Erik Skaggs, middle, and Max King, fourth from right, start the 125-mile, six-day TransRockies Race Monday. They led after three stages. - Kevin Arnold

Rogue Valley runners tackle Rockies

Two Rogue Valley runners are in the Colorado Rockies this week, trying to win trail running’s answer to the Tour de France. So far, so good.

The race kicked off Monday, and after three punishing days, Max King and Erik Skaggs, known as “Team Nike/Rogue Valley Runners,” were in first place.

The TransRockies Race is a six-day, 125-mile test of endurance that climbs to nose-bleed elevations.

The race has attracted 68 two-person teams from six countries who are battling the terrain and each other in an attempt to pocket some of the $20,000 in winnings being offered by Gore-Tex.

The time for each team is recorded when the slower of the two members crosses the finish line. For this reason, teams are given a tow rope so the faster team member may pull the slower one up steep hills.

In 2007, the first year of the event, Skaggs and his brother, Kyle, won the race. This year, the 26-year-old Ashland resident teamed up with the 28-year-old King, a former Crater High School running star and 2008 Olympic Trials steeplechaser.

After stage one, a 12.9-mile, relatively flat warmup, King and Skaggs were 1 minute and 6 seconds behind. They took the overall lead in stage two, a numbing 10-miler with a 3,098-foot climb to a 12,538-foot pass, followed by a nearly 3,570-foot descent.

They solidified their lead yesterday during a 24.3-mile stage run on rocky terrain at 10,000 feet elevation. They finished the day with a lead of 1 minute 29 seconds. Today’s stage covers 14 miles with 3,009 feet of climbing.

The race ends Saturday.

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