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Masses throw down in Fat Tire 40

Bryan Dillon falls shy of three-peat

by Than Acuff

After 41 miles of pinning it, the Fat Tire 40 men’s title came down to two seconds as Durango young gun Levi Kurlander edged out the win over Gunnison Valley rider and two-time defending Fat Tire 40 champion Bryan Dillon.

Kurlander crossed the finish line with a time of 3:18:02 with Dillon on his rear wheel at 3:18:04. Brian Smith was the only other local rider to crack the men’s podium, fighting his way back from a slow start to charge into fifth place by the finish for a slice of the $5,000 cash purse. Nary a local cracked the top five in the women’s race.

At 8 a.m. Saturday, June 24, 125 riders headed out, up from around 80 last year, for a massive tour of some serious singletrack at the north end of the valley. In the end, 113 riders finished, which is a pretty slim rate of attrition given the course.

And as the race director was barking out some last-minute instructions, he predicted the winners would be finishing in just under four hours, at which point Dillon corrected him.

“Three and a half,” said Dillon.

Well, he and Kurlander shattered all expectations with their final time of three hours and 18 minutes. While a time that fast may be hard to comprehend given the scope of the course, here’s a split most of you may understand. It took the leaders 25 minutes to ride Strand from the start of the road climb to the finish across the irrigation ditch.

There were five riders in a group together heading up Strand after powering through Upper Loop, Bridges and out Brush Creek Road. By the time they exited off Stand, they were down to four riders and somewhere along Deer Creek, Dillon and Kurlander had built a gap on the third-place rider and remained neck-and-neck as they rode out of the town of Gothic, up the road to Mt. Crested Butte and then jumped onto Meander. Again, to put their pace into perspective, it took them just an hour and half to ride from the end of Strand to the start of Meander.

At this point, Dillon looked to drop Kurlander as he hit Meander in the lead with Kurlander right on his rear wheel.

“I looked back when we got on Meander and didn’t see anyone close so that was a good feeling because Meander feels so long at the end of the race,” says Dillon. “I tried to make a move there but he was strong and stayed with me.”

The next question came as the two crossed over to the Upper West Side descent. With both riders still wheel-to-wheel, the race could have come down to a mechanical.

“West Side is tricky, especially when your legs are tired you can easily flat there,” says Dillon.

The two survived the 2,000-foot descent down West Side, Happy Hour, Upper Loop and Tony’s and when they entered town again, Kurlander made one last move.

“He made one last push when we crossed the cattle guard and my legs were just screaming,” says Dillon.

That one last surge was the difference as Kurlander crossed with the win with Dillon just two seconds back.

The women’s podium was dominated by out-of-towners as Gretchen Reeves of Avon, Colo. took the women’s title with a time of 4:03:41. Emily Schaldach of Durango was four minutes back in second and Sari Anderson, who rides for Griggs Orthopedics but lives in Carbondale, finished in third.

With riders filtering in for the next three hours after the leaders, the faces said it all, with a mix of fatigue and euphoria.

The local Griggs Orthopedics town race series continues at Crested Butte Mountain Resort every Wednesday evening for those looking to keep the race legs in shape. The next rite of passage comes in September, as only the insane will line up for the annual Crested Butte Classic, a 100-mile tour of the trails from the Cement Creek drainage north.

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