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The essence of grassroots: Underground ultra endurance racing

  • By Eszter Horanyi
  • Published Jun. 29, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:42 PM EST
Blackhawk Pass is featured in Hemperly's Rico 100 course. Photo: Jeff Hemperly

The series

There are several ultra endurance series that have become ‘official’ with the creation of a webpage. The Southwest Endurance Series encompasses series in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, and Colorado. They range in size from the Southern California Enduro Series that hosts the San Jacinto Enduro and the Stagecoach 400 to the Arizona Endurance Series that hosts nine separate races starting with the Antelope Peak Challenge near Oracle at the end of January and features routes all over the state including Sedona, Prescott, and Flagstaff.

The series also includes the Coconino 250, a self supported stage race where racers carry all their own gear to sleep out every night, but instead of having the clock running 24 hours a day like other multi-day races, racers stop at designated camping areas each night, recording their time to that spot, camping together and then waking up the next morning and doing it all over again.

The route is split into four stages of approximately 60 miles each and three stops, two of which are campsites with no services (or water) and the third is in the town of Williams where racers can choose to camp or to stay at a motel.

Like Arizona, Colorado has also embraced grassroots ultra endurance racing. Drawing on the fanatical popularity of mountain biking in the state, organizers have split the Colorado Series into a set of four Gravel Grinders around the state and ten singletrack ‘epics.’

Three of the four Gravel Grinders are new for 2012 and two new singletrack races have been added to the schedule. Joining the classics such as the Colorado Trail Race and the Crested Butte Classic, which have enjoyed multiple years of maximum capacity participation, are the Salida Big Friggin Loop and the Pain in the Aspen. The series concludes with the Ring the Peak, a route that circles the 14,114 foot Pikes Peak outside of Colorado Springs, as the Colorado State Endurance Championship.

New Mexico also hosts a set of six races starting in late March with the San Ysidro Dirty Century and ending with the Zuni Mountain 100 near the end of October. In between are events with names such as the Santa Fe Big Friggin Loop and the Chama Redneck Epic.

Each race is ‘hosted’ by an individual who creates the route and is ‘officially’ in charge of any route changes, event day sign ins or sign outs, and providing an accurate GPS track for racers to follow. The routes designed by these individuals tend to traverse the best trails in the area, as people are always excited to showcase the best riding that their backyard has to offer.

Jeff Hemperly, also known as El Freako from Rico organizes the Rico 100 and is clear about his bias towards the area and his goals for the route. The goal? “To showcase the best singletrack in the Southwest San Juan’s of Colorado.” Why Rico? “I really want to share what I get to ride on a regular basis. It’s backcountry paradise.”

Each route is as unique as the organizer, as they walk the fine line between creating a route that covers all of their favorite trails and roads and still making the route feasible to complete. Hemperly says, “The goal was to start and end in Rico with as little pavement as possible but keep the route somewhat sane so people would be able to finish the route. There are many bailout options if someone does have a problem finishing the route.”

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FILED UNDER: Endurance / MTB TAGS: /

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