride and 5-mile run around Applegate Lake — without taking a break in his heavy running schedule.

"Yesterday we did an 8-mile tempo run for practice," Runia said. "I could tell as soon as the bike started that my legs were dead."

Even so, Runia beat his own course record by 3 minutes, 5 seconds. Runia is preparing for his final prep cross country season. He was a member of Crater's 2008 and 2009 state champion teams.

While the duathlon and triathlon competitors were racing in and around Applegate Lake, 60 trail runners tackled the Collings Mountain trail for a hilly 101/2-mile run that was a bit slower this year.

"We alternate years on the trail," said Chuck Neely, timekeeper and former Granite Man race director. "This year we go up the steep hill and down a gradual slope. Last year it was the other way around. The uphill is brutal and makes for slower times."

Erik Skaggs won the men's mountain run for the third straight year and agreed with Neely's assessment of the course.

"That first big climb takes it out of you," said Skaggs. "You're in oxygen debt until you come down a little bit."

Skaggs began the race followed closely by fellow Ashland runner Jeff Olsen. On the big hill, Skaggs surged past Olsen and continued to increase his lead, finishing with a time of 1:15:20. Olsen finished in 1:19:01.

Olsen was an assistant cross country and track coach at Ashland High School last season, but will begin graduate school in Israel this fall.

The Collings Mountain trail proved hazardous, in body and mind for the likes of Skaggs and Olsen. The men's top finishers crossed the finish line with legs bloodied from blackberry vines that blocked the trail. The runners who followed found the course a bit more open.

Beyond the rough terrain, bears were more of a concern for Skaggs.

"There was a lot of bear poop and fresh claw marks on some trees," Skaggs explained. "So I started yelling, 'Hey Bear.' You know, just in case."

Sarah Raitter, in town from Reno, Nev., for a vacation and a shot at winning the women's mountain run, checked the latter off her list with a winning time of 1:36.33.

"It's a beautiful course," said Raitter. "I like the uphills a lot better than downhills. Where we live in Reno, it's hilly. I ran together with Ixel (Sanchez) until we came to the first hill."

Hills proved to be Raitter's secret weapon, just as it was in the men's race for Skaggs. Raitter pulled ahead on the big hill and never looked back to beat Sanchez, who finished in 1:39:03.

Saturday's Results

(Top 5)

Men's Triathlon

1, David Conley, 27, Talent, 1:59:26; 2, Ryan Evans, 29, Grants Pass, 2:03:20; 3, Bill Raitter, 40, Reno, Nev., 2:15:19; 4, Frederick White, 33, Central Point, 2:16:40; 5, Chris Glatte, 41, Central Point, 2:17:55.

Women's Triathlon

1, Melyssa Glatte, 41, Central Point, 2:19:04; 2, Denise Bents, 39, Grants Pass, 2:25:40; 3, Kara King, 35, Ashland, 2:38:43; 4, Jamie Marthaler, 28, Portland, 2:38:45; 5, Shauna McHugh, 27, Ashland, 2:43:15

Men's Duathlon

1, Max Runia, 17, Central Point, 1:29:25; 2, Doug Striley, 40, Medford, 1:32:01; 3, Nicholas Stewart, 48, Lebanon, 1:42:53; 4, Tyrone Raber, 33, Eagle Point, 1:44:42; 5, Greg Anderson, 28, Ashland, 1:45:10.

Women's Duathlon

1, Nikki Dinger, 34, Phoenix, 1:46:22; 2, Britney Wimberly, 14, Central Point, 2:00:42; 3, Jackie Auchard, 39, Medford, 2:02:59; 4, Megan Hunter, 29, Central Point, 2:08:18; 5, Lynn Cyr, 43, Central Point, 2:13:47.

Men's Mountain Run

1, Erik Skaggs, 25, Ashland, 1:15:20; 2, Jeff Olsen, 25, Ashland, 1:19:01; 3, Jim Rebenack, 26, Redding, Calif., 1:24:19; 4, Chad Gutches, 32, Medford, 1:36:12; 5, Jeremy Eisen, 39, Ashland, 1:36:13.

Women's Mountain Run

1, Sarah Raitter, 37, Reno, Nev., 1:36:17; 2, Ixel Sanchez, 24, Ashland, 1:39:03; 3, Janelle Ralph, 28, Gold Hill, 1:41:54; 4, Meghan Shaffer, 30, Ashland, 1:45:25; 5, Elena Meyer, 46, Central Point, 1:49:26

Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at dnewberry@jeffnet.org