Bicyclists pedal through drizzle in annual competition

A member of the Pale Riders team flies around the last of a series of switchbacks on the west side of Highline Lake during the 18 Hours of Fruita bicycle race Saturday.

Rain and hail Saturday afternoon didn’t stop 85 teams at the fifth annual 18 Hours of Fruita endurance mountain bike race at Highline Lake.

The race ended with one racer finishing his final lap with seven seconds to spare and several others crossing the finish line just moments after the race had expired, nullifying their final lap.

Kris Cannon of Steamboat Springs and Derrick Fish of Vail, were able to push just a little bit harder and capture the women’s and men’s solo titles, respectively, in the 18-hour race.

The two cardio-nuts said no to the idea of racing with a team, and spent the better part of the day racing around a six-mile track outlining Highline Lake a combined 64 times, which equals just under 400 miles of racing.

This year, however, required the riders to have some extra upper-body strength, as rain about 12 hours into the race made a two-mile stretch in the track nearly impossible to ride.

Before the track was shortened to exclude the muddy stretch, several participants said they had to carry their bikes through part of the course.

“You couldn’t roll it three feet without getting it stuck,” Cannon said. “I had to carry it for at least a couple miles. It felt probably longer than it actually was, but that was frustrating for sure.”

Cannon and Fish enjoy the adrenaline push and competition that an 18-hour ride creates, even though it can eat some racers up.

“Usually I’ll have one bad lap where I haven’t bonked, but nothing’s going right,” Cannon said. “I’m tired and frustrated. I go right in, talk to the support crew. They tell me to suck it up go back out on the next lap and I’m fine. You always expect to have one bad lap.”

Fish said he’ll hit a wall during a race this long, but refuses to quit.

“I think everybody feels that way,” Fish said. “You have to talk yourself out of it, and that’s the mental game. You have to be mentally strong enough to pull yourself out of that state. It can be easy to quit.”

But crossing the finish line, knowing you’ve outlasted and outpushed everyone else, that is what Fish enjoys the most.

“It’s that finish,” he said. “Crossing that line. That’s the greatest feeling.”

Despite the weather, the main goal of the race was fun, and it was accomplished.

One team, Xtrastomparillalopaz, had several racers competing in capes, and the atmosphere of the competition seemed more like a festival than an endurance race.

“The teams are a blast,” Colorado Park Ranger Alan Martinez said. “Everybody comes out, no matter what the weather, and they enjoy it even though conditions are sometimes less than optimal.”

Martinez said the field has gotten bigger and bigger every year.

Troy Rarick, who has helped with the race since the beginning feels the same way about the people who compete.

“They bring such great energy to this thing, that’s what makes it fun,” Rarick said. “Some are here to truly compete, but some are mixing the two or just here to have fun. They all have such an excitable energy.”


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