June 25, 2010

Bailey Hundo gets good reviews

Mike Potter
Staff Writer

It was a rocky, but ultimately satisfying, day for the riders and organizers of the Bailey Hundo, a grueling bike race of 100-plus miles on Saturday, June 19.

It was rocky for the 154 racers as they made their ways through a network of roads and trails east of Bailey. There were a few daunting climbs throughout the course, including a rough stretch of road that climbed 2,200 vertical feet from Deckers to the top of Stoney Pass, and one on County Road 68 just before the finish line. Of the 154 racers at the start, 15 did not finish.

And it was rocky for the organizers because there were unexpected challenges that sprang up during the 12-hour event, including missing riders, closed gates, damaged course indicators, and the need to shuffle around aid station workers mid-race.

But by the end of the day, all the bumps had been smoothed over, and all that was left to do was celebrate at the TJ's Wood Products property.

More than $20,000 in gross proceeds was raised through donations and through a suggested donation per rider of at least $100, and net proceeds will go in part to help build trails and parking areas in the Bailey area that could help attract mountain bikers. Exact amounts had not yet been tallied by press time. A portion of the proceeds will also be given to Trips for Kids Denver/Boulder, a nonprofit group that provides mountain biking trups for at-risk youth, and the Colorado High School Cycling League, a nonprofit that promotes mountain biking at high schools.


In the Men's Elite category, the top three finishers were: Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (6 hours, 37 minutes), Dave Wiens (6:49), and Brian Alders (6:56).

In the Women's Elite category, the winners were Sonya Looney (8:19), Brenda Moczygemba (9:21), and Melissa Trainer (9:24).

Cameron Chambers, from Kansas City, Mo., finished first in the singlespeed category, with a time of 7:44.

The total results were not available at press time.

Positive feedback

Race volunteer John Gerritsen, who helped lay out the course, said he heard nothing but positive reviews about the course after the race. And the finish times showed him that the course was right on the mark as far as its challenges.

"We're not too extreme and we're not too easy," he said.

Overall winner Horgan-Kobelski had one such positive review.

"I was loving it," he said at the finish line. "The course was amazing."

Horgan-Kobelski, who is also known as JHK, said the first 60 miles were "incredible," and five hours in, he felt great.

"Pure fun," he said.

But the last hour and a half, he had to push himself to make it to the finish line.

"I really suffered the last hour and a half," he said.

Many of the top racers took to the Internet following the Bailey Hundo to share their thoughts on the event, and they were upbeat about the race.

Horgan-Kobelski posted on his Twitter page: "Bailey Hundo was 5 hours of awesome followed by 1h36 [minutes] of gnarly suffering. Satisfying victory."

Second-place finisher Wiens also took to the Internet. "The first half of the Bailey HUNDO was one of the finest experiences I've ever had in a bike race," he said. "It certainly was a tale of two courses: the first as described above and the latter nothing more than a 'let's see how tough you are' kind of a torture fest. I loved it! It's what bike racing is all about."

Looney, the top female finisher, posted her reactions on her blog. "The singletrack was RIPPING fast and fun," she wrote. "I had butterflies in my tummy and let out some loud, [child-like] laughter."

The course

The course consisted of roads and trails southeast of Bailey. Its layout was meticulously planned to offer a variety of features that would challenge all the participants, said Gerritsen,

"We looked for varied terrain not to favor any one type of specialist," he said.

There were 10 aid stations spread out over the course that offered the riders food and water. Toward the end of the race, and during the difficult climbs, aid stations were positioned closer together to give the riders more of an opportunity to rest.

Any riders who didn't pass aid station six by 1:30 p.m. were stopped. Aid station six, at the 59-mile marker, was a little over the half-way mark.

Gerritsen said it was planned that the cutoff would be there so riders who made it that far, but weren't allowed to continue, could say they made it more than halfway to the finish line.

"This is their Everest," he said.

The race, which began in downtown Bailey, looped around to end on property just southeast of downtown Bailey on County Road 68. It had a particularly challenging 2,200-foot climb through an area decimated by the Hayman fire in 2002. The temperature in that area at one point in the afternoon was 84 degrees.

Steamboat Springs biker Nate Bird, who finished seventh overall, said the climb was one of the most difficult parts of the course.

It was rocky and narrow in areas, with no shelter from the sun or the wind.

He was by himself for 75 miles of the race and had to fight to keep his focus in some areas.

"You always try to stay positive, especially if you start feeling that lull," he said shortly after crossing the finish line. "I always say 'I am fast, I am strong' over and over."

He also uses music as a motivator, although he only listens to one headphone so he can still hear what's going on around him.

The Bailey Hundo was the first race of 100 or more miles for both Horgan-Kobelski and Bird. They both said the longest race they'd done was 70 miles.

Senators' race

Democratic Colorado Senator Chris Romer and Republican senators Mark Scheffel, Greg Brophy and Mike Kopp spearheaded the race.

Senator Dan Gibbs also helped recruit participants and rode 40 miles. Broph finished the race, Romer finished half the race, Kopp rode 25 miles, and Scheffel shot the gun at the start.

Romer, who stopped long enough at aid station two to answer some questions, said he thought the race could become a great way to showcase the mountain biking trails around Bailey.

"This is not only some of the best mountain biking in Colorado, but some of the best mountain biking in the world," he said.

Romer and Kopp rode into aid station four together around 10 a.m. Romer continued on and Kopp bowed out of the race.

Some very big names in mountain biking raced in the Bailey Hundo. Among them were Wiens, the six-time winner of the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race; Horgan-Kobelski, who took first place in the Men's Pro Cross Country title at the U.S. Mountain Bike National Championships at the Sol Vista Bike Park on July 18, 2009, in Granby, Colo.; and Durango resident Travis Brown, who represented the United States in mountain biking at the 2000 Olympics.

Brown finished 35th.

"Probably five of the top 10 mountain bikers in the world are in this race," Romer said.

An up-and-coming rider was 15-year-old Moises Selman, from the Dominican Republic.

Romer selected him to carry his torch after he left the race.

Selman told The Flume that he is considered one of the top 10 junior mountain bikers in the Dominican Republic.

He was set to take over for Romer after noon, but Selman couldn't wait to get on the trail, so Romer decided to bring him along on his way out of aid station two.

"Moises is going to be my secret weapon," Romer said. "Brophy doesn't know about it."

Romer also warned one of the top racers that Selman was coming for him.

"He's going to part the sea, and Moises and I are going to lead our people," Romer said. "Dave Weins watch out, because Moises is on the trail."

Not without incident

Although many racers suffered minor cuts and scrapes from the course, there was only one major injury reported during the race.

Denver's Mike Berg suffered a broken foot or ankle during the race before reaching aid station 4.

Berg was riding a stretch of the Colorado Trail when he had a mishap and hurt himself.

Details about the incident weren't clear, but race organizers were able to locate the injured biker.

Someone sat with him while a crew from the North Fork Fire Protection District drove in to find him.

Gerritsen also had to reorganize aid station volunteers when it appeared that aid station 10 was going to be understaffed.

Gerritsen was able to coordinate aid stations with plenty of help to get to aid station 10 to set it up.

He said he's already got his mind on next year's race, which would most likely keep the same course.

This year's course was not exactly 100 miles, but was somewhere between 103 and 108 miles, said Gerritsen. He said GPS systems were not uniform in calculating a distance, which was difficult because of the elevation changes.

He's thought of ways to improve communications between volunteers, how to track riders, and what the volunteers need to know before setting up.

While he had helped organize races before, he had never helped organize one with the scope or the length of the Bailey Hundo.

The race could grow to be huge, which is what he would like to see.

"I think this race is going to become an epic, meaning it's going to become a very, very, very large race, and that's what we want to happen," he said. "Not only is it just a fun event, but the more people that we get to come to this race, it's going to be financially better for the charities that it serves."

Last-minute contributions

One last-minute contribution to the race was provided by Houston-based El Paso Corp, a natural gas company that is planning to drill a test well in South Park at the end of the summer.

El Paso donated $2,500 just days before the race, and it had two of its representatives ride in a portion of the Hundo.

And the Intermountain Rural Electric Association donated an additional $500, bringing its total donation amount to $750.

Romer saved the high praise for the volunteers who helped make the event a success.

"Without the town of Bailey's commitment, this never would have happened," he said. "When a great group of people get together, you can pull off amazing things."

The last winner

It took him more than 12 hours to cross the finish line, but Bailey's Dennis Griffin, 54, felt like the biggest winner of the race.

"I was the last person to cross the finish line and it was quite an adventure," he said.

When he started the race, Griffin, who owns Sudz Laundromat and some real estate in Bailey, wasn't sure he'd be able to finish the 100-mile-plus race. The farthest he'd gone mountain biking was 40 miles.

But he saw the challenge, and compared it to the struggles Bailey as a town and a community has faced.

Along the course, Griffin fell nine times, but he always picked himself up and pressed on. He saw younger men and woman ahead of him quit, but he had to keep going. He felt like he was racing for the town of Bailey.

"I relate everything to Bailey," he said. "There's a lot of people in Bailey that want Bailey to work. I believe we can make it work."

And he knows that to cross the finish line, for himself or for the town, it's going to take more than one man to get there.

At aid station nine, when Griffin though he might have to quit, he met Rod, whose last name he didn't get.

Rod convinced Griffin not to give up.

"I had a guy, I really wish I knew his name," Griffin said.

Griffin said Rod told him there were five miles of downhill to Wellington Lake, and once he hit Wellington Lake, he only had 10 more miles.

"I said, 'OK, I'll go,'" Griffin said.

So Griffin pulled out of aid station nine and Rod followed him downhill for five miles to Wellington Lake. Then the end of the race was almost in sight.

"You just find out that if you keep going up that hill, eventually the finish line is there," he said. "And then you become the winner."