Bikers endure 12 Hours of Mesa Verde race

Shawn Gregory rounds a turn Saturday in the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde race. The Dolores resident won the male solo singlespeed class. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Shawn Gregory rounds a turn Saturday in the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde race. The Dolores resident won the male solo singlespeed class.

Local favorite Shawn Gregory wins male solo singlespeed

By Bobby Abplanalp

Journal Sports Editor

Phil’s World is often referred to as a “hidden gem” outside Cortez.

The singletrack mountain bike trail weaves through desert and wilderness northwest of Mesa Verde National Park.

Sand, gravel and stone embody the trail. But hundreds of people know of the hidden gem. That’s why mountain bike racers from across the country returned to the annual 12 Hours of Mesa Verde race Saturday.

Nearly 800 competitive mountain bikers set up camp at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds to race the roughly 16-mile trail.

“This year, we sold it out in 36 hours,” said 12 Hours of Mesa Verde Director Dani Gregory. “We opened up more spaces than we had last year. But we cap it because we don’t want it to get too crowded on the course. Each year, we let it grow a little bit to see what it can tolerate.”

In what was described as a dry, tricky and rocky trail, local favorite Shawn Gregory headed the male solo singlespeed class. At age 41, Gregory won in 11 hours, 48 minutes, 42 seconds. It is the second time the Dolores resident has won the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde (2010).

“It was cool to basically defend the home turf,” said Shawn Gregory, who traversed 131 miles over eight laps. “It’s cool because it’s not just a local thing. It’s guys from all over. To be able to win it locally is a really good feeling.”

Racing for Kokopelli Bike & Board in Cortez, Gregory avoided a couple of potentially damaging crashes to win comfortably by 25 minutes.

“I almost had a big crash, but I saved it by grabbing onto a tree before I went over,” he said with a laugh. “Two laps ago (lap six), I saw the guy was 10 minutes behind. You get a flat (tire), he’ll pass you up. I was trying to put it down.”

Gregory, who is Dani Gregory’s husband, will take his singlespeed Trek bike to the Bailey Hundo on Saturday, June 16, for his next competition.

Kokopelli Bike & Board had another winner — in the female solo singlespeed class. A new resident of Durango, Cat Morrison rode the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde for the first time. It was a challenging, yet rewarding win.

“I’m really happy that I won,” Morrison said. “It gets so much harder on those last (laps). After about three, literally, I was feeling, like, every bump.”

The 38-year-old was the only one in her class to ride seven laps. She did it in 12:14.1 on her Voodoo singlespeed.

Like the hundreds of other racers, Morrison plans to be back.

“It’s a great course. It’s so fun,” she said. “It makes you realize and remember why you’re out here. There’s moments of pain, but it’s fun competing on your bike.”

Starting as a cross-country race 10 years ago, the event grew into a 12-hour endurance event four years later. In terms of maintaining the competition’s overall strength, 12 hours is where the race will stay.

“Even though we could probably grow it huge, we would lose the quality and then we’d lose the race,” Dani Gregory said.

Other solo winners were Mark Gouge (Littleton), solo geezer, 11:7:28; Paul Gorbold (Avon), solo male, 12:8:44; and, Jari Kirkland (Crested Butte), solo female, 11:7:21.

Duo coed singlespeed winners were Kirby Bryant and Vic Rudolph (Durango), 12:15:21.

Next year’s race is slated for May 11.

For complete results and more information, visit www.12hoursofmesaverde.com.

Fans can follow Shawn Gregory at www.shawngregorymountainbiker.blogspot.com.

Reach Bobby Abplanalp at bobbya@cortezjournal.com.

Local cyclists TR Larson rides in the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Local cyclists TR Larson rides in the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde.