Friday, March 25, 2005

Marc running on Hawaiin honeymoon Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Criterium offers local ticket to ride

Walt Axthelm, 71, is planning on bringing a few of his fellow age-groupers along so he'll have some company in the upcoming Durango Spring Criterium Series.

A criterium is a bicycle race, but unlike the Iron Horse, you don't have to climb any 10,000-foot passes to join in the fun.

In these races, participants will race laps on a half-mile figure eight flat course running through the Tech Center.

For those who might be counting, there will be six right-hand corners and two lefts. Packs (groups of racers) will be tight, corners will be sharp and the pace will be fast, so you had better bring your bicycle handling skills and a good dose of heart and lung capacity.

Axthelm has been racing crits for the last three years at the Huntsman Senior Games in St. George, Utah, and last year he raced in the Iron Horse crit.

"I have never stopped being active, starting with 30 years of racing motorcycles in motocross and participating in events like the Baja 500 and 1000," Axthelm said. "When I came to Durango

I started racing mountain bikes and then road bikes to stay in shape."

Stephanie Swan, local criterium organizer, has been hard at work the past several months making sure that racers will have fun, safe events where they can showcase their talent.

"One of the biggest hurdles in putting this series together was getting insurance and the necessary cycling officials," Swan said. "There weren't any cycling officials in Durango so in February, six of us attended a USA Cycling clinic. The Durango Wheel Club invited the regional USA cycling representative, Tom Vinson, to Durango."

Vinson, who lives in Colorado Springs, is excited about the upcoming races.

"Durango is a tremendous opportunity for bicycle racing," Vinson said. "The Iron Horse and NORBA races are just the tip of the iceberg."

Criteriums can be tricky races, according to Swan.

"Talented road riders and mountain bikers can be like fish out of water," Swan said. "A flat criterium involves precision cornering and team tactics and not necessarily brute strength to cross the finish line first."

Events are scheduled for four Saturdays: March 26, April 2, April 9 and April 16. Entry fee for each race is $15 and registration will open at 9 a.m. at the Tech Center on race days.

The Fort Lewis College Collegiate Crits will follow at 1 p.m. on the 16th. Sponsors for the series include the Durango Tech Center and the Regular Joe Coffee Bar and Deli.

"We hope that these races will give people a chance to improve their crit racing skills and ultimately give them the confidence to race in the Iron Horse Crit," said Michael Carroll, Durango Wheel Club president.

All riders must have a 2005 USCF license. One-day or annual licenses will be available for purchase at registration.

For more information, contact Swan at 903-4202 or here .

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Cathy and Marc in front of Corona Arch in Canyonlands National Park Posted by Hello

Rob and Amy Milofsky and friends on hut trip Posted by Hello

A cut above your average hut

Two weeks ago, Amy Milofsky, her husband, Rob, and five friends took a weekend ski trip to a secret winter hideaway just east of Red Mountain Pass, south of Ouray.

"I want to tell everyone about it but I also want to keep it a secret," she said.

But thanks to a bountiful snow year, and legions of backcountry fans in Durango, the secret is out.

The Mountain Belle ski hut makes for a remarkable four-season weekend getaway, and makes many visitors, like Milofsky, long to make it a permanent residence.

"I'd move there in a heartbeat if I could telecommute," said Amy, who works as a land title guarantee officer in Durango.

Winter access to the Mountain Belle is by skis or snowshoes via a two-mile trail on the east side of Highway 550.

"It's a good trail and it's groomed by snowmobiles," said Robert McKeever, an avid backcountry skier.

The hut sleeps eight people comfortably and has a propane cook stove and oven, wood stove, solar powered lights, fully equipped kitchen and toilet room. It also has pots, pans, cooking utensils, emergency food, split firewood, matches and garbage bags.

As far as huts go, it is luxurious.

McKeever, 51, has visited the Mountain Belle several times in the summer but this was his first winter trip. McKeever used alpine skies fitted with Silveretta bindings for a fast 20-minute commute into the Mountain Belle.

"The bindings allow me to put skins on for uphill sections and also ski downhill sections," McKeever explained.

One night during the fun-filled weekend, McKeever accompanied the others on a moonlit ski.

"The sunset took my breath away," he said. "It was like fire in the sky."

Rob Milofsky, chemistry professor at Fort College, didn't waste any time after skiing into the Mountain Belle.

"I settled in, unpacked and went outside the cabin and made four runs in the open meadow," he said.

Two days later Rob Milofsky telemarked all the way to the Chattanooga Turn on Highway 550 where he met a friend, Travis Ward. Ward and Milofsky then drove up Red Mountain Pass to the trail access and skied back to the hut.

Milofsky has also visited the Last Dollar hut in Telluride, the Burn hut in between Telluride and Ridgway, the Pass Creek Yurt, which is part of the 10th Mountain Division system, and the Ridgway hut.

"A lot of the huts claim to be able to sleep eight people, but they are really cramped," Milofsky said. "The Mountain Belle is well-designed and does sleep eight comfortably."

There is a double bed in the downstairs bedroom, three double bed mattresses in the upstairs sleeping loft and a main living area with a kitchen and indoor wood storage.

Dea Funka, McKeever's girlfriend, was also along for the weekend adventure.

"You don't have to be an experienced skier to enjoy the hut," she said.

Funka, an archaeologist for the Forest Service in Norwood, was happy to ski within her abilities and on her own level.

"There are all different areas for backcountry skiing near the hut," Amy Milofsky added. "Some are steep and some aren't so steep. There are open meadows and there are areas with tight trees for experts."

The Mountain Belle has lots of windows and the views are breathtaking. With south and west exposure, sunshine is plentiful. Not too much to look at except spectacular mountain peaks in every direction.

"I think that the Mountain Belle offers some of the best views in Colorado," McKeever said. "I've spent lots of time in the backcountry and this place is a kick in the pants."

About the only thing the Mountain Belle doesn't have is running water. Winter guests melt snow while summer visitors can haul water from the nearby Addie S cabin. And, of course, there isn't a shower.

"The Mountain Belle is an amazing resource to have right in our own backyard," Rob Milofsky said. "It's good healthy fun, and more people should take advantage of this gem."

McGeever's brother, David, his wife Carol, trip organizer, and their 11-year-old daughter Aspen, rounded out the party. Aspen, a third-grade student at Miller Middle School has been skiing since she was five.

"Aspen is an easy kid and she does really well with the 'endurance thing,'" Carol said. "Last summer we did a bike trip over Cinnamon and Engineer Pass and Aspen did great there."

Ski weekends with friends and family in a remote hut can be lots of fun, but there are still chores to do and hungry appetites that must be satisfied.

"We all took turns making dinner and washing the dishes," Carol said.

The Milofsky's menu included pesto walnut tortellini, homemade pizza and a good bottle of wine. Robert cooked elk stir fry.

David and Karen Dow own both the Mountain Belle and the Addie S. David designed the Mountain Belle and finished it in January 2000.

"I originally built the Addie S for my family to use, because I loved skiing in the area," David said.

"I have been skiing up there since 1982 and when I learned there was other private property in the area I decided to build the Mountain Belle."

Because he can't use two places at once and he doesn't live there, Dow decided to rent out the structures.

"It is a lot of work sometimes, but I do love being up there, so, yes, it is a labor of love," Dow said.

For reservations or more information on the huts, call 970-257-0787 or visit

Reach Marc Witkes at 247-3116.

Romantic getaways in the Four Corners

What are you and your sweetheart doing for Valentine's Day? How about something new that will be sure to put a smile on your significant other's face and will score some points when you leave the toilet seat up later on in the month or don’t clean up after yourself? Here are some suggestions for places to go, overnight accommodations, activities and a romantic meal. Most of these picks are very reasonable and there are a few where it's nice to splurge.

You don't have to travel far for some great getaways. People travel hundreds or even thousands of miles searching for the perfect new adventure but we are all very fortunate to live in the Four Corners region where there are so many diverse places right under our noses. We need only to open our eyes and minds, be creative and look around a little.

Downtown Aztec has some great things to offer. John and Gail Aspromonte have owned Miss Gail's Inn (505-334-3452) since 1992. Miss Gail's is a state registered historic landmark hotel and is a delightful bed and breakfast. There are four guestrooms and four efficiency apartments. "Each room is different," John said.

Hard Backs Books and Art espresso (200 S. Main) has thousands of high-quality used books and an extensive selection of local authors. Where else could you find a copy of History of San Juan County Post Office or Bighorns in the Desert? Nikki and Jim Rubow serve baked goods, display local artisans and hold frequent book signings. I picked up three first edition hardbacks for $4 each.

Rubio's (116 S. Main St.) offers fine Mexican dining. John Winkley, a schoolteacher in Bloomfield, NM, likes spinach enchiladas while his girlfriend Mary Donnelly, a draftsperson, doesn't remember what she ate because she was too busy gazing into Winkley's eyes.

David Albright runs the fascinating UFO Information Center (505-334-9890) where you can buy extraterrestrials in all shapes and sizes and pick up a copy of William Steinman's extensively researched, UFO Crash at Aztec. Just 20 minutes northwest of Aztec is the supposed flying saucer crash site ( where you can bike or run the alien loop.

The 320-acre Aztec Ruins National Monument is three quarters of a mile north of Highway 516. Walk the trails and see the "great houses," small residential pueblos, tri-wall kivas and earthworks. Many folks don't even know this place exists but the ruins are significant. One wall is longer than a football field. Make sure to duck while going underneath the unique T-shaped doorways that connect rooms directly to the central plaza.


Ouray is home to some of the best ice climbing in the world. The Ouray Ice Park ( in the Uncompahgre Gorge was opened in 1995 and offers free ice climbing. Getting cold feet here about popping the question is only natural.

The Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and Lodgings ( was built in 1879. Besides offering accommodations with a European flair, the Weisbaden has a hot springs vapor cave underneath the building, a private outdoor spa and soaking pool. The Spa offers a full range of treatments including massage and La Stone therapy. You and your date will be pampered here.

Dine at the Bon Ton Restaurant in the St. Elmo Hotel (426 Main Street) and feast on Tortellini Carbonara, Scampi Bon Ton and Black Nasty (chocolate fudge pie with graham cracker crust) for dessert.


Durango boasts so many fine places to stay and eat that it is pretty difficult to pick only a few. The Strater Hotel (699 Main Avenue) is right in the heart of the historic district. Hand-screened wallpapers, antique furniture and lots of crystal and lace make for a romantic setting even before you enter one of the 93 Victorian rooms.

"We've had lots of people get married in the lobby and rooms," Renate Widder, rooms revenue manager, said. "We also offer turn-down service, roses and chocolate for special occasions."

Ken and Sue's Place is right across the street for dinner. You and your date can sit by the window and watch the people stroll downtown. "Cilantro Crusted Halibut and Chocolate Molten Cake are some of the favorites here," manager Sara Parish said. "We have an intimate setting with nice booths. The 100-year-old wooden bar here is from Chicago and was also in Silverton for a while. Everybody asks us about it."

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad ( offers excursions halfway to Silverton and stops at Cascade for a snack stop all winter long. The setting is peaceful, quiet and spectacular.


Monticello is the "Heart of the Colorado Plateau" and gateway to Canyonlands. The Grist Mill Inn ( produced flour for the community until the mid-1960s but has been restored as a bed and breakfast with seven guestrooms. You can still see the huge mill when you walk into the lobby. There is a sitting room with fireplace on the main level, a television area with VCR on the second floor and a library with lots of classic literary selections on the third floor.

The Utah Ghost Hunters Society held a convention at the Inn in October 2003 to do some investigating. If you think you see some apparitions or strange happenings, you had just better hold on tighter to your lover.

The Joint Trail in Canyonlands ( is one of my favorites. Walk through a huge rock that has been split. Inside the fracture, high walls tower on both sides and there is not even an arm's length across. Maybe sneak a kiss since it's dark and there is so little sunlight that peeks into the fissure.


The Pinewood Inn in Pagosa Springs (157 Pagosa Street) is centrally located near the hot springs and the rooms are simple, clean and cozy. There's plenty of coffee and pastry in the morning.

Ron Bubb, Switchback Sporting Goods store owner and his wife, Ann, like JJ's Upstream Restaurant (356 E. Hwy 160). "It’s got a great atmosphere and you can look out at the river," Bubb said. Dinner is served nightly from 4-9 p.m. and there is a Sunday Brunch too.

Traditional activities in Pagosa are the Hot Springs ( and skiing at Wolf Creek Ski Area ( There are 17 hot mineral soaking pools at the Springs and 45% of the trails at Wolf Creek are expert or advanced terrain.


The Inn of the Rockies at the historic Alma House in Silverton was built in 1898. Afternoon tea, feather mattresses and fresh baked goods are all nice touches. Breakfast is served in the waiting room on the first floor and consists of a scrumptious New Orleans style feast. Rich, creamy yogurt mixed with granola and fruit was my favorite.

Silverton Mountain, the area's newest skiing mecca, was ranked #1 in steeps and #1 in powder in the USA by Skiing Magazine. "Skiing together is a bonding experience," co-founder Jenny Ader-Brill said. "We’ve had wedding ceremonies and champagne toasts high on top of Silverton Mountain. Jenny and Aaron Brill used to ski together a lot before they started the ski area.

"We already had it this year but we hold a ‘He said, she said’ ski camp with pros Wendy Fisher and Chris Anthony," Jenny added. "It’s great for couples."

Pasta la Vista (970-387-5352), one of the few restaurants that is open year-round, is one of Jenny’s favorites. "They have nightly specials ranging from calzones to pork tenderloin," she said.

I don’t indulge too often but my girlfriend Cathy and I feasted on delicious tera misu one night in Silverton before running 20 miles the following day.


Telluride is a winter Disneyland. The Hotel Telluride (, opened September 21, 2001, has 54 luxurious rooms and four suites, each with its own climate control. There are comfortable leather couches in the lobby along with a chessboard in case you want some cerebral stimulation. It's only a few blocks to the gondola downtown and there is even a shuttle service in case you have too much equipment and gear in hand.

"We have marble bathrooms and we offer Aveda product for in-room amenities," guest services represenative Jackie Witter said. "There's a spa on premises, outdoor hot tub, steam shower and we put out complimentary apres-ski hors d'oevres."

The gondola offers free public transportation between the Mountain Village and downtown. Use the gondola to access 1,700 acres of skiable terrain or ride it at night to view the city lights and eat at Allred's (970-728-7474,Gondola Station, St. Sophia). Allred’s is perched high along the gondola's route at 10,551 feet. Enjoy Asian Spiced Muscovy Duck or Passion Fruit Smoked Salmon. The views are spectacular and the catch phrase here is, "it’s okay to eat with your eyes full."

Besides downhill skiing, there is ice skating in the Town Park and Mountain Village. Carrie Mock of Telluride Snowmobile Adventures said, "The Dunton Hot Springs tour, lunch and soak is romantic."


Stay at the Orvis Hot Springs ( in Ridgway. There are no telephones or televisions in the guestrooms as these accommodations are strictly for relaxation. Guests in the lodge have access to the hot springs 24-hours a day. "There is nude soaking under the stars," Manager Terese Gibson said. "We've had people get engaged, married, conceive children and celebrate anniversaries here."

Sara Ballantyne, professional mountain biker and adventure racer, also works as a massage therapist at Orvis. She and husband Chris Haaland frequent The Adobe Inn (970-626-5939) Mexican restaurant. "They have fabulous margaritas and local cuisine and it is a nice way to end a weekend of backcountry skiing on nearby Red Mountain Pass or cross country skiing out our back door in Ridgway," Ballantyne said.


Cloud Nine (, a rustic log style Bed and Breakfast, sits on 30 acres three miles up on Rd. 31 on the Granath Mesa in Dolores. Proprietors Ray Simanson, Leslie Judice and their dog Hanu, wake up every morning to spectacular sunrises, go to sleep with blazing orange and red sunsets and spot magnificent views of the La Plata Mountains all day long.

The Great Room has a stone fireplace and hign vaulted wooden ceilings supported by thick, exposed beams. "We do lots of weddings here," Simanson said. There's a bar, billiards table, yoga center and gift shop on the premises.

Eat and drink at the Dolores River Brewery (100 South Fourth Street). Jimmy and Wendy Mimiaga love the E.S.B. ("If you have to ask, you’ll never know," Dolores resident, Matt Robinson said.) The Campagna pizza has mounds of pesto, caramelized sweet onions, crimini mushrooms and prosciutto Italian ham. I enjoyed the sausage tortellini soup. "The Brewery has really changed the dynamics in town in a positive way and has been a catalyst for community involvement," Jimmy said. "And what better place to bring a date when there is free music like the Lawn Chair Kings?"

The Anasazi Heritage Center ( is a museum of the Ancestral Puebloan (or Anasazi) culture and other Native cultures in the Four Corners region. There are permanent exhibits on archaeology, local history, and a research collection of over 3 million artifacts. Learn about the former town of McPhee that is now submerged beneath the reservoir.


The Absolute Bakery and Cafe (292 East 1st St.) in downtown Mancos is open for breakfast and lunch and serves fresh baked muffins, banana bread and homemade granola. Owners Sean McCall and Carly Borelli are proud to serve fair trade coffee. "It's straight from a farmer in Nicaragua," Borelli said. "A former employee, Megan Duty, was there for six months and she set the whole thing up for us." The walls are filled with works from local artists like wood sculptor, David Sipe. You can also buy stunning local photo cards here from David Baker or pick up a copy of "Culinary Colorado".

The Bauer House Bed and Breakfast ( is included in the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties. "It was built in 1896 by the town founder, George Bauer, who used it as his family's home," hostess Bobbi Black said. "Later when it was a hospital, there were lots of babies delivered there." The Bauer house has received "Best Customer Service" marks three years in a row from the prestigious Arrington's Inn Traveler quarterly magazine.

If it’s a sunny day (and there are plenty of those even in winter) Highway 184 between Mancos and Dolores is one of my favorite stretches for road bicycling. It's not very hilly and you can get great views of Sleeping Ute ( There is a nice, wide breakdown lane and there isn't much traffic.


The Adobe Bed and Breakfast and Silver River Spa Retreat ( is tucked away in the southwest corner of Farmington, NM, on the cliffside bank of the San Juan River. "We serve Peach Clafouti French pudding, grind our own oats for oatmeal waffles and have fresh Farmington apples for breakfast," co-owner Diana Ohlson said. "The place is like a nature preserve and we have eagles, birds, foxes, Peregrine falcon, raccoons and deer on the property."

The adobe structure is a mixture of mud, dirt, clay and straw and there are massive wooden timbers. "We feel very happy to offer people a place with traditional northwestern New Mexico architecture," Ohlson added. David Beers, Ohlson's husband, is an anthropologist and between the two of them, they serve as a mini Chamber of Commerce and local historians for the area.

Johnny Carino's (505-325-0081) serves bread and oil with every meal. I've had the lasagna several times and I'm still trying to count the number of layers. Carino's also offers fast and convenient pick-up service. Call ahead, drive your car up to the entrance and a waiter greets you and runs back in to bring out your order.
Mountain bike on the Kinsey Trail ( This trail stays dry all year-round. Access is the end of Foothills Drive.

Valentine's Day is a great occasion to try out some of these places but I recommend that you have more than one weekend away each year. You’ll be in big trouble if you save romantic surprises only for Valentine's Day.

Marc Witkes, Durango writer, is trying a new romantic getaway this month. He's trailrunning, bicycling, swimming and honeymooning with Cathy Tibbetts in Honolulu.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Marc at start of Triple Ironman Posted by Hello

With the Mush, Mancos really goes to the dogs

The dogs are coming! The dogs are coming and the mushers, too! The Mancos Mush, Colorado's premier sled dog race, will be in Mancos Feb. 12 and 13.

Besides Alaskan and Canadian entrants, several locals will also be clicking off "Gee" and "Haw" to their sled dog teams to make them turn right and left.

Gregg Dubit, 41, and his wife, Gretchen, have owned the Durango Dog Ranch in La Plata Canyon for eight years. The Dog Ranch offers rides and tours during the winter months.

"Dogs, for me, are like dairy farming," Greg explained. "Twice a day, 365 days a year, I scoop poop and give them water. Some days are better than others."

Gregg is excited for the race in his home court, but he'll also be a little happy when the race is over. For organizers and participants, preparations can be daunting.

"I've been doing speed and endurance training with the dogs for quite a while," he said. "I'll be glad to get some sleep when it's over and spend more time with Lydia, our 13-month-old daughter, and Gretchen."

Gordon Ninde, 35, has been running dogs for four years. Ninde, a 1997 Durango High School graduate, is also a paraplegic. He has use of his upper body, but he is paralyzed below the waist. Ninde took a fall while rock climbing at East Animas in 1992, and did not recover the use of his legs.

"The hardest thing for me is maintaining my balance, turning, and getting off the sled to sort through tangles and break up dog fights," Ninde said. "It's also a challenge staying warm because I can't move around much."

Hercules, a Siberian Husky, Zenith, an Alaskan Husky, and Becky, a Siberian and English Pointer mix, are Ninde's favorite dogs. Becky, especially, is an exceptional puller.

"She's small but strong," Ninde said.

Tyler Hackett, 28, lives at the Dog Ranch and helps Gregg guide commercial trips and attend to the dogs. Hackett is also a Fort Lewis College student majoring in art history. This is his first race.

"Yes, I'm excited and a little nervous but not scared," Hackett explained. "I live here year-round and the dogs are interwoven into every aspect of my life. I feel comfortable with dogs and mushing."

Hackett is looking forward to taking all of the skills he has learned and putting them together in a celebration of the spirit of working with the dogs on the trial.

"Dog racing is a unique sport that doesn't get much exposure," Hackett said. "I've learned so much about humanity and society through the dogs."

Mark Wood, 42, owns the Winter Moon Kennels in Placerville and will be competing in the 100-mile event in Mancos. Wood loves the lifestyle that owning running dogs brings.

"It's a different way of life," Wood said. "I'm a bit of a hermit, and I don't have any neighbors. If I didn't run dogs, I'd just be like everyone else."

Wood probably enjoys the company of dogs more than people. After all, dogs love their job (pulling), they scream to go to work and they can't get enough of it.

Wood and his team have run many races, including Beargrease and the Dog Derby in Ashton, Idaho, the oldest dog race in the lower 48.

Someday, perhaps, Wood would like to race in the Super Bowl of dogsledding, the Iditarod.

"That's a full-time job; you need to forget about everything else and you need to have 110 percent commitment." Wood said.

It also costs around $30,000 after all the logistics of bringing sleds and dogs to Alaska are added up.

For more information about the Mancos Mush or about the Durango Dog Ranch, call the Dubits at 259-0694 or see

Reach Marc Witkes at 247-3116.

Nordic Center Hosts JO Qualifier

Nordic Center hosts JO qualifier
By Marc Witkes
Special to the Herald

Rain in town on Friday night meant several inches of fresh powder at the Nordic Center at Durango Mountain Resort (DMR) on Saturday where 150 Colorado athletes raced in the final Rocky Mountain Division (RMD) race of the season.

At stake were several slots for the Junior Olympic (JO) team that will compete at Lake Tahoe, Calif., on March 7-12.

The Durango "World Class Stadium," so designated by Durango Nordic volunteer Mike Elliott, offered spectators a perfect venue for watching the start, finish and transition areas. Elliott said DMR was instrumental in setting everything up.

Using a World Cup format, racers skied the first half of the race using classic technique, entered the transition area, changed skis and skied freestyle for the second half of the race.

Racers lined up in several rows for a mass start within each age division.

Tad Elliott, Mike's 16-year-old son who previously qualified for JOs, relaxed and listened to a rap music mix on headphones while he patiently awaited his 9 a.m. start time.
Tad is one of 12 kids from Durango to be named to the 2005 RMD Junior Olympic Team. One year after qualifying 11 locals, Durango topped itself by sending 10 racers and two alternates.

Jason Cork, Durango Nordic Ski coach, busily waxed skis before sending his record bunch off to compete.

"Tiffan (Wannamaker), you didn't wax your skis last night?" Cork joked.

Dan Weiland, 29, Vail coach, also waxed his team's skis. After testing structures and snow patterns, Weiland decided to use HF10 and V8 wax on the skate skis.

"I'm not sure yet what we'll use on classic skis." Weiland said.

Weiland was excited to be in Durango again after having competed here several years ago when he was a junior racer.

MOJ and J1 (ages 16-17) skiers started at 9:10 for a 15-kilometer race. Elliott, and Marty Smith from Steamboat Springs, went out fast and put a 12-second lead on the second pack of skiers. Elliott finished in 41 minutes and 36 seconds and Smith was second in 42:17. Last week at the Crested Butte Alley Challenge, Smith finished first while Elliott finished second.

"I felt good (Saturday) even though I was a little tired this week," Elliott said. "I'm stoked."
Elliott did a face plant on the second lap but was able to recover quickly.

"The snow got clogged up in my poles." Elliott explained. "Marty is fun to compete with and the groomers did a great job out here."

Evan Elliott, Tad's brother, finished in 44:46. Evan was selected to be an alternate on this year's JO team.

Joe Schneider, 16, also from Durango, finished in 48:25 and was hoping to improve and earn a spot for JOs next year.

The next race was FOJ and FJ1 (ages 16-17). Brittany Perkins, from Summit, won the 10-kilometer event in 27:12. Durangoans Maggie Casey and Caitlin Cassidy finished virtually together in second and third place respectively with times of 28:22 and 28:23.

Local Junior Olympic Qualifiers
2005 Rocky Mountain Division Team

Durango representatives
OJ Girls (18-19) - Tiffan Wannamaker, Krysia Crabtree
J1 Boys (16-17) - Tad Elliott, Evan Elliott (alternate)
J1 Girls - Maggie Casey, Caitlin Cassidy
J2 Boys (14-15) - John Gerstenberger
J2 Girls - Ryne Olson, Erin Casey, Katie McLean,Holland Breed, Hillary Leroux (alternate)

Casey and Cassidy, who had both previously qualified for JOs, enjoyed racing together and pushing each other on the course.

"Caitlin has made me a better athlete," Casey said. "She's got grit."
This will be Casey's fourth trip to JOs.

Erin Casey finished in 15:14 in the 5-kilometer FJ2 (ages 14-15) race.

"I had a problem with my bindings during the skate section, but other than that everything went really well," said Erin, who had also previously qualified for JOs.

All of the Durango teammates supported each other, offered hugs and kind words.

Joe Casey, 12, finished in second place in MJ3 (ages 12-13).

"Evan and Tad Elliott inspired me to go as fast as I could," Casey said. "I've been skiing since I was seven years old."

Coming into Saturday's race, Durango's Hilary Leroux was right on the edge in the points total to qualify for JOs.

"I'm just a little nervous," Hilary said. "I just need to have a good race and not kill myself on the first hill."

Meanwhile, Terryl, Hilary's mother, paced nervously.

Hilary, with her hair dyed red, streaked to a 16:09 in the FJ2 race and qualified for her first trip to JOs.

Midge Wannamaker, Tiffan's mother, rang a cowbell and cheered her daughter to a 29:19 finish in the 10K, FJ1 race and a spot on the JO team.

Following a long day of ski-racing fun, the Bistro in downtown Durango hosted a banquet for skiers, parents, friends and coaches.

Always-animated Tour de France commentator Bob Roll, master of ceremonies, held the crowd in his hands while he passed out awards. Random draw prizes and a sweepstakes, which included a first-prize trip to Belize, also were presented.

Closing the evening's celebration, Roll used his hands and voice to announce this year's complete JO team.

With all of the pressure off to qualify for the JOs racers continued their Nordic celebration on Sunday with a series of sprint relay races.

Durango will represent 20 percent of the 50-person Rocky Mountain Division team that will travel to the 2005 Junior Olympics.

Now Is The Time To Begin Training For Iron Horse

The 34th annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic (IHBC) is 99 days away and if Ed Zink and Kendra Holmes have anything to say about it, no one will have a valid excuse not to give it a try this year.

Zink, Mountain Bike Specialist owner and Holmes, IHBC director, and the Durango Community Recreation Center have teamed up to put together the first Iron Horse training program.

Zink, 57, new owner of Durango Mountain Bike Camp, is dedicated to helping people have a more enjoyable experience on a bicycle.

"I think that a lot of people would like to ride the IHBC but they are just a little intimidated," Zink said. "I put this program together so that people wouldn't be scared of riding to Silverton and maybe they'd be a little healthier."

For 14 weeks, class participants will ride three times per week on indoor bicycles at the recreation center, get instruction on riding technique and nutrition and ride outside when the weather improves.

Lindsey Johnson, 26, has lived in Durango for three years and has never done the ride to Silverton. Johnson was pregnant in 2004.

"I enjoy being with a group and having some help with motivation," Johnson said. "I just bought a nice silver LeMond bicycle and I need to get in shape after having Nola last August."

Claire Ninde, 40, works with Johnson at Mercury Payment Systems and they decided to sign up for the class together.

"I'm a complete beginner but so far the class has been really good," Ninde said. "I've learned a lot about my heart rate, training and bicycle technique."

Last Thursday, Patti Glover, a spinning instructor from Farmington, led one of the indoor bicycling sessions. Glover arranged everyone in a circle, started the class with some stretching, encouraged the cyclists to keep a water bottle nearby, and cranked up the Beatles. The class pedaled furiously, jumped, stood and adjusted the tension on their spinner bikes.

"Keep drinking, no bouncing and round pedal strokes," Glover directed.

Class ended after one hour and Glover encouraged her class to lift weights and be consistent with workouts.

"I get so many calls about training for IHBC," said Holmes, who is also taking the class. "This program should not intimidate people and will help build some confidence."

Holmes also hopes that some camaraderie will develop among the people who are taking the class.

"We're going to have guest speakers and different instructors so that the class can benefit from more than one opinion about training," Holmes said.

"After all, one size doesn't fit all."

Patti Zink, 48, Ed's wife, is enjoying the classes.

"I wanted to train with a group of people who just wanted to make the ride to Silverton and who did not have any time goals," Patti said. "I've helped Ed for six years but this is my first time training for anything."

With Memorial Day weekend still three months away, it's not too late to sign up for the class. Visit the Durango Community Recreation Center for more information.

Reach Marc Witkes at 247-3116.