FARMINGTON — One of the world's most elite mountain bikers demonstrated his skill Saturday in Farmington.
Professional rider Todd Wells, 37, of Durango, Colo., came in first place at the Road Apple Rally for the second consecutive year. Wells is a 2004 and 2008 Olympian and three-time USA Cycling Cross-Country Mountain Bike National Champion, as well as a three-time USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross National Champion.
At Road Apple Rally, he finished the 30-mile loop in one hour, 42 minutes and 55 seconds. He finished ahead of Albuquerque's Damian Calvert by a minute and 37 seconds.
"This is a classic race, and winning it is really cool," Wells said after winning the longest running annual mountain bike race. "It is great to win here. I won here last year. To defend that title is great. It is always fun to race down here in Farmington, and the Road Apple Rally is one of my favorite all-time courses."
Wells' time was more than five minutes slower than his winning ride in 2012.
"Last year, we had perfect conditions. It had rained some earlier in the week, so the sand was really packed down and super fast. Today, it was a little more blown out and looser. It was a little tougher and slower course," he said.
More accelerating and decelerating was required on Saturday than in recent years, Wells said, but the thrill of riding through rolling hills and over slick sandstone still provided fun for the riders.
"This is one of the most enjoyable race courses we have. Usually, we climb straight up a hill and ride back down. With this, you are actually smiling most of the time," Wells said. "With the whoops and jumps out there, you aren't just pedaling. You are pumping at a high speed. It is a blast."
Calvert was pleased with his second-place finish and said it was an honor to finish behind Wells and in front of 2004 and 2009 Road Apple Rally champion Ned Overend, who won the first-ever UCI World Mountain Biking Championship in 1990 in Durango.
"This is always a great race because you get some mountain biking celebrities like Ned Overend and Todd Wells. Finishing between those guys is really cool," Calvert said. "Knowing that Todd has won the series and the national championships, he is the man in America. It was good to be riding with him for a little while, but I just couldn't keep his pace."
Calvert, 40, was content to ride alongside Overend, 58, for most of the race.
"We hit the final stretch, and Ned was railing it. He was riding that bike like a 15-year-old on a BMX track. That was cool to watch, and it is inspiration for all of us that maybe one day we can be 50 something years old and still be able to rail a bike like that," Calvert said.
Fort Lewis College graduate and Albuquerque native Sarah Sturm took first place in the women's pro division. Sturm finished the race in 2:06:37.10. She was two minutes and 42 seconds ahead of second place Brianne Marshall of Durango.
Sturm was surprised with how fast the race went by. She thought maybe she had taken a shortcut when she was the first woman across the finish line.
"This is pretty sweet. New Mexico is my home turf, so representing New Mexico and winning is awesome," Sturm said. "I was totally confused the entire time. I felt like I was on my bike for 30 minutes, but I guess it was more than that."
This year was the first time Sturm has had a chance to race in the Road Apple Rally because college races always kept her busy in the past. She graduated in December of 2012.
"Everyone told me this is the most fun I could ever have racing, and I would say 'Yes' to that after doing it," Sturm said. "It was awesome with such a good mix of people, and I loved the terrain our here. I am getting ready for cross season, and I wanted to get a good race under my legs, but this one was too fun to call a race."Check out complete results from the 2013 Road Apple Rally online.
John Livingston covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @jlivi2 on Twitter.