Murray's unstoppable reign as one of the country's fiercest cross country mountain bike racers in the Expert Men 25-29 division was only bolstered last week as he crushed his competition at the National Off-Road Bicycling Association's 2004 Mountain Bike National Championships, held at Durango Mountain Resort on Friday.
With a winning time of 2:17:50.28, Murray took the gold for his division in this big-time national race, which draws nationally ranked competitors from surrounding the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Texas and Montana, as well as riders from as far away as California, Tennessee, Georgia, and more. These cross country riders tackled a well-established yet challenging course down the slopes of the Durango ski area, which took them on a meandering tour of the mountain on a two-lap, 24-mile course that climbed over 2,100 feet per lap. Though Murray had never ridden this course before, he nonetheless led the pack for the entire race.
Murray's strong finish at this year's NORBA Nationals confirmed that this Telluride racer is ready to step up to a higher competitive level next summer.
"This was a particularly gratifying win for me," Murray said, "because the way I look at it is that I gave what I had to give, and it's nice to know that what I have is enough."
Murray has steadily climbed the ranks in his division this season in his regional mountain bike race series, the Mountain States Cup, and currently holds the title as number one rider in his division. His consistent top-three rankings throughout this season has garnered him an invitation into the semi-pro division next year. His Friday winning time at Durango would have put him in 25th place in the aggressive semi-pro division, right in the middle of the semi-pro pack.
"I rode my race, and my finish confirmed that I'm strong and ready to move up into the semi-pro division next season," said Murray.
He admits that he has some intense training ahead of him to chalk up winning times next year in the semi-pro division, but Murray says he's ready to take on the challenge.
Also competing in the National cross-country race was Telluride racer Lee Roufa, who managed to pull out an impressive 6th place finish in his Expert Men's 35-39 division, despite decreasing his training this year (which allowed him to spend more time with his family). Roufa completed the course with a time of 2:24:50.30.
The Durango NORBA event highlighted other mountain bike events as well, including short track, mountain cross, super D, and downhill. The Durango area has consistently drawn high level mountain bike events for as long as mountain biking has been considered an extreme sport, with the first-ever World Championships of Mountain Biking held at there in September 1990. Durango is also a mecca for road biking and hosts the ultra-popular Iron Horse Classic, the longest continually running cycling event in the country, where riders race along the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to Silverton.
Other nationally-ranked Telluride mountain bikers participated in the National Championships in Durango, including riders from Team Telluride's downhill "Gravity Team." Dan Goss and Gary Dye were among the one hundred riders to compete in the downhill competition which was held on Sunday. Results from Sunday's race were not yet available as of press time, but look for more NORBA Nationals results in Friday's edition of The Telluride Watch.