Climbing steep hills is what Miles Fink-Debray does best, and he wants to set more standards this season during the steepest 400-meter race in the world—the Red Bull 400.
Eight-time Baldy Hill Climb king and four-time Hyndman Peak “Sufferfest” winner Fink-Debray, 31, of Ketchum won Saturday’s Red Bull 400 race at Copper Peak, Mich. in a field of about 1,000 athletes.
He earned $1,000 for placing first scrambling up the nearly-vertical ladder with a leg-burning time of 4 minutes and 38 seconds.
Fink-Debray told Red Bull organizers, “I just put my head down and never looked back.”
His time was 13 seconds faster than second-place Matt “The Bear” Novakovich, 45, the roofer and father of four from Alaska who was a 2015 Spartan Elite Team world champ (4:51).
“I went out as hard as I could and set a new course record,” said Fink-Debray about the challenging, on-all-fours 459 vertical-foot climb up the 35 percent incline at Michigan’s famed ski flying hill.
Red Bull 400 has become his latest training focus.
Last September 15, Fink-Debray set a new course record in the fourth annual Red Bull 400 at the Olympic Park ski jump at Park City, Utah. The rules are simple: No poles, no spikes and no turning back along and up the ladder.
Afterwards, Fink-Debray set a goal of competing in and winning all three Red Bull 400 North American climbs in 2019, starting in Michigan and continuing June 1 at Park City.
His ultimate goal is the 2019 Red Bull World Championships at Whistler Olympic Park in British Columbia, Canada July 13. “This has been my focus since February. There’s been a lot of build-up, and I felt some pressure on Saturday,” he said.
At Copper Peak, Fink-Debray finished second in his preliminary heat and had the fifth-best qualifier overall. That was where he wanted to be. He said, “I felt in my element on the Michigan grass course, sort of like the Baldy Hill Climb.”
There were more than 20 heats throughout the day to determine the top 40 men and 40 women advancing to the championship round.
“I had better strategy going into the race, compared to Park City. I focused on conserving energy,” said Fink-Debray.
Fink-Debray said he’s making a film documentary about his Red Bull 400 trifecta quest in 2019, with the help of part-time Sun Valley resident and New York University student Kelsey Selby, a filmmaker.
Saturday’s women’s winner in 6:13 was Sarah Hendrickson, 24, the Park City High School alum and 2013 world champion women’s ski jumper.
Hendrickson finished two seconds ahead of Kristen Monahan (6:15), the 2011 Michigan Tech grad and former Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation cross-country ski athlete and Nordic ski coach.