Winebarger victorious in Road Apple Rally for second consecutive year
More than 250 participants took part in this year's event after last year's races were held virtually and with no actual in-race competition.
FARMINGTON — For the second consecutive year, and the fourth time since 2015, Brent Winebarger is at the top of the class in the annual Road Apple Rally, winning the men's professional division open race and narrowly prevailing over Todd Wells to take the crown.
Winning the women's event was McKenzie Winebarger, who finished tenth overall and claimed her second women's title in the event with a final time of 2 hours, 4 minutes and 55 seconds, more than five minutes ahead of women's runner-up Tamatha Risner and third place finisher Cat Kalweis.
The Road Apple Rally, in its 41st year, is America’s longest continuously held mountain bike race. There are separate events for short course and long-course races during the event.
Brent Winebarger, from Durango, completed the 30-mile race in the Glade Run Recreation Area of Lions Wilderness Park in a final time of 1 hour, 42 minutes and 27.77 seconds, just four-tenths of a second ahead of Wells, himself a five-time winner of the event.
The top pair were just narrowly ahead of third and fourth-place finishers Guy Leshem and Rotem Ishay, who were also separated by less than a second from each other at the conclusion of the grueling event.
Winebarger, 44, a longtime resident of the Four Corners, has been biking professionally and recreationally since he was a child. Originally from Riverside, Calif., Winebarger has competed across the country, primarily in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico.
Younger and older riders compete on short course
In the short course version of the Road Apple Rally, Farmington's Mike Ziems prevailed over 13-year-old Johan Souders and 16-year-old Seth Chavez. Ziems completed the 15-mile race in a time of 56 minutes and 58 seconds, nearly 90 seconds ahead of Souders and Chavez.
Ziems, 37, who was making only his second start in the Road Apple Rally event, said the best part of the short course event is the diversity in age groups competing in the 15-mile challenge.
"You get to see riders of all ages in the short course event," Ziems said. "The kids are the real test, because seeing them progress and outriding some of the adults is real impressive."
17-year-old Hans Martin won the Category 2 long course race with a final time of 2 hours, 5 minutes and 22 seconds, while 50-year-old Randy Flores finished ahead of the pack in the Category 1 long course race with a final time of 1 hour, 49 minutes and 4 seconds.
The crowd makes a difference
More than 250 riders competed in the short and long course races held at Lions Wilderness Park. Last year, the event was held in virtual format due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions. Riders competed individually and recorded their times on mobile apps.
"Having people from around the community on the course, cheering you on, makes a huge difference," Ziems said. "Having more riders on the course was a challenge as well that made the event a great day, and a lot of that has to do with more people taking up mountain bikes during the time when there wasn't much to do last year."
The course for both the 15- and 30-mile races were hit by rain earlier in the week, which made for a different challenge for many of the riders.
Farmington's Michael Sullivan, who finished 56th overall out of 97 participants in the short course event, and has competed in the Road Apple Rally every year since 1984, said there were advantages and disadvantages to the return of actual in-race competition.
"Overall, the course was in great shape. The rains made some of the sandier areas more passable," Sullivan said. "It's nice to have the competition out there with you to have the inspiration to perform. But you also get a lot of riders bogged down and some more traffic issues to deal with."
For complete results of the 2021 Road Apple Rally, visit www.bikesignup.com.
Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680