Five local riders, all sponsored by local biking authority J. Michael Brown of Paragon Sports, made the trek to this far-off locale to participate Saturday's event, which drew hundreds of highly competitive road bikers from across the state. The quiet, 43-mile stretch of road over Gore Pass (on the way to Steamboat Springs) was the scene of a virtual road bike rally, where entrants climbed a total of 4,500 vertical feet on the steep and rolling up-and-back route over 9,500-foot Gore Pass.
Though competition was stiff for this year's race, Telluride's road cycling contingent grinded through the battle with strong finishes to show for their efforts.
"The State Finals brings out a lot of really competitive riders, and since it's the last race of the season everyone is riding strong," said Telluride cyclist Forrest Twombly following the race.
Local riders Twombly, Daniel Murray, Chad McGlamery and Aaron Arnold all competed in the Category IV race division, which boasted a large field of more than 80 riders. Murray, who finished out his competitive mountain biking season last week as the number one ranked cross-country rider in his Expert Men's 25-29 division this year, was competing in only his second road bike race ever; his lack of competitive road cycling experience did not, however, stop Murray from finishing in the top ten for the division, taking sixth place.
McGlamery also finished strong in 18th place in the division, while first-time road bike racer Twombly exceeded his own expectations by taking an impressive 23rd place. Arnold, who was still recovering from a chest cold that most likely would have sidelined other riders, managed to finish the grueling race nonetheless.
Chris Cardoza, an avid Telluride road cyclist, was competing in the 60-man Master's B (over age 45) division, and landed himself in the top 20 with his 19th place finish.
Twombly, who had previously only competed in mountain biking, admits that all of the Telluride riders at the event (except for Cardoza) are primarily mountain bike racers and typically hop on road bikes for further training for their mountain biking endeavors. Showing up for a statewide road cycling event of the Colorado State Road Bike Championship's caliber, and finishing as strong as they did, was a feat each of these fresh new road bike racers found gratifying.
"It's a great challenge to get out there and try something a little bit different," said Twombly. "Road bike racing is definitely a different sort of race than you find in mountain biking – it's less technical but more strategic, and your fitness level is all that much more important. Racing road bikes opens a lot of new doors for all of us, especially since road biking is such a big scene."
Though the competitive road bike season is now officially over, there is one more opportunity for local road cyclists to participate in an organized ride; the first annual Just For Kids Telluride-to-Moab road bike ride fundraiser will take place Saturday, Sept. 25. For more information and to sign up, stop by Paragon Sports on main street.