SILVERTON – The French put the accent on the 2011 Hardrock 100.
But Durango’s Dakota Jones also left an indelible mark on the annual 100-mile endurance run through the San Juan Mountains.
Julien Chorier, a 30-year-old ultrarunner from the French Alps, won the Hardrock 100 on Saturday morning, crossing the finish line at the Kendall Mountain Recreation Center in Silverton after 25 hours and 16 minutes on the run.
The Salomon team runner led from the first checkpoint to the last to become only the second foreign winner ever of the Hardrock 100 in 18 years.
Countryman Daniel Levy, also competing in his first Hardrock 100, finished fourth.
Jones, a former cross country and track runner at Durango High School, finished second in the 2011 Hardrock – his first 100-miler.
The 20-year-old crossed the finish in Silverton about two hours behind Chorier and a half-hour ahead of third-place finisher Nick Clark of Fort Collins.
Jones’ finish was the highest ever for a 20-year-old.
“Very long and very hard,” Chorier said after the race in English, his second language.
“Two or three times ... I got lost,” he said of the Hardrock course that took runners from Silverton to Lake City to Ouray to Telluride and back to Silverton.
“But I take the map out of my bag ... and I see where I am,” he said of the orienteering skills that kept the Frenchman on course and on time.
“These mountains are ... beautiful,” Chorier said in a thick French accent.
“And snow ... lots of snow,” he said. “This year in France, we have no snow. It’s a no-snow year.”
He said he had to overcome a serious stomach problem that tormented him through the miles Friday night and Saturday morning.
“I had a deep problem (in the stomach),” Chorier said. “I eat a lot early ... too much. But I was hungry. And I drank too much ... not good,” he said, struggling to find the English words for “throwing up.”
“It was not good from Ouray to Silverton. I could not eat, and I could not drink.”
But he could win.
And he did – in his first race in North America.
Jones nearly won in his first 100-mile trail test. The DHS graduate won the San Juan Solstice 50-Miler last month. He credited his Hardrock success to his preparation and pace runner Troy Howard, who joined Jones for the final 40-plus miles of the race.
“The whole thing was pretty mind-blowing,” Jones said after accepting finish-line congratulations from his mom and dad, Beth and Steve Jones of Durango.
“I’m not used to running a hundred miles,” he said. “I went as slow as I possibly could at the start.”
Still, he said, he started struggling at about Mile 35, heading up Handies Peak.
“I wasn’t doing so great ... until about Mile 75,” he said.
“(The finish) was all because of Troy Howard, my pacer. Once I picked up my pacer at Ouray, it made a huge difference for me.
“He (Troy) ran the third fastest time here two years ago, so it was cool to have him out there with me,” he said of Howard, the California runner who finished second to Hardrock legend Karl Meltzer of Utah in the record-setting 2009 race.
“It’s unbelievable what he’s doing at 20,” Howard said of his junior counterpart. “I know what I was doing at 20, and it wasn’t this.”
Howard, a veteran ultrarunner, said Jones’ enthusiasm for trail running is contagious.
“His excitement for this race, his excitement for the mountains ... he sets a great example,” Howard said.
In determination, too.
“There was no way he was stopping ... no way,” Howard said.
Jones said the historic Hardrock had many memorable moments during his 100-mile journey but none sweeter than watching the sun rise Saturday with only a few miles to go.
“The sunrise is the best ... when you are out there in the dark for hours, it’s depressing.
“Then the sun rises, and you can see things ... it’s a new day.”
Levy, the fourth-place finisher, a well-known mountain runner back home in France, also said the sunrise was the bright spot of his first Hardrock 100.
“It was ... hard,” Levy said, adding that he, too, had stomach problems midway through the race. He was running up front with Chorier when he was forced to slow down.
“Then in Ouray, I got Clark,” Levy said of his pacer, longtime trail runner Clark Fox of Denver.
“He knew perfectly ... what to do,” he said. “He has ... good maturity, and I learned a lot from him.”
Fox ran with Levy to the finish in Silverton, relocated this year to the Kendall Mountain rec center because of renovation work at the Silverton School.
Defending men’s champion Jared Campbell of Salt Lake City was forced to withdraw from the race after the halfway point.
Five-time winner Meltzer, who won the last time the counterclockwise route was used in the Hardrock in 2009, also had to abandon the race. He fell victim to back spasms with some 30 miles to go.
Diana Finkel of South Fork, the three-time defending women’s champion, won again this year and finished fifth overall.
Joe Grant of Lafayette finished sixth overall.
Darcy Africa of Boulder, seventh overall, was second to Finkel in the women’s race.