On Saturday July 25, approximately 200 brave mountain bikers battled torrential downpours, mud fields, and steep climbs to compete in the seventh annual Telluride 100 race. Among the riders were 13 locals.
“It was probably the rainiest, muddiest ride I’ve ever ridden, but it was a good challenge. I had a lot of fun. I prepared myself. I had extra food, extra gloves, extra jacket. It was super cold. You could barely hang onto the handlebars,” said local rider Titus Kanehe. This was Kanehe’s fifth Telluride 100.
The race course features local classics including Prospect Loop, Galloping Goose, and Coal Chutes trails. As is typical in the San Juans, the two races had hefty elevation profiles. For the 100-mile version, there was approximately 13,000 feet of elevation gain—with the highest point at 11,182 on the top of Prospect. For the 50-mile course, there is about 6,500 feet of climbing.
The inclement weather was only one of the race’s challenges this year. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic meant that race director Tobin Behling had to entirely rethink how the popular mountain bike race could go on safely.
“I don’t think it was until May that we were sure we could put a plan in place to ensure all the participants and volunteers would be safe,” said Behling in an interview with the Planet.
To ensure that everyone would be protected, Behling devised the Telluride 100 Covid19 Plan, which implemented social distancing, PPE and sanitization practices. Everyone’s temperature was checked. Athletes also had to sign a waiver testifying that they had not shown symptoms in the 14 days prior to this race. Additionally, anyone who tested positive for Covid-19 within 21 days of the race would also receive a full refund.
On the race day itself, Behling did away with the traditional mass start and substituted it for small group “time trial style” starts that staggered groups of racers. In this method, only ten people went out every ten minutes. All of the food at the feed zones was pre-packaged. Volunteers wore PPE and regularly sanitized the stations.
For Erin Huck, who won the women’s division, Behling’s race organization was a success.
“As Tobin said, Covid isn’t going away so we need to find ways of adapting. Other races will be looking to this one,” she said in an interview with the Planet.
Despite the pandemic, Huck felt safe racing.
“I was way more nervous walking around town with all the tourists not wearing masks,” she said.
Huck won the women’s division with a time of 8 hours and 41 minutes. It was her longest competition ever.
“I was pretty nervous because I’ve never ridden 100 miles before, let alone raced,” she laughed.
But Huck said she loves technical climbs, so the local terrain is a good fit. Going up the ski resort, she was able to make some moves.
“A lot of the guys were walking it, but I tried to ride.”
On the men’s side, Keegan Swenson claimed victory with a time of 6 hours and 32 minutes.
Although the race organization went smoothly, the heavy monsoon rains upended original plans. Behling decided that the second planned loop for the course would not be safe. Instead riders did two laps of the same loop.
“That changed the race, but all of our racers indicated that they were happy. Even with people bowing out in the midst of the race just because they were too cold or something, they all said they had a good time. We’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback,” said Behling.
Huck agreed with the decision.
“Changing the course was definitely the right call,” she affirmed.
For next year, Behling is working to get the Telluride 100 registered as a Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) race. UCI is the world-governing body for cycling. With this affiliation, the race would attract a much more international audience because of the points awarded. As a UCI race, the Telluride 100 would have to adhere to strict standards.
“We always run a very tight ship but this would be even more so,” said Behling.
The future of the race looks bright with young talents like Riley Amos. The 18-year-old from Durango placed third overall with a time of 6 hours and 51 minutes—and only one minute behind the second place finisher Russell Finsterwald of Colorado Springs.
“I’m only 18 and racing with those big guys is always a challenge because they had a lot more years to mature. Physically and mentally. So, it was definitely a strong finish for me,” said Amos.
“I was just really stoked to race, and I am glad the organizers were able to put it together in a safe way,” Amos added.
Other top local finishers included: Johnny Carmola, 1st place, 100-miler, age 50+; Titus Kanehe, 6th place, 100-miler, age 40+; Benson Worthington, 6th place, 50-miler, age 19-39; Chris Howe, 2nd place, 50-miler, age 40+; Ashley Klassen, 2nd place, 50-miler age 19-39; Kim Lake, 1st place, 50-miler age 40+; and Kristen Craine, 4th place, 50-miler, age 40+.