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Gunnison Valley riders throw down in Cortez

Locals blow out the lungs and lactic acid at 12-hour race

by Than Acuff

Here we go again, bike racing season, at least around here. With Hartman Rocks open the better part of the last month, throngs of mountain bikers have been hitting the trails. Some, actually most, are just psyched to get back on their bikes. Among those are a host of riders with a goal in mind: Get time in the saddle before lining up for the start of the mountain bike race season at the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde in Cortez on Saturday, May 13.

Once again, the local contingent rose to the challenge in a number of race classes, with members of Team gO, CB Devo and the Brick Oven teams all stepping onto the podium, including one long-time local rider who saddled up for Mesa Verde more than 20 years after his last race.

The Team gO four-person men’s team of Dave Ochs, Bryan Dillon, Jon Brown and Neil Beltchenko were in the midst of a battle for a majority of their 12-hour experience. Brown gave the team the lead in his opening lap but things got tight soon into the race as their closest competition took the lead on the shoulders of their ringer. Ultimately, a misstep in strategy by their opponent, a Herculean effort from both Beltchenko and Ochs and the finishing of Dillon sealed the title for the team.

“Going back and forth between first and second made it fun and then BD went out and finished it off,” says Ochs.

Then there was the Brick Oven Hooters Girls team of Tiff Simpson, Kaitlyn Archambault, Christie Hicks and Erica Mueller, short shorts, Hooters t-shirts and all. The local ladies had themselves a race pedaling into second place and staying there to finish as one of only two women’s teams to rattle off eight laps, close to 150 miles of riding total.

Brick Oven duo singlespeed team of Dan Loftus (he not only supports, he rides) and Aaron Huckstep spun their way around the course to finish second with eight laps.

Troy Hiatt and Rachael Alter from the Gunnison Valley and Carbondalers Sari and Ian Anderson teamed up in the coed four-person race to place third with eight laps and the CB Devo coaches/parents team of Geo Bullock (24 years after his last race), Torrey Carroll and Graham Elliott stepped into the “Old Geezers” fray to place third.

CB Devo was in effect in the junior categories as well with two teams lining up for the four-person U19 Grommet category to finish in third and fifth place with one team finishing seven laps and the other riding for six laps.

“Super fun event,” says CB Devo director Amy Nolan. “Lots of juniors participating. We were stoked to have 18 Crested Butte Devo athletes and coaches involved. This is a fun early season event that kicks off our bike season.”

Then, there were the local soloists, Cam Smith riding for WSCU/gO and Brick Oven directeur sportif Ben Preston. Smith went out fast and then held on to ride seven laps to finish in seventh while Preston showed little signs of slowing down to finish eight laps, much to his chagrin, and place fifth.

“It got hot out there and I was drinking two tall bottles every lap,” says Preston. “I finished seven laps with five or ten minutes to go before the cut-off and, by Brick Oven unspoken by-laws, I had to just smile and go out for another lap.”

With the first race under their collective belts, the Mesa Verde contingent, and people from all over the country, will now ramp up for the next race, the Growler at Hartman Rocks May 27-28.

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