Winebarger edges fellow Durango native and 14-year-old Quinn Simmons by three seconds in 30-mile pro race

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FARMINGTON — A new first-place finisher was crowned at the 35th annual Road Apple Rally bike race on the trails of Lions Wilderness Park this morning.

The Road Apple Rally is the longest running annual mountain bike race in the country, and the previous three had been won by Durango resident Todd Wells, who chose not to compete this year.

Wells’ decision not to race cleared the way for 38-year-old Brent Winebarger to win the professional/category one race with a time of one hour, 45 minutes and 38 seconds.

“(Todd’s) got a pretty heavy Cyclocross schedule, so that might be why he wasn’t here,” Winebarger said. “Either way, it helps the cause for people like me.”

Winebarger, who also resides in Durango, raced on the 30-mile Road Apple Loop reserved for pros, category one experts and category two sports, single speeds and Clydesdales. The category three beginners and Athena’s (women) raced on the park’s 15-mile loop.

It wasn’t an easy win by any means for Winebarger, who trailed 14-year-old Quinn Simmons — the eventual second-place finisher — for more than half the race.

“I kind of went at my own pace and kept (Quinn) in my sights,” Winebarger said. “I used to live here and have done this race since about 1996, and just know the classic whoop section really well. So that came about 20 miles in, and he probably had about 20 to 30 seconds on me at the top of that. I was able to catch him at the bottom of that.

“That kid’s a phenom,” Winebarger added. “He’s probably going to be winning a World Cup someday, so I’m happy to say I at least beat him once.”

Simmons, a Durango native, finished only three seconds behind Winebarger at 1:45:56.

“Ted Compton took off at the first climb so I followed him, rode around him and rode for about 15 minutes alone,” Simmons said. “He caught me on the downhills, and we just went back and forth until the finish.”

For the past two years, Simmons said he’s been training for nationals and for his high school’s league by running “road rides” every Tuesday in Durango that are designed to get his endurance up.

Though he couldn’t quite take first this year, Simmons said he had a lot of fun in his second Road Apple Rally Race. He also said he might try a new strategy next year.

“I tried to save myself. I think I would have done better if I would have (gone) harder off the start and just tried to get away before the downhill,” he said.

A total of 151 people competed in the various rides today. The first-place finisher among category three beginners was 36-year-old Carl Smith, whose time was 59:47.

The top category three Athena racer was 39-year-old Debbie Hart. She finished in 1:31:39.

First-year Road Apple Rally race director Leslie Mueller said she and her assistants have been actively organizing the event for six months.

From the paperwork and permitting to scheduling volunteers, Mueller said an awful lot of work goes into coordinating the event, but she considers the 2015 edition a huge success.

“I’m just happy everyone has enjoyed themselves. From the riders to the volunteers to everyone who came out to watch, it’s been great,” she said. “I’ve been with the department for a long time, but being at this level of involvement, the feedback has been really meaningful. It’s kind of got me excited to get right to work planning the next one.”

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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