100-Mile Bike Race To Debut In Telluride
Saturday, July 19, 6 a.m., the inaugural field for the Telluride 100 Mountain Bike Race will ceremoniously roll through the picturesque box canyon before tackling the course’s most difficult ascent up Black Bear Pass – a climb that peaks out at 12,840 feet and lands riders on Red Mountain Pass on the other side between Ouray and Silverton.
Event organizers, Tobin and Jennifer Behling, have tagged the event as “the most beautiful race on earth.” The two own Bear Shark, an event company that has put on bike races in Texas, Louisiana and Canada since 1998. Inspired by their love for both Telluride and biking, the San Juan Mountains seemed a logical place to create a 100-mile race.
“We have a big heart for the sport of bike racing and for Telluride,” Behling said. “We were riding up Lift Four three or four years ago and thought we should put on a 100-mile mountain bike race here.”
In the last four years, Behling trained in Telluride for the Leadville 100, a challenging 100-mile mountain bike race that is so popular a lottery system is used to determine the majority of the 2,000 person field. About 5000 people apply for a slot each year.
Behling believes the Telluride course will be more physically demanding than Leadville and the course’s iconic climbs over Black Bear Pass, then back over Ophir Pass, will be the most talked about segments of the race.
The course is designed as two loops, each starting and ending at Lift Seven near the entrance of town. The first loop takes riders over the two most challenging mountain passes. First, Black Bear (12,840 feet) then Ophir Pass (12,789 feet ). Although this first loop is the shorter of the two, estimated at about 40 miles and over 6,000 feet of vertical gain, it is considered the tougher of the two.
The second loop begins with another difficult climb, ascending from the Town of Telluride (8750 feet) via ski area maintenance roads to one of the area’s most popular single-track trails, Prospect Trail, which begins at 10,500 feet. The loop descends to CO 145, near Ophir, and overlaps with parts of the first loop.
The course then continues on an old railroad grade on the west side of Illium Valley and connects with more single track, before taking riders up 58P Road, a steep dirt road, to Last Dollar Road. Racers will follow Last Dollar back to CO 145, three miles outside of Telluride, then end the race riding single track back to town and Lift Seven via the valley floor – three miles of open space that acts as the prologue upon entering the Town of Telluride.
“The numbers we have, puts the elevation gain between 14,000 and 16,000 feet,” Behling said.
He also estimated that the mileage might actually be a little over 100 miles.
As far as the course’s exact mileage and elevation gain, Behling jokes, “We’ll know for sure July 20.” Behling has mapped it with different GPS systems and has received different results. He plans on getting more definitive statistics, and updating the race webpage, when he arrives in Telluride in early July before the race.
In its first year, the Telluride 100 Mountain Bike race has a 75-person field limit. As of July 1, 61 people were registered. There will be $1500 distributed amongst the first five finishers in the men’s and women’s open categories. Additionally, there are two course time cutoffs. Racers are required to complete the first leg, passing by Lift Seven, by 11 am. To make the second cutoff, they will need to pass the intersection of 625 Road and 63J Road (where Sunshine Road intersects Illium Valley) by 1:30 pm.
Behling advises racers who do not make the second cutoff, to ride up the Galloping Goose single track and get a free beer at the Telluride Brewery in Lawson Hill before spinning back into Telluride to cheer on the other finishers.
“The race has an enormous amount of potential,” Behling said. “Telluride has the opportunity to be a mountain bike tourist destination. The Telluride 100 will help get mountain biking tourism to Telluride.”
For more information or to register for the Telluride 100 Mountain Bike Race go here.
For more information and details about the course, go here.
Jesse James McTigue
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