Friday, February 25, 2005

Scene Riders

The Four Corners’ region is a perfect place for road biking. With many small towns, moderate climate, and less traffic and fewer people than in many other areas of the country, road bikers often enjoy endless miles of safe, enjoyable riding.

While the rewards of riding in the Four Corners region are seemingly unrestricted, so, it appears, is the company of people seeking those rewards.

"We’re seeing a resurgence in road biking," said John Glover, store manager of Mountain Bike Specialists in Durango, where on display is Lance Armstrong’s 1993 UCI World Road Champion jersey.

Armstrong, America’s tour de force rider with five impressive Tour de France victories, may have done more in recent times to pique interest in road cycling than the invention of the bicycle.

Cyclists like Armstrong and events like the Tour de France cast our imaginations into situations where we believe we can go to share the glory, which may be part of the allure of road biking.
A strong indicator of road-biking growth, cycling clubs have never been more popular. Many people join clubs in order to share experiences, training methods and the benefits of riding in a group.

Throughout the region, biking enthusiasts are busy promoting and enjoying road biking in a variety of ways.

Albuquerque, New Mexico: For Whom The Bell Clangs

Bill McLain, president of the New Mexico Velosport Cycling Team, has been organizing rides and Tuesday-night criteriums in Albuquerque for 12 years. A criterium is a dramatic multi-lap bicycle race where cyclists race in tight groups. Many criteriums take place in downtown urban areas where hay bales are set up at corners to minimize crashes. Bells often clang during races to spurn racers on, whereas "premes," cash or other prizes, are offered for additional incentives for leaders of the race.

"We’re also seeing 50 to 60 regulars for our group road rides," McLain said, adding that "there are over 100 road-racing dates in New Mexico this year."

In New Mexico, racing is just part of a road-riding scene capturing the interest of a growing population of casual and touring cyclists. McClain said that many cyclists who hopped aboard the popular mountain bike train in the ’80s and ’90s are now switching to road bikes because they are lighter, faster and less cumbersome.

Taos, New Mexico: Getting To Know You

The Taos Cycle Club ( is a non-profit organization affiliated with the American Cycling Association. "I love the camaraderie of the group rides," said Rose Bauhs, secretary of the club now in its second year. "We had 125 people in the club last year and we expect at least that amount again this year."

Flagstaff, Arizona: Real Nice

Jeff Dillon, the co-founder of Flag Velo, Inc. (, a club dedicated to supporting cycling in Flagstaff sponsors 13 elite riders in addition to more than 100 other members. "We put on lots of races including the Summit Center Classic Stage Race (May 29-31) which is the longest stage race in Arizona," Dillon said. "We do a Saturday group ride all year long and we also have Wednesday night group rides in the summer."

Absolute Bikes’ ( manager, Anthony Quintile, said, "There may not be a lot of road riding in Flagstaff but what there is is real nice. Sunset Crater Wupatki National Monument, up-and-back on Sunbowl Road to the ski resort and the Lake Mary and Mormon Lake loop are my favorites. It’s a real active community here and we have many cyclists involved with safe kids’ programs and forest service projects."

Grand Junction, Colorado: Heart Meets Road

The Red Rock Riders in Grand Junction ( boasts 350 members on its roster. Davis Findley, owner of the Board and Buckle ski and bike shop, has been riding for 20 years. "Road biking is fun," said the enthusiastic Findley, whose only complaint these days is that he can’t ride as often as he’d like because he’s too busy with customers.

Findley, like all Grand Junction riders, enjoy the Tour of the Valley Century Bike Ride. This year’s ride will be held August 29. Findley’s shop is one of the sponsors. Last year, 2,000 cyclists rode in the event. "It starts and finishes at the Adams Mark Hotel," Findley said. "The tour is for all ages, it’s fully supported and it goes through the spectacular Colorado National Monument."

Grand Junction is one special place where road biking receives support from the entire community. Brown Cycles, owned by Chris Brown, was recently awarded Business of the Year Award by the local Chamber of Commerce.

Southwest Colorado: A Happening Place

Ned Overend, 48, three-time winner of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic (IHBC) and owner of many world and national titles in both road and mountain biking, works in product development and promotion for Specialized. Overend recalls the road-riding scene in Durango in the ’80s."It was a small, tight-knit group of riders," Overend said. "There were stage races in Telluride, Grand Junction, Pagosa Springs and Moab."

Overend, who also placed first in the 1998 and 1999 XTerra Triathlon Championships, continues to participate in the Tuesday night "World Championship" rides in Durango. These popular rides include dozens of college hot-shots, recreational riders, potential superstars and whoever else shows up. "Road biking is making a comeback," Overend said. "There are at least three groups of riders on Tuesdays and there can be up to 50 people in each group." Overend says that the IHBC (, now in its 33rd year, helps to fuel that enthusiasm. Area road cyclists ride all winter as the weather permits and they crank up the training in the spring as the Memorial Day weekend Iron Horse gets closer.

Ivan Unkovskoy, 41, is the "unofficial organize" of the Tuesday rides. "Some rides we’ve had only a few people but now the rides are more popular than ever," he said. "With Rob Roll working as a Tour de France color commentator for the Outdoor Life Network and with interest at an all-time high, we’d love to try and get a stage race together in Durango, maybe in the fall of 2005." Roll was a member of the famed 7-11 bicycling team that was the first American team to compete in the Tour in 1986.

The Durango Wheel Club (DWC) was started originally in 1895 to advocate better roads. Horses and wagons dominated the dry, dusty roads and the routes were not well designed for safe bicycle riding.

Like any organization that has stood the test of time, the DWC has had its share of ups and downs. With local athletes such as Overend and Roll hitting their stride on an international level in the 1980s, the DWC enjoyed immense popularity. But with every wave there is a crest and a trough, and the DWC sat dormant in the trough for many years.
Kendra Holmes, race director for IHBC and a volunteer for DWC, is dedicated to rejuvenating the Wheel Club. Under Holme’s leadership and guidance, 101 members were recruited in 2003. "We’re one of the largest clubs in Colorado," Holmes said. "The Wheel Club isn’t just for racers and we encourage all levels to participate."

Over the hill from Durango in Cortez, Johnny Shepherd (970-564-5908), 60, has recently started the Four Corners Cycling Club. "Biking is a way of life for me," Shepherd said. "Cycling is a year-round activity and there is no need to put away your bike if the weather gets bad." Shepherd, who owned two bicycle shops in California in the 1980s, is optimistic that his club’s activities will catch on.

Racing’s Up-and-Comers: To Name Just A Few

Rick Crawford, Fort Lewis College (FLC) cycling coach and director of the Endurance Training Network (, has been busy for three years building a national class collegiate cycling team. FLC was already an established power-house in mountain biking before Crawford appeared on the scene, but with a second place finish at the Collegiate National Championship in 2003, FLC is taking powerful strides in that direction as well.

Tom Danielson, a Durango rider who recently signed on to ride with top Italian Team, Fasa Bortolo, rode with Crawford at FLC for three years. He won the 2001 Collegiate Mountain Bike Championship in short track. "Tom’s incredibly gifted and in a league of his own," Crawford said. After leaving Fort Lewis College, Danielson turned his focus to road biking. While riding for Team Saturn, Danielson shattered records on the Mt. Washington Hill Climb in New Hampshire and the IHBC in Durango.

Kristin Johnson, Danielson’s fianc`E9e, is also a Durango rider who is riding on an international level. Johnson rides for Team Basis and will be competing at the Giro d’Italia Femminile ( this July. "I wanted to ride in one European race this season," Johnson said.

"It’s important to me because I want to race more over there next year and I’d like to get a taste of European racing under my belt."

Johnson is truly an inspiration. She started riding a bicycle only four years ago. "I always liked sports but I’ve never been on a team before," Johnson said. "I was definitely influenced by all the sports in Durango." After a summer of racing, Johnson will return to Fort Lewis College in the fall for one more semester before graduation.

Chrissy Ruiter, 24, is Johnson’s teammate on Basis. "I love riding on a professional team and having people to ride with," Ruiter said. "I’m hoping for a top-ten finish at the national time trials in Redland, California, in June." In only her second year of riding, Ruiter is also hoping to gain more experience this year. "I love the biking community in Durango, the mountains and all of the other outdoor activities."

With his recent third-place finish overall at Valley of the Sun, Feb. 13-15, Albuquerque racer, Ryan Blickem, riding for Aida’s Bail Bonds in El Paso, was off to a good start on the racing season. Blickem shares the dilemma of many young racers.

"It is hard for an individual like myself who only works part-time to be able to afford all of the travel and entry fees associated with bike racing. I work for a friend of mine in Albuquerque who owns a tree-trimming service. It allows me the flexibility to travel to the races without being tied down to a regular nine-to-five job," Blickem said.

Javier Saucedo, Blickem’s teammate, is a Category 4 rider. "I had planned to start the season with Valley of the Sun but I came down with a sinus infection and that put an end to that race," Saucedo said.

Riders to the Mark

The racing scene is not just for the elite riders, with many racing events open to the general public. If you are fit and ready to prove it, there is probably no better way to test your maximum heart rate than in a race. There are fewer races in the Four Corners region than the ’70s and ’80s but what remains are outstanding. Besides the IHBC, other races include the Tour of the Gila ( outside Silver City, N.M., April 28-May 2, the Elam Classic downtown criterium in Grand Junction, May 22, and the Tour de Los Alamos in Los Alamos, N.M., July 3-5.

Jack Brennan, one of the race directors for the Tour of the Gila, has big plans for this year’s race. "This is the first year that we have gotten a large corporate title sponsor — the National Geographic Adventure Magazine," he said. "We have also increased the prize money for the Men Professional Category 1 and the Women Pro 1. Last year we paid the Men Pro 1 $8,000, and this year we are paying $15,000. Last year the Women Pro 1 were paid $6,000, and this year $10,000. We expect a total of 500 racers for this year’s race."

Although many of the racing opportunities in Utah are in the area of Salt Lake City, finding race information in Utah has never been easier than at

Now Touring

If you’d rather ride for pleasure than race, bicycle tours are an increasingly popular way for individuals to see and explore new areas.

The Ride the Rockies tour (RTR) ( is in its 19th year. Each year a new route is planned that highlights the best of Colorado. The annual list of applicants averages around 4,000 riders, informs Traci McBee, Tour Assistant. "We select riders through a lottery system and with budgeting for cancellations we are actually able to select about two out of every three riders."

This year’s RTR route will include Estes Park, Steamboat Springs, Frisco and Idaho Springs but the ride has also come through southwest Colorado many times.Many riders in New Mexico and in the Taos Cycle Club will be riding in the New Mexico Road Race Series ( this summer. A popular ride in Taos is the Alpine Classic ( in August. "It’s a fun family weekend," reports Bauhs. "We invite people to bring their spouses and children and enjoy the cool mountain climate of Taos when it is hot everywhere else."

Elsewhere in New Mexico, the Santa Fe Century ( and the Enchanted Circle Century (EC) (800-348-6444) attract hundreds of cyclists each year. Starting and finishing in Red River, the EC rambles through Taos, Angel Fire and Eagle Nest.

For other upcoming tours, Pedal the Peaks ( and the Bicycle Tour of Colorado ( are popular touring events in Colorado. Cycle America ( offers several tours throughout Arizona and Utah including Bryce and Zion National Parks.

Marc Witkes saved his paper-route money to buy his first Bianchi Sport SX in 1984. After four successful, 226-mile Durango Death rides, he finally entered modern times and switched to clipless pedals.

VeloNews Feature: T-Mobile's newest recruit has Much to offer

It's not an overstatement to say that Rebecca Much is something of a hot commodity these days.

Special to Velo News
by Marc Witkes

In October, Much earned a silver medal in the time trial at the 2004 World Championships in Bardolino, Italy. In December, she finished up her racing season with an under-23 victory at the U.S. National Cyclocross Championships in Portland. And with the ink just drying on a new contract to race for the T-Mobile women's professional cycling team next year, Much seems poised for even greater success in cycling.

No bad for 18, eh?

Much dabbed in triathlons while still in high school in Chicago but soon discovered that her real passion was racing bicycles. After a short stint as a bicycle sandwich delivery gal, Much entered a few bicycle messenger races. By the time she got involved with a Chicago bicycle advocacy group, Much was making biking a large part of her life and raced with XXX Racing Team and was sponsored by YoJimbo's Garage.

This year, Much moved to Durango, Colorado, to start school at Fort Lewis College. With 350 days of sunshine each year, Durango is a long ways from the cold of the Windy City. Much received some financial help from FLC and the newly established Tom Danielson Scholarship Foundation. An FLC alum, Danielson helped start the fund that has handed out six scholarships to the school.

Much is enjoying school, racing and training in Durango and now considers it home.

"Durango is so pretty and it's such a great bicycle racing community," said Much, from her cell phone while she was en route to Costa Rica.

She was getting ready to enjoy a sunny family gathering and was looking forward to some rest and relaxation while on winter break between semesters.

"I'll take the week off from cycling and maybe I'll just run a little and do some swimming," Much said.

When she returns to FLC in January, Coach Rick Crawford will put her on an intense base-building program. By the end of February, she'll be riding 30 hours per week.

Click image to enlarge
by Graham Watson

The silver was 'total shock,' says Much.

Much said her silver medal in Italy came as "a shock."

"I had no expectations," Much said. "I was just over there getting to know the USA team and finding my way around Italy."

While in Italy, Mike Engleman, then manager for T-Mobile, approached her and helped her get started towards her first professional contract. Engleman, a former pro, lives near Durango in the small town of Hesperus.

Though devoted to riding, Much maintains a full class schedule at FLC.

"I wake up in the morning and do a core workout and some strength work before class," Much said. "I try to schedule all of my classes before 12 so I can ride in the afternoon. I catch up on homework on the weekends."

Sometimes it's a challenging schedule but Much talks to her teachers all of the time and keeps them informed of her racing days.

"Luckily, all of my teachers are pretty cool," Much explained.

Since FLC's cycling program is only club level, Much will be riding with the collegiate team this spring while she is also part of T-Mobile.

"We have a training camp in February and I'm a little nervous," Much confessed. "The people I'll be riding with are amazing."

Fellow Durangoan Brooke Ourada is also part of T-Mobile.

After training camp, Much will be focused on the collegiate road nationals in New Haven, Connecticut May 13-15.

When she's not traveling with T-Mobile this summer, Much will have an opportunity to participate in the Tuesday night Durango Wheel Club "World Championship" road bike rides. Joining Much will be the likes of Todd Wells, Ned Overend and her roommate downhiller Leanna Gerada.

"I did one club ride and those are fun and hard," Much said. "It's crazy riding with all of the pros but I'm getting used to it. I'm excited to learn more but I really have to concentrate and keep focused."

Wells, who finished third in the Men's Elite Division in Portland says that Much is "phenomenal talent."

"Her results speak for themselves," Wells said.

If a professional cycling career for Much doesn't work out, it won't be that bad. She'd like to work as an outdoors guide or in the restaurant business.

"I'm thinking about a pancake house," Much mused.

Apparently there is life besides cycling.

Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run 2001 Race Report

Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run
July 13-15, 2001
by Marc Witkes

This year's Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run weekend was a special one, indeed. On July 13-15, 110 runners from 25 states and 4 foreign countries gathered in Silverton to experience what is arguably one of the most beautiful and difficult 100-mile runs in the world. Handies Peak, Bear Creek, Engineer Mountain and Oscar's Pass are just a handful of the locales that runners can set their sights upon during the contest.

After all of the streams and rivers had been crosed, the peaks had been scaled and the knees had been scraped on the wicked, steep descents, Karl Metlzer of Utah and Betsy Kalmeyer of Colorado claimed victories.

But this event is not just about the fastest runners. It is about 65-year old John DeWalt and his fifth HardRock finish. It is about the hundreds of volunteers, families and friends, medical personnel, radio and communications technicians who all share a love for the mountains and the outdoors.

Race entrant Dr. Tyler Curiel, from Dallas, Texas brought his family and stayed in Silverton for several days before the race just enjoying the hospitality of the area. Scott Eppleman brought fiance Kelly to share the experience and to make sure that she knows what she is getting involved with. Ultrarunners are quite the eccentrics. Former Motorola Marathon Race Director

Joe Prusaitis visited local runner and former Austin running club peer, Sheena Carswell, while in Durango for the HardRock.

Finishing within the 48-hour time limit is a nice touch for any participant but, this is not what the event is about either. It is about the joy of training, giving one's best effort and breaking down the barriers and fears that prevent each one of us from achieving our goals whether they be athletic ones or otherwise.

With an average finishing time of around 40 hours, each run participant saw at least two sunrises and one sunset against the backdrop of some of the area's most spectacular scenery.
Besides being a great forum for ultra-distane runners worldwide to test their mettle, this contest is also a shot in the arm for the town of Silverton which so heavily relies upon tourism for its survival. Part of the proceeds are put into a fund for scholarships for Silverton High School students who wish to attend college.

In this, my second atempt at HardRock, I was one of the lucky ones. With six cans of Ensure, four turkey and cheese sandwiches, three peanut butter and jelly ones, a dozen oreo cookies, a few banannas, a couple of gallons of water and physical therapist, pacer and close friend John McAward by my side for some 30 hours and 50 miles, I was able to complete this year's adventure in 45 hours and 15 minutes.

When contemplating this story during the run, I initially believed that I would write an extensive thank-you note with a laundry list of the people who made this event happen and gave me the inspiration to complete it. That, I decided would be well-beyond the scope of 450 words. Simply put, thank-you.

How do I as a participant and a writer convey the excitement of this wonderful contest between man and mountains to you, the reader? How does a sighted person describe color to a blind individual? Both tasks are nearly impossible. Perhaps a lover in love comes the closest in understanding the beauty of the run and the beauty of color.

Back to the Hardrock Hundred Homepage

Long before Lance, cycling had another "Major" hero

July 2, 2004
The Durango Herald
Off and Running

Long before Lance, cycling had another "Major" hero
By Marc Witkes

The Tour de France begins in Liege, Belgium, on Saturday. While Lance Armstrong is attempting to ride into history with a sixth consecutive tour victory, it might be interesting to look at a forgotten cycling hero.

Marshall "Major" Taylor was a world-champion cyclist in 1899 in the one-mile event. And he was black, only the second black person after boxer George Dixon to win a world championship. The "Worcester Whirlwind" raced all over the world in events ranging from one-quarter mile sprints to Six-Days. Taylor fought against prejudice and discrimination 50 years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in Major League Baseball.

I first became acquainted with Major Taylor while visiting my hometown of Worcester, Mass., which became his adopted hometown. I saw posters, pictures and memorabilia at a local sports hero's display at an Applebee's restaurant.

When I returned to Durango after my visit, I went to the public library in search of more information about Taylor. Chap, a librarian, and I struck up a conversation. Chap, like me, was a bike fanatic, and he knew all about Taylor.

"Yes, I can get his book, The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer, for you through a library interloan," Chap said.

Three weeks later, the book arrived and I read it with fascination and admiration. I've been a Major Taylor fan since.

Lynne Tolman, a Worcester journalist, is involved with the Major Taylor Association and a fund-raising effort to build a statue in Taylor's honor to be erected in front of the Worcester Public Library.

Recently, Tolman wrote me about the George Street Bike Challenge in Worcester on July 25. It's a fund-raiser where racers of all ages climb a disgusting grade of 18 percent on the same road where Taylor used to train.

Bridging history, I noticed that current Tour de France rider Tyler Hamilton was listed on the entry form as a donor and sponsor.

"Part of the Tyler Hamilton Foundation's (THF) mission is to provide opportunity and access to aspiring young cyclists, so the George Street Bike Challenge for Major

Taylor is a natural fit," Tolman said. "In addition to THF's financial contribution to the Major Taylor Association, THF has donated a George Street raffle prize - a Pedal for Progress bike jersey."

Watching Hamilton win a Tour de France stage and finish the race last year after suffering a broken collar bone was a heart-warming experience.

"One hundred years ago, Major Taylor, too, was a worldwide inspiration by virtue of his remarkable strengths - both strength of character and physical prowess," Tolman said. "An American in the European hotbed of bike racing at the dawn of the 20th century faced different challenges than the ones faced by an American cyclist in Europe at the dawn of the 21st century. But the inner strength required is the same: Determination and perseverance in honing one's physical talent and proving oneself where the rubber meets the road.

"Comparing Tyler Hamilton and Major Taylor is apt, and we're delighted and proud to list THF among the Friends of Major Taylor," she added.

"THF believes in supporting junior cycling and the George Street Challenge is a great race for all, not to mention that Major Taylor is a local hero and keeping his spirit alive is important to Tyler," said Deidre Moynihan, executive director of the THF.

Hamilton will be in Denver as part of his Pedal for Progress Colorado on October 22-23.

Marc Witkes is president of Durango Motorless Transit. He writes a bi-weekly running and outdoors adventures column and can be reached at (970) 247-3116.

Imogene Race Pass Run Training Program

Training guide
courtesy of Marc Witkes

The Imogene Pass Run is a great event, if you are well-prepared. I have five Imogene Pass finishes since 1992 with times ranging from 3:05 to 4:30. I have also run 25 marathons and 25 ultras including Double and Triple Ironmen and Sri Chinmoy 700-mile run.

IPR, for most people, is more of an endurance event than a race. Only the top finishers run the entire course. Most participants use a combination of power hiking and running to reach the summit and then run the downhill sections. Since your training should follow closely to your racing, a combination of several things should be used in preparation.

First, if you are a marathon runner, you can expect your IPR time to approximate your marathon time. If you are an exceptionally strong uphill or downhill runner, you may be able to run a faster time at IPR than you can at a marathon.

IPR training is not much different from marathon training but there are a few special considerations. Get used to training on long uphill sections. It doesn't matter if you run or power hike but do understand that most people will be climbing at IPR from 1 1/2 to 4 hours.

If you can train in high-altitude conditions, this will always help. Everybody reacts to altitude differently but training at higher altitudes will always minimize possible negative effects.

Plan on drinking lots of water during the run and get used to eating during running as well. There are adequate water and food stops along the run but do consider carrying your own water bottle and snacks if you are prone to dehydration or low energy levels. Make sure food is easily digestible.

One progressively longer run each week during the 6 months prior to Imogene will help considerably. Start at you current longest run and add 1 or 2 miles each week until two or three weeks before when you should reach a maximum of 20 or 22 miles.

One speedwork session per week of repeated halves, three-quarters or miles will help you in running each mile slightly faster than you could without speedwork. Hill repeats can be substituted for track intervals. Pick out a steep hill section and run various repeats. Run hard uphill and jog easily downhill.

For beginners, first-time participants and those just wanting to finish Imogene, 25 - 35 miles per week should suffice. For those interested in running faster, more competitive times, weekly training mileage should be between 50 and 75 miles.

Besides long one log run and one speedwork session each week, do two or three runs of between 4 and 8 miles. Do take at least one rest day or cross-training session per week. This will help that you get to the start line injury-free.

Signing up for the race is 25% of the effort, training adequately is 25%, getting to the start line healthy is 25% and the race itself is another 25% of the effort.

Take several long hikes with a backpack, if you want to. This will build strength and endurance.

Bicycling makes great cross-training for a run like Imogene. It prevents injuries, maintains necessary balance between quadriceps and hamstring muscles and also builds muscled required for long, sustained climbs. Cross-country skiing in the winter is also good base training.

Practice running downhill. Stay loose and run a little lower to the ground. Swing your arms for balance. Get used to rocky conditions. Be careful not to use your legs as breaks every time you stride downhill. There are several treacherous sections at Imogene. Be comfortable with your own pace. If you get passed by a few mountain goats on the downhill sections, this is OK. At least you didn't trip and fall like the person who just passed you!

I am not a big believer in weight training but if this is something that you enjoy, do several sets per week of leg extensions, hamstring curls and calf raises. This will build muscle for withstanding the long uphill and downhill.

Eat a healthy meal the night before the run along with a good protein source. Skip the coffee in the morning; this dehydrates you and will force you to urinate early in the race. Instead, drink water or juice and eat something easily digestible in the morning. A bagel and peanut butter is great.

Most important, have fun at Imogene. Set a reasonable goal and if you don't make it, you'll have something to shoot fop next year.

Good luck.

Marc Witkes
Durango Motorless Transit Running Club President

Boure Bike Fest

Off and Running
by Marc Witkes

Second Bike Fest delivers fast, fun rides Durango HeraldSeptember 17, 2004

It was a little like adult baseball fantasy camp on bicycles.

The second annual Ned Overend & Boure Bike Fest has been taking place all week and continues through Saturday. With a different group ride scheduled every day and the chance to meet some of the area's top cyclists, many riders have joined in the fun and camaraderie for as many days as they could safely play hooky from work and family responsibilities.

Wednesday's ride traveled U.S. Highway 160 West to Mancos, Colorado Highway 184 to Dolores and returned along the same route. Twenty people gathered at the Kennebec Cafe, 1,500-feet above Durango at the mouth of La Plata Canyon for the 9:30 a.m. to 10ish start time.

Fashionably late and "Durango time" rules were obviously in effect. Some riders warmed up with a climb on Hesperus Hill while others opted to drive and meet for breakfast at the cafe.

Total mileage for the day ranged from 70 to 95 miles.

Wade Moore, Boure sportswear employee who does everything except make clothes was, in his words, the designated "ride follower."

Guy Nethery, from a small bike club in Austin, the Texas Cyclones, came with his friend, Joe Udell. It was a good opportunity to get away from the oil fields for a week, see some new scenery, and get in some good riding. Nethery and Udell heard about the rides in one of the e-mail newsletters from Boure.

Pulling out of the cafe after breakfast of Canadian bacon, scrambled eggs, fruit, toast, black beans and Coca-Cola, cyclists seemed to have enough calories and caffeine to make it through the day. The pace while passing the Hesperus Ski area was pedestrian-like, but that didn't last long.

Olympian Todd Wells and perennial favorite and homegrown Durango High School graduate Frank Mapel pulled riders through the Mancos Valley and past Summit Lake. Everybody drafted on the wheels of these giants, but they still gasped for breath in the oxygen-deprived mountain air. Wells and Mapel pedaled with brutal efficiency in perfect circles. Both athletes are preparing for the Mammoth Mountain U.S. Mountain Bike National Championship, Thursday- Sept. 26 in California.

Like a child waiting for Christmas, Wells talked about the upcoming cyclocross season. "My buddy Matt Shriver is putting together a cyclocross race series at Fort Lewis College this winter," Wells said. "There used to be just a couple of guys doing cyclocross in Durango, but now there's quite a few, and we get together to practice once a week during the season." For a schedule of races and more information, see

Drew Bourey, owner of Boure, wore his factory clothing. The red, green and yellow colors on his shirt matched his helmet, bicycle, socks and shoes. "How do I get to a color coordinated outfit?", I asked. "All you need to do is spend a little money," Bourey quipped. "Maybe next year Miguel Indurain will join us on one of these rides."

Darlene Hogue, graciously drove a support vehicle for wayward, or otherwise, lost cyclists.
Tom Hoefer and Tracy Wilde, Mountain Bike Specialists employees, benefited from a day off from work.

3D bicycle manufacturer Chris Herting had a fast custom-bike to enjoy his ride.
All of the cyclists regrouped and caught their breath at the Dolores Grocery Store. Tradition dictated the rules, so Mapel treated riders to a box of Little Debbie Moon Pies. "If this ride gets much bigger, Frank will have to buy two boxes of those," someone said.

Craig Campbell, a Hassle Free wrench, and I left a few minutes before the rest of the group. We soft pedaled the back road up to the graveyard on Highway 184. The conversation had just turned from various bike lubes to past Death Rides when Wells, Mapel and company whizzed past.

Campbell caught on the train and just before I got dropped, hard, Mapel and I shared a few words. "Are you getting in a good workout?" I asked. "Any kind of riding you can do this late in the season and have some fun is good," Mapel said. "It's been a long year of racing."

It was a lonely 30-mile ride back to Durango for me. Automobile drivers don't pay much attention to elevation changes on the road, but the stretch between Mancos and Hesperus is not flat.

Meet today at Oscar's in the Town Plaza today and Bread Bakery at 9:30 a.m. Saturday Durango time for rides up Coal Bank Hill and through the Animas Valley to Baker's Bridge.
Missed out on the rides this year? Don't worry, you have another year to get in shape and lose that beer belly for Bike Fest 2005.

Marc Witkes is president of Durango Motorless Transit. He writes a bi-weekly column on outdoors adventure and running.He can be reached at 970-247-3116.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Trail Running in Durango

Trail Running in Durango Marc Witkes
Issue 9 (Jan 2005) Colorado Runner

Durango is a trail runner's paradise. Located in the high mountain desert in the Four Corners Region near the common corner boundary of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, Durango residents see the sun shine about 330 days a year. On the few days when running might be problematic, there is probably fresh snow on the trails that would also make for great snowshoeing.

Will Rogers says, "Durango is pretty far out of the way,,, and glad of it." The lycra-bound athletes are especially smitten that in the late 1980's, USA Today named Durango the worst dressed town in America. However, that's another story; this one is about soft, dirt trails, spectacular vistas and all of those poorly dressed runners who frequent the Colorado Trail, Sale Barn and Crites.

Founded in 1881 by William Palmer, he envisioned Durango as an important smelter site to process ore that was to be delivered by the Narrow Gauge railroad from nearby Silverton.

Times have changed and now the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad hauls little of anything except for thousand of tourists.

Trails2000 is a local group that maintains, builds, and plans trails which provides for multiple uses, including running. Trails2000 was founded in 1990 in conjunction with the World Mountain Bike Championship that was being held in Durango that year.

Bill Manning, happily unemployed, was walking down a street in historic downtown Durango in 1993 when a friend tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Manning, there is this new trails group in town and they could really use your help." Manning thought that becoming involved would be a neat little hobby so he decided to sign up. That was 10 years ago and Manning is now full-time director of a group that has put more trails in Durango than developers have put in new subdivisions.

"It's all about legitimacy and trust and bringing partners together," Manning said. "We now have a huge network of Western Trails. We already had a large system of trails and old roads as part of our heritage but Trails2000 has successfully brought many partners together from different jurisdictions to improve all of the areas."

Those areas are plentiful. Trails2000 has had a part in improving and maintaining trails on Animas City Mountain, in the West Side Mountain Park, Horse Gulch and on the Fort Lewis College Campus.

Local resident and avid trail runner, Deborah Van Winegarden loves the Animas City Mountain trail system. She says, "Given its ready access, sterling views, and nice little uphill, the Animas City Mountain 6.5 mile loop trail is a local favorite. Allow one to two hours - one if you are really fast and two if you are really slow (no offense)."

I have a special place in my heart for the trails within the West Side Mountain Park. One access on Avenida del Sol is right across the street from my residence. Once in this area, you can explore some of the easier rolling trails or if you are really daring, you can tackle the "Hogsback." Following a steep, exposed naked ridge, the top of Hogsback offers a spectacular view of the city below and challenges the fittest of runners. Only the strongest can run this baby. Most runners will be reduced to a thigh shivering power hike.

Horse Gulch, which contains the Telegraph trail system, is accessible from the eastern intersection of 3rd St. and 8th Ave. There are 30-plus miles of trails within this area. With names like Cuchillo, Sidewinder and Cowboy, these trails are almost as fun writing and reading about as they are running.

Regina Fallace, who moved to the area three years ago, says, "The Telegraph Trail provides the runner a glimpse of the expansive, beautiful wilderness that surrounds Durango. Running this trail, on a non-race day, allows you to enjoy the solitude, trees and rock formations."

Besides the plethora of opportunities for runners to go out any day of the week to nearby trailheads and prance about the wilderness, Durango and the surrounding area is also a hotbed of racing activity.

In addition to the Telegraph 10K on Mother's Day and Animas Mountain Mug Run on the last Saturday in October, the Durango area boasts enough races to keep any competitor busy.

The Kennebec Challenge in August takes place in La Plata Canyon. Just to start the race, a 10-mile drive over a rocky road is mandated. Notice all of the abandoned mining history that engulfs you. Thirteen miles through the "Notch" and a seated slide down the steep snow-covered slope on the other side, is required to get through this adventure run. With views of the Lewis Mine and Snowstorm Peak, this race is as much of a sightseeing outing as it is a trail race.
Nearby Silverton hosts the Hard Rock 100-mile Endurance Run during the second weekend in July and Kendall Mountain Run, also in Silverton, is one week after that.

Durango Motorless Transit (DMT), the area's running club, boasts nearly 300 members. Two years ago, Runner's World mentioned DMT as best club name. Founded in the early 1970's, DMT has had its share of good times and bad times. Recently, however, DMT has seen tremendous growing participation in all of its activities including the famous "Thursday night group trail runs."

It started out simply in 1999 with the notion that anybody who wanted to come along for an early evening 6 p.m. trail run would meet at the Colorado Trailhead, at the end of 25th St. on Thursday nights. The route was always the same; out and back along Junction Creek with a steep ascent to Gudy's rest and the easy run back down the switchbacks. Incidentally, the Colorado Trail traverses 14 National Forest areas and 25 peaks while winding its way 480 miles all the way to Denver.

That routine stayed intact for the first year. On a good night, participation exceeded a dozen but on a poor night, attendance might be only two or three. Towards the end of the first year, people were generally happy with an opportunity to get in a good run with friends, do a little socializing and maybe have a beer in town at Storyville or Steamworks before retiring for the evening.
During the next year, Nick Nichols and Vic Rudolph did some serious thinking and decided that it would be more fun to meet in a new place every week. They made a schedule, posted it around town at a few key locations and also put it up on the running club's website,

The success was immediate and dramatic. Participation escalated with as many as 20 fit Durangoans and folks from the surrounding towns participating in the runs. I wouldn't say that A Star Was Born, but a Durango tradition was well on its way. Robin Favreau, frequent trailrunner and also an avid cyclist loves the Thursday night trail runs. "I started doing the group trail runs and found out how much fun it was and I also made many new friends."
Pack your bags and come to Durango for a day, a weekend or a lifetime. I'm glad that I did.
Marc Witkes is a free-lance writer and has lived in Durango for 13 years. Always looking for new adventures, Marc is currently busy training for Ironman Arizona this spring.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

A Lifelong Fan Receives His SalvationMarc Witkes - Durango Herald (CO)October 28, 2004

After 86 years of heartache, frustration and brutal near misses, the Boston Red Sox closed a chapter in their history book with a 3-0 win and World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. In two previous World Series, 1946 and 1967, the Red Sox lost in seven games to the Redbirds.

I have been a die-hard Red Sox fan for as long as I can remember. Most of my family are Red Sox fanatics, except for the traitors who have since moved to New Jersey.

I'm not a skier and I don't care much for snow, but it will be a much shorter winter now that the Red Sox have finally delivered their promises made to three generations of Hub of the Universe fans. The great St. Louis Cardinals infielder Rogers Hornsby once said, "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do, I stare out the window and wait for spring."

My feelings exactly.

When the former batting champion and All-Star Nomar Garciaparra was traded to the Chicago Cubs in June in a blockbuster deal that included Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera, Sox fans questioned General Manager Theo Epstein's wisdom. By his own admission, Epstein was a lonely man that week. But now the Cubs are stuck with the new Nomar Curse, and they sat home and watched television during October.

Watching savior Curt Schilling pitch in pain in Game 2, with his ankle held together by stitches and guts, was inspirational.

I've only been married since January and already my wife, Cathy, was nearly at her wits end with my true passion fully exposed. But in the end, I successfully converted her to be one of the "Fenway Faithful."

Robert Milofsky, a chemistry professor at Fort Lewis College who grew up down the street from Fenway Park, attended Game 2 in Boston with his mother, who just celebrated her 69th birthday.

"I made a promise to my wife and my students and colleagues at Fort Lewis that I was Boston-bound when the Sox beat the Yankees," Milofsky said. "Our tickets, which cost $890 plus $88 in processing fees plus $20 for FedEx, were worth every penny - no, make that every Schilling."
Fans in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, set up their own fan club.

"We are America's team," says Peter Roberts, a Red Sox fan in Anchorage, Alaska.

Even the world's oldest man, Fred Hale Sr., 113, was rooting for the Sox. On game nights, Hale sat with his 84-year-old son, Fred Jr., to watch the first few innings of each World Series game before going to bed. Both live at The Nottingham, a senior residence center in Syracuse, NY.
When I think about this year's championship, I think about my deceased grandfather who also wanted it. Grandpa and I watched many a Saturday afternoon game together on WSBK, channel 38.

Watching the Red Sox this year gave me more of a reason to keep in touch with my family in Massachusetts. Conversations usually began with, "Did you see the game last night?" Even my 68-year-old father, who has never been a sports fan, took to cheering the Sox.

WCVB's reported that Brigham's Ice Cream had recently come out with a special flavor designed to help reverse the Sox's fortunes. It worked.

"This is the best ice cream we've ever had. It's gotten the biggest response. It's moved the fastest. We've had to kick up production to handle the demand," Brigham's Ice Cream spokeswoman Jessica Olson said.

The Red Sox have had a long history of charitable donations with the Jimmy Fund, an organization that treats children with cancer. This year the Make a Wish Foundation and Major League Baseball helped several youngsters see a dream come true and attend a World Series game.

So, now what else do I have to live for? The demons have been exorcised and the Curse is a long-distant memory. If I die tomorrow, I'll leave this Earth a happy man and join my grandfather who is smiling today.

Marc Witkes, born and bred in Worcester, Mass, writes a column on running for the Herald in Durango, Colorado. He assures me that his good feeling about the 2004 Red Sox should last through the long Colorado winter, and maybe....through a lifetime.