Good weather makes endurance single-track bike race great time for riders
Sitting on a couch under some shade at Highline Lake State Park on Saturday, Troy Rarick couldn’t help but enjoy the sunny weather.
“It’s perfect,” said Rarick, the owner of the Over the Edge Sports shop in Fruita and founder of the Fruita Fat Tire Festival.
On Saturday, Rarick was helping run the annual 18 Hours of Fruita endurance single-track bike race, which is the conclusion to the festival that took place last weekend.
“It’s been so relaxing and fun not to have to deal with rain or anything questionable at all. It was barely windy for a half hour. It’s been great,” said Rarick, who has had to deal with bad weather in recent years.
“The spirits are high, the vibe is excellent. Everyone is super stoked.”
The event is based around endurance — one rider or a team of two to eight people start riding at midnight, and 18 hours later they finish. The person or team with the most laps on the seven-mile course wins.
Although the idea of riding a bicycle for 18 hours sounds like a daunting task, it’s easy to feel the good vibes the moment you enter the park.
All around the park, from the campgrounds where the riders and their families are able to relax, to the timing tent where the laps are counted and teams switch out riders, people are having fun.
“It’s low stress,” Rarick said. “It’s not everybody uptight and yelling at each other. You hear them (the riders) talking on the course and they’re all being super kind and polite as they pass. It’s neat.”
It’s that low-stress environment that makes it appealing to many riders, some of whom coordinate outfits with their teams.
Darren Broome, the co-owner of Aloha Mountain Cyclery in Carbondale, dressed his team in matching blue Hawaiian shirts.
“This is the one race we try to do together because it’s so much fun,” Broome said.
Broome and Aloha’s co-owner, Nick Degross, were doing the race for the third time in a team of four.
“It’s competitive, yet low key,” Broome said.
“People can come out here and hammer (the course), yet at the same time you’ll see guys in jean shorts and no shirt on their last lap, just having a good time.”
Saturday’s race was the sixth annual event. Prior to the inaugural event in 2004, there was a cross-country race that took place at the Fat Tire Festival.
“We wanted to move the race to its own separate thing and endurance events were becoming more popular, so it made sense to go to the second weekend,” Rarick said.
“We didn’t want it to be common, so we made up the 18 hours and the rest is history.”
Over the past six years the race has grown from just more than 40 teams to 85 teams this year, and next year will expand to 100 teams.
Rarick credits part of the popularity to the effort that the park has put into building trails.
“They’ve turned it into a mountain bike park,” Rarick said.
“This ride is worth coming out and doing. It’s enjoyable. It’s not just a race course, it’s a fun ride and I think that’s what fuels the popularity of this thing.”
This year the course had one mile of new trail added, which riders enjoyed.
“They added like a mile to it, which was a little tricky, turny and sandy. It was cool. It was unexpected,” Broome said.
The top team in the race finished with 35 laps, while most of the teams did anywhere from 20-30.
While it is still largely a regional event, this year’s race attracted people from as far as Idaho and Maryland, and even had participants from Australia and Canada.
Even with the growth, the people who have done it before still enjoy it.
“This is the one we like to close down the shop and do together,” Broome said. “This is close and it’s a good time.”