Endurance riders open their season in Fruita with victory

Jari Kirkland takes solo women’s title

Well, it’s endurance race season again and local riders loaded up the cars and hit the road to compete in the fourth annual 18 Hours of Fruita on Saturday, May 3.



Jari Kirkland, the female member of local adventure racing team Team Salomon/Crested Butte, added the 18 Hours of Fruita to her long list of success in endurance solo bike racing.
Typically, Kirkland enters solo endurance races well prepared, spending time on her bike and arranging a support crew to keep her updated on her status during the race.
Kirkland came into the 18 Hours of Fruita a bit off the back.
“I had never seen the course, never ridden the course until midnight when the race started,” says Kirkland. “I really hadn’t put that much time on a bike before this, so I suffered a bit.”
Kirkland had no idea where she was in the standings throughout most of the race. The bits of information she did receive were piecemeal at best.
“I knew nothing until eight or nine in the morning,” explains Kirkland. “Then it was only a vague inclination. I was kind of in the dark the whole time.”
In the end, Kirkland had built a big enough lead to quit early and finished with a total of 31 laps for the women’s solo title.
Team Brick Oven/CB Builders competed in three separate categories with Ben Preston and Dan Loftus posting the top result of the day, taking first place in the two-person men class. Preston and Loftus combined to complete 38 laps, a total of 209 miles, within the 18-hour time frame.
“We were pretty consistent,” says Preston.
Preston gave the duo the lead on the opening lap, sending Loftus into the desert night with the rest of the field on his tail.
“It was weird,” says Loftus. “I’ve never been in the lead before. You’re looking over your shoulder and you see lights back there, but you can’t tell where they are and you’re just cranking.”
Preston continued to post the fastest splits of the entire field of racers throughout all 18 hours, with Loftus holding his own to keep the team in the lead.
“It’s motivating to be out there with Ben,” says Loftus. “He’s a stud and blowing by people and I’m just the team sponsor. It’s like George Steinbrenner jumping into game seven of the World Series.”
About the only drama for the two riders came during the night when Loftus suffered a flat that turned into two flats. As Loftus was dealing with changing his tube in the cold and dark of night, he inadvertently broke the stem off the tube and broke his pump.
“People were going by me and I was getting upset,” says Loftus.
Fortunately, with so many riders on course from all classes, Loftus was thrown a new tube and a pump and was back on course to hold on to first place and eventually the duo men’s class win.
Both Preston and Loftus chalk much of their win up to their support crew.
“We had great support, including Mark Cram working on our bikes,” says Preston.
Heather McDowell, Chrissy Oliveri, Starr Jamison and Betsy Frazer joined forces to represent Team Brick Oven/CB Builders in the women’s four-person class, finishing in second place with 33 laps.
Michele Zembal was the lone rider for Team Brick Oven/CB Builders to step up to the solo challenge, taking fourth place in the women’s solo class completing 21 laps.

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