Locals wheel to 24 Hours of Moab glory | AspenTimes.com

Locals wheel to 24 Hours of Moab glory

In the October prime of Utah’s canyon country, Aspen’s bike racers proved that the upper Roaring Fork Valley is much more than a ski and snowboarding hub.

Some 40 teams from Aspen descended on the sixth annual 24 Hours of Moab mountain bike race this past Saturday and Sunday, and they again proved Aspen is a tour de force in western endurance mountain bike races. Like the Leadville 100 and the Vail 100 races earlier this summer, Aspenites delivered some impressive performances, including firsts in the men’s and women’s expert divisions.

A four-man team from the Hub of Aspen bike shop completed 20 laps over the 12-mile loop course south of Moab in 24 hours to claim first place in the men’s expert division, as well as first place overall. The Juicy Hogs team from Aspen finished second in the men’s expert, followed by the Pomeroy Peregrines in fifth.

In the women’s expert division, Team Ketchup, made up of Aspen residents Cariza Arce and Becca Blay as well as two women from Boulder, took first place.

Another team from Aspen, made up of youngsters Mark Welgos, Jeff Anderson, Alex Hagman and Jesse Durrance, won the junior men’s division. A desert ritual The 24 Hours of Moab was booked to capacity this year, with 350 teams registered for the event. The race itself was divided into 14 categories. Among the various classes were solo (strictly for certifiably insane athletes only), co-ed pro-am and duo-pro.

The four-person team categories were parallel for women and men, ranging from sport to expert to veteran, in addition to men’s junior and men’s masters. There was also a five-person open class consisting of at least one woman and no more than one expert.

Last, yet quite obviously not least, the Clydesdales category consisted of four men with a combined minimum weight of 800 pounds. No female team of Clydesdales have competed in the 24 Hours thus far.

As a means of splitting the initial pack, a Le Mans-style start sent racers off on foot at high noon Saturday. Three hundred and fifty bikers – soloists and team representatives – sprinted a few hundred yards to their rigs, all lined up in a rack. Some of the savvy sprinters wore facemasks to filter the lethal amounts of dust kicked up by the stampede-like start. Tough track The double-track course proved rough on the body as well as the bike, featuring natural obstacles like boulders, cactus plants, sand bars, rock slabs and drop-offs, among other desert offerings. Sprawling out over 12 miles and rising 700 feet, the route looped around southern Moab in an area named “Behind the Rocks.”

Aspen was well represented with riders in just about every category, many of whom took top honors and/or scored podium finishes. Among the hardcores who finished in the top of their classes were: Kevin Jones, fifth place men’s solo; Team Kadabbers, 11th place five-person open; Team Zoom Splat, first place men’s sport; Country Critters, seventh place men’s sport; Defenders of Eleven, 19th place men’s sport; Hump Puppies, men’s sport finishers; Aspen Cyber Care, men’s sport finishers; Test I Skills Matter, men’s sport finishers; and NOSHO, men’s sport finishers.

The extraordinary turnout of Aspen riders confirms “we live in an athletic environment” that “breeds healthy people,” noted racer Fletcher Yaw of the Country Critters.

Chris Halsey of the Pomeroy Peregrines didn’t seem astonished by Aspen’s strong contingent. “There was great local representation,” he said.

The Pomeroy Peregrines ended up with a seventh-place finish overall and fifth in the men’s expert division “with only minutes separating second and fifth places,” he explained. Named after “the world’s fastest bird,” the Peregrines were competing in their round-the-clock race.

“There was more sand than in the past and the temperature got down into the 20s,” Halsey said. “So we were dealing with those kinds of factors.”

“You really need to be on it through the sand or you’ll do the snake into a ponderosa pine,” Yaw said. “The course was definitely sandy, and that wears you out.”

Mike Edwards, of Team Test I Skills Matter, wasn’t particularly pleased with the course. “There was too much sand and not enough singletrack,” he said, but “I felt pretty proud to clean the course, though. We had a good group dynamic. We got through it together as a team.” Creatures in the dark Even though the race was held under a nearly full moon, racers were required to have “a primary light source with a minimum power of 10 watts” between dusk and dawn.

Niterider, a bike light manufacturer that set up shop at the start/finish area, charged up racers’ batteries for a nominal fee but offered no guarantees.

With the extremely cold temperatures, many of the heavy-duty bike light batteries simply froze. Country Critter racer Barney Eaton experienced a failing battery, leaving him to negotiate the course virtually blind.

“It’s kind of crucial to have light,” Edwards confirmed later.

“I ran out of light and that was a little scary. You never know what’s lurking out there,” noted local racer Jason Beavers of Kadabbers.

The most laps completed by a team was 20, 15 by an individual. For the four- and five-person classes, most riders did the loop four times, in an average time of one hour, 25 minutes.

“Five laps was plenty,” admitted one of Country Critter’s strongmen, simply known as “Jorge.” He powered to a 1:08 in his first lap.

Proud to be from Aspen and among such promising athletes, Test I Skills Matter rider Troy Selby said: “I’ve been to this event in the past as a supporter and always knew I’d get it together to ride in it one year. It was great to coordinate a team, train all summer and see the race through to the end.”

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