The annual mountain bike race will take place Saturday morning at the Glade Run Recreation Area and Lions Wilderness Park

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FARMINGTON — Over the past 35 years, the Road Apple Rally has attracted both hobby mountain bicyclists and professional racers to Farmington.

The mountain bike race will return Saturday morning to the Glade Run Recreation Area and Lions Wilderness Park.

The annual race, which began in 1981, is the oldest mountain bike race that has continually been taken place in the United States. Participant Thomas Hawkins described it as a "hidden gem" for the Farmington community.

The race began with 25 contestants and was initially run beside a horse trail ride, according to Daily Times archives. While horses no longer trot alongside the cyclists, it remains a popular event and has grown to attract hundreds of riders. Athletes such as Todd Wells, a member of the 2012 U.S. Mountain Bike Team at the London Olympics, have competed in the race.

The race usually draws about 250 riders, according to Christa Rommé, a spokeswoman for the city of Farmington's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department. People can register through 5 p.m. Thursday by going to roadapplerally.com. As of Tuesday afternoon, 126 people had registered for this year's race.

"It is certainly something we're very proud of," Rommé said.

Because the race is a USA Cycling event, it draws people from other parts of the country.

"We always like the opportunity to show off our assets here and our beautiful recreational opportunities," Rommé said.

While professionals provide a competitive edge to the race, a novice category allows the event to remain a family-friendly activity that encourages an active lifestyle for local residents. Hawkins calls himself "one of the slower guys out there that just shows up and has fun." He and several of his friends plan to ride in this year's race.

"It's a good way to get out and exercise, and you don't feel like you're exercising," he said.

The race is divided into two routes: a 30-mile loop for professionals and a 15-mile loop for novice riders.

Both routes start and end at Lions Wilderness Park. The professional route takes riders through the Glade Run Recreation Area to N.M. Highway 574 and back to Lions Wilderness Park. Novice riders head down Hood Mesa Road and onto the Kinsey Trail before looping back through an area of Glade Run known as Rigor Mortis.

"It's got great views of the La Plata Mountains," Hawkins said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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