Organizers expect changes to the Alien Run route to make this year's mountain bike competition even more competitive

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FARMINGTON — Several changes are coming to Aztec's Alien Run Mountain Bike Race, which is expected to draw about 80 cyclists on Saturday to the trail in Hart Canyon.

This year's race will be even more competitive than previous years, partially because this marks the first year that Alien Ruin will a sanctioned USA Cycling race. That means cyclists can earn points during the race to qualify for larger races throughout the country.

"We had some people who were wanting to gather USA points," said Wallace Begay, the USA Cycling Alien Run Mountain Bike Race director.

The race is one of only a few in the Four Corners area that are USA Cycling sanctioned.

Also, the course cyclists will ride is different this year. Begay said the race will no longer start at Tiger Park in Aztec, but will instead begin at the trailhead to the Alien Run trail system.

And rather than a mass start, the race will have different starting times for each category. The race is divided into three categories, based on experience level. Each group rides a slightly different route and distance.

Begay said the professional and category 1 riders will do three laps around the large loop, completing a total of 34.4 miles. The category 2 riders will ride two laps around the standard loop for a total of 19 miles, and the novice and beginner riders will complete two laps around a smaller loop for a total of 13 miles.

The distances for the professional and novice races are longer than in previous years when cyclists in the three categories rode 26, 24 and 10 miles, respectively.

The new routes will also be more spectator-friendly, Begay said. He said people watching the race will know where to go to see the cyclists, and each cyclist will ride by the start at least once during the race.

The professional and category 1 riders will also be challenged during a two-mile section of the course that goes through the outer limits of Alien Run. The outer limits are an extension to the Alien Run trail system with distinct characteristics that include rocky climbing and a dune-like terrain.

In addition to the outer limits section, the single-track trail will require more skilled riding than the oilfield roads that cyclists competed on in the past, Begay said. He said the track varies in width from about 18 inches to 4 feet wide.

"You're going to have to be more of a technical rider," he said.

Mike Barnhart, a service manager at Cottonwood Cycles Inc. in Farmington, competed in the race in 2010. He said he liked the trail but did not like riding on the dirt roads to get there from Tiger Park. However, Barnhart said, some cyclists are concerned about the ability to pass on the narrow trail.

He said he expects cyclists will leave the narrow trail to pass other cyclists.

"I see a lot of new trails being made," Barnhart said.

Barnhart said the Alien Run trail system is a popular ride for cyclists because it is not open to off-road vehicles, like many other local mountain biking areas.

"It's a nice, tight, twisty trail," he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

If you go

What: Alien Run Mountain Bike Race

When: 7 a.m. Saturday

Where: Alien Run Trail. Directions can be found at alienrun.com.

Cost: $50 registration fee on Saturday

More info: Go to alienrun.com.

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