NEWS** The 2014 Classic route has changed! We’re working with the BLM to add a singletrack loop to replace a long section of paved and dirt road.
May 11th, 6:45 am and it’s another magnificent spring morning in Fruita, CO. The pre-race check-in for the 3rd annual Desert RATS Classic mountain bike race is winding down and the racers are making their final preparations. It’s sunny, cool and clear with hard packed trails from rain earlier in the week. Camping weather the night before was perfect and everyone is feeling fresh and ready to race. Fruita’s mountain bike trails are as challenging as they are beautiful, winding their way through spectacular high desert vistas. Having the race on such a gorgeous day in May set the stage for previous course records to fall. Now it was up to the racers to make it happen.
The route, a 100k out and back leg-burner, is perfect for testing early season endurance levels. The terrain is varied and includes everything from fast flats to grueling climbs followed by exhilarating descents. The scenery changes as fast as the terrain, following the famous Kokopelli trail through Southwestern Colorado with the La Sal Mountains getting closer as riders near the turnaround. Water is scarce in this section of desert and aid stations are placed along the route to allow riders to carry as little as possible when they ride.
The perfect trail conditions combined with the extreme conditioning of the athletes led to the top three riders smashing the old course record. Pro racer Cameron Chambers of Colorado Springs finished way in front with a time of 3:53:24, the fastest time for this race by 20 minutes! From Salt Lake City UT, pro racer Aaron Phillips came in second with a time of 4:09:09. He was followed at 4:11:06 by the top sport category finisher Brent Beck of Fort Collins CO. Post-race, Brent immediately sought out Aaron to give his thanks for the help he’d given him with the two flat tires he’d suffered toward the end of the course. A show of camaraderie like this reaffirms what’s so special about this race and the overall fellowship of the trail that every mountain biker feels. The first woman at the finish was Lori Smith, a repeat racer who set her own course record and earned a sub 5 hour Gonzo award with a time of 4:59:28. Utahans Heather Batchelor and Danelle Ballengee followed her with times of 5:23:27 and 5:30:54 respectively.
The rest of the field began to feel the steady rise of the temperature as they churned their way to the finish line. The dry desert heat hit hard in the afternoon but the racers pulled off an amazing finish with eleven racers winning the Gonzo award and 38 racers earning the sub 8 hour Enduro award! The burgers and beer awards party at Singletracks bike shop in downtown Fruita was the perfect place to kick back with other racers to trade stories, grab trivia raffle prizes and, for a lucky few, pick up a trophy. Hard to imagine a better way to spend your weekend or a better group of people to spend it with.
The Desert RATS Classic is going to be even better in 2014! We’re working to replace a section of paved and dirt road with a singletrack loop. Check out the new map: