Road Apple Rally will feature many of region's top mountain bike enthusiasts

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Mountain bike enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels are preparing to compete in the 41st edition of the Road Apple Rally, which will be held once again at the Glade Run Recreation Area with events beginning Friday, Oct. 1.

Held annually since 1981, the Road Apple Rally is America’s longest continuously held mountain bike race. The single-track course includes 5, 15 and 30-mile loops and is a challenging course for mountain bikers of all ages and skills.

Last year's winners of the pro challenge race were Durango's Brent Winebarger, a three-time winner of the race and Albuquerque's Katherine Daley, who won the women's division for the first time.

Brent Winebarger, number 288, Mick Harris, number 200, and Guy Leshem, number 278, compete, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in the Road Apple Rally in Farmington.

Last year's event was held virtually for the first time in its history amid COVID-19 precautions and protocols. Riders took to the course by themselves over a 2-week timeframe between Oct. 3 and 17 and used mobile apps and GPS devices to record and submit results.

Daley, 43, has most recently competed primarily as a long-distance runner as well as in her collegiate days at the University of Oklahoma. She hopes to defend her title over the challenging course.

"The event was different last year, but it's such an amazing course and it would be great to see fans there this time as well," Daley said.

Durango's Brent Winebarger wins his third Road Apple Rally title since 2015

The event is open to participants of varying age groups, with Trey Christensen and Cannon Hilton being the fastest last year to complete the courses between the ages of 11 through 19-years-old while Steve Harmon proved fastest to complete the course among the 60-to-69 year old division.

Nearly 200 mountain bikers took part in the live event in 2019, whether it was in the short course or 30-mile ride.

Neil Merrion, a longtime Farmington resident who's competed in the event for many years, most recently finishing second in his age category in 2019, said there are many reasons for the success of the race over the years.

"It's a unique course in that it's a single lap," Merrion said. "A lot of races of this kind the course goes round and around the same course. The course is also very fast, not a lot of extended climbs. It's much more of a rolling course."

Merrion, who by his estimate has been riding in the Road Apple Rally for more than 30 years, says another reason for the success of the race has been the types of riders who have participated.

"There are some really great riders who live and ride in Durango and they've made the event one of their stops," Merrion said. "Some of the very best professional riders have come to the event."   

Flagstaff, Arizona's Scott Keller (bib 166), Farmington's Neil Merrion (229) and Las Cruces' Tamatha Risner (169) keep pace with the group during the long-course race at the 38th annual Road Apple Rally Saturday at Lions Wilderness Park in Farmington.

Merrion is excited to see the race return to its traditional format, as opposed to the virtual race which was held last fall.

"It was a bummer from a competition standpoint," Merrion said of last year's race. "When you have the rider next to you or behind you or just ahead of you constantly challenging you, it provides you with such great competition."   

The race is scheduled to take place Saturday, Oct. 2. The Road Apple Rally event also  features competitive and recreational races, live music, food and an interactive sponsor village with entertainment and activities. 

For more information, visit fmtn.org/roadapplerally.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680