PENITENTE CANYON — The widely acclaimed race drew competitors from all over Colorado, and training at equal or even higher altitude site produced happy outcomes in several of the nine divisions in the 2019 contest.
Benjamin Koons from Snowmass dominated the men’s solo class with a time of 10 hours, 47 minutes and 23 seconds, and his final time was more than 45 minutes faster than second place finisher Zach Guy of Crested Butte, 11 hours, 32 minutes and 51 seconds. Nineteen riders started and Koons and Guy were the only two to complete six of the 17-mile laps drawn out for the race. Neither of the top riders, both first timers in the race, did any “Joker” laps, less strenuous to conquer, but coming with a catch— a 25 minute penalty added for an easier path.
Snowmass is 8,206 feet, but another base, Leadville, is 10,711 altitude, and the higher base helped produce the race’s Single Speed winner, Jeff Spencer, who completed five laps in 9 hours, 43 minutes and 52 seconds, topping the only other in the class to complete five laps, Andrew Sprafke of Englewood, by 44 minutes, 35 seconds. A total of seven entered the category, not hard to understand when riding a single speed in a parking lot is a respected skill, never mind mountains.
The Leadville training ground also produced the winner of the women’s solo racer class, Ann Stanek, who did five laps in 11 hours, 39 minutes and 12 seconds. She was the only rider in the six in the division to complete five. She had done one prior Penitente Canyon race. Even entering the 12-hour contest is bold, a first timer among the six from Alamosa completed one lap, taking 6 hours, 13 minutes and 26 seconds. But relatives and friends expressed their happiness just seeing her give it a try.
One item notable about the 2019 12HOP is that it was held a month or even slightly more than a month earlier than the past four races. At between 76 and 80 degrees at 3 p.m. Saturday, with barely a breeze, and awards ceremony on the start-finish site over by around 8 p.m., the climate difference was notable from start to finish of the event. When the weather was 41 degrees while an electric guitarist played prior to the awards ceremony in a recent past year, the entertainment quality was not reduced, but was the fastest performance on the instrument this observer had ever heard!
One observation made by a veteran racer as he walked back to his vehicle in the evening was gratitude that 13 participants in the five years of the race were named and recognized at the awards ceremony. They are: Jayson Anderson, Crestone, Lucas Bare, Salida, Samuel Beuke and Donald Beuke, both of Brookfield, Becky Church, Aspen, Justin Colwell, Arvada, Gavin Gunderson, Leadville, Mike Henderson, Alamosa, Adam Mahowald, Salida, Kenneth McMurry, Nathrop, Brinkley Messick, Salida, Aaron Derwingson, Salida, and Keith Teahan, Carbondale.
As a devotee of San Luis Valley bicycle riding and a follower of the pastime since high school, this reporter sincerely hopes that my account will not produce a boom in natives and residents here loading up there cars, pickups and trucks next spring (or sooner for the truly hardcore) to increase chances of winning the event next year. But as backers of the event have noted, the draw of both participants from the SLV and outside have been positive for the economy.
The backers and supporters making the race possible include, Saguache County, Kristi Mountain Sports, the Del Norte Bank, the Rio Grande Tourism Board, Del Norte Trails Organization, the Windsor Hotel located in Del Norte, KSBV 93.3 FM (“The River Rat”), Three Barrel Brewing Company, Del Norte, Square Peg, Alamosa, and Rio Grande, La Veta Pass Route, (“Scenic Line of the World”). Those entities, and 90 entered riders, from first timers to fifth time veterans have made the race an event worth celebrating.
Certainly not to be forgotten is that The 12HOP is a major supporter and plus for the SLV Rattlers high school and middle school Mountain Bicycling team, The Rattlers, both good for the event and in creating opportunities for youth in the San Luis Valley.