In its eighth year the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde has
officially reached mountain bike extravaganza status. This season saw a record
900-plus riders competing in the offroad event in southwestern Colorado. As
always the majestic cliffs of Mesa Verde National Monument provided the
background for 16 miles of singletrack goodness just outside Cortez, Colorado.
Among the 900-plus competitors on hand were endurance racing
superstar Josh Tostado (Swiftwick/Santa Cruz) and 3-time solo Mesa Verde
champion Jari Kirkland (Griggís Orthopedics), both competing in the solo
competition. Kirkland was chasing her third consecutive win at the 12-hour
Things got started with a 7 AM LeMans start under blue skies
and a light breeze. The powerful storm that dropped over a foot of snow in the
mountains of Colorado just missed the 4-corners region and riders were treated
to excellent racing conditions.
The first lap was a fast one with a lead group of three
reaching the lap barn at the same time. Chris Holley (Kuhl), Kenny Wehn (Stanís NoTubes), and Kirby Bryant
(Steamworks) hit the barn together.
Bryantís Steamworks team took the lead on lap two and proved
the class of the field for the next 11 hours. The 3-person male team from
Durango outpaced the rest of the riders and teams on course. Finally finishing the race with 9 laps
The solo contestants powered through lap after lap with over
100 riders competing in the solo categories.
As expected Josh Tostado took the early solo lead and
cranked out crazy-fast laps staying just in front of 2013 solo champ Brian
Bennett (Pivot). Tostado held onto the lead overcoming some difficulties of his
own. A loose grip on his hard tail forced a bike change to his dualie. After a
lap on the full-suspension a faulty dropper post forced him back on the hard tail.
It would take more than bike trouble to stop Tostado however. Despite a few
SNAFUs the Swiftwick/Santa Cruz rider stayed strong finishing first by over 40
Brian Bennett produced a solid 12 hours of riding taking
second just 4 minutes in front of Mike McCauley.
The womenís solo race quickly turned into a battle between
an experienced winner and a solo-racing newcomer or Jari Kirkland vs. Marlee
Dixon (Epic Brewing/MTBRaceNews.com). Kirkland was gunning for her third
consecutive Mesa Verde win, while Dixon was competing in her first-ever 12 hour
After two of seven laps Dixon took an early lead
capitalizing on some difficulties by the experienced veteran Kirkland. With
about a 10-minute advantage Dixon used a formula of consistently fast laps and
extremely short transitions to stay out front. On lap five and six Kirkland
pulled back a handful of minutes but was forced to give them back taking longer
breaks in the transition area.
After just over 11 hours Dixon still held close to a
10-minute advantage. As she approached the finish line to collect her first 12 hour
victory she was joined by fellow solo racer and significant other Josh Tostado
who finally lapped her. The happy couple crossed the finish line together
claiming wins in their individual categories.
As always at Mesa Verde excitement could be seen in almost
every category. Perhaps the most intriguing of the day happened in the 3-4
person coed group. Four different teams took turns occupying the top-2 spots
all throughout the day. Stanís NoTubes, Hammer Nutrition, Epic
Brewing/MTBRaceNews.com, and Ska/Zia/Trek all took their shot at locking up the
lead of the 3-4 coed category.
NoTubes and Ska/Zia/Trek would prove the best of the bunch
as NoTubes held the lead at the start of the ninth and final lap. Nina Baum
took on the responsibility of securing the win for NoTubes. She started the lap
with just a handful of minutes in hand and Levi Kurlander taking chase for the
Baum held nothing back, laying it all on the line to secure
the win for her team. Her fighting spirit kept her out front until the final
climb of the 16-mile racecourse. Kurlander overtook the NoTubes rider almost in
sight of the finish line finally crossing the line just 45 seconds in front of
the NoTubes rider. Taking the 3-4 person coed title with the dayís closest
margin of victory.
Dani Gregory and the Mesa Verde promotional team have used a
simple formula to make their race into a regional mountain bike race
destination. Annual event upgrades, an outstanding trail system, and helpful,
energetic staff combine to make the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde a must-do event year
after year. Itís no surprise this race sells out in hours and keeps riders smiling
for months after the sun sets on a their 12 hours of excitement.