IF YOU GOAZTEC — A bicycle race that began as a fundraiser to help build the Aztec Library is now an established event in the Aztec and mountain biking communities.
What: Aztec Run Mountain Bike Race
When: Sunday, May 5, 10 a.m.
More info: Pre-registration is $30 and can be completed at ACTIVE.com Race day registration is $35 and begins at 8 a.m.
The Alien Run Mountain Bike Competition, now in its 13th year, is held every spring at the end of April or beginning of May and is a great season opener for mountain bikers in the area, said Ralph Wineberger, owner of Cottonwood Cycles in Aztec.
“It brings in people from Colorado because they can start riding down here when it's still snowy and wet up there," Wineberger said.
The race incorporates two mountain bike trails, Alien Run and Mountain View. The two are in Hart Canyon and are connected by an oil field road. The beginner category is 10 miles long and follows the Mountain View trail starting near Kart Kanyon Speedway. The Sport and Expert categories are 26 miles and fully connect to the Alien Run Trail for the second portion of the race.
The trails combine rolling singletrack through juniper forests, open meadows, slickrock outcroppings and loose cobblestone.
What sets it apart from a typical mountain bike trail are the incredible views, said race director Ed Strauss.
Most mountain bike trails take the rider through heavily wooded areas, but the high desert setting of Alien Run opens to the surrounding La Plata Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness and Animas River Valley. Even Shiprock can be seen from parts of the trail.
“It combines single track and oil field roads which gives a lot of opportunity to pass and jockey for positions. There is a lot of strategy involved,” said Strauss, who has organized the race since it began with 12 contestants in 1999.
Last year, there were 140 entrants and this year Strauss expects at least 150.
It's a competitive race that attracts the best cyclists in the region. The record finishing time for the race is 1 hour and 37 minutes, completed by Troy Wells of Durango last year.
This will be the first year the race will use computer chip timing, which will be coordinated by Chasing Three Race Productions. Competitors will be able to read their times almost immediately after they cross the finish line from a computer printout, and results will be available much faster on the race's website. The company also helps to advertise the race within the biking community.
Strauss expects to see racers come in from as far away as Colorado Springs, Colo., parts of Utah and Albuquerque.
“We are now comfortable with expanding the race,” Strauss said.
Since the building of the library, the money raised from the race now goes to Aztec Trails and Open Space, a non-profit group that promotes low-impact recreation and environmental stewardship.
"We don't have a lot of sporting events so this is a major event for us," said Christopher Duthie, the tourism and marketing director for the City of Aztec who plays a big role in publicizing the race.
Strauss hopes to see the trail expand so the race can begin at Tiger Park, where the registration and post-race lunch are now held.
The Alien Run Trail is now designated as a Bureau of Land Management official Hike and Bike Trail.
“The BLM has been very helpful in getting the trails established,” Strauss said.
A lot of preparation went into building the trail. Strauss said the BLM helped with studies on endangered species and archaeology in the area.