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526-mile Durango-to-Denver mountain bike race underway

Colorado Trail Race features total climbs of 70,000 feet
Jefe Branham of Gunnison climbs a section of the Colorado Trail on Sunday. Branham, a longtime competitor and repeat winner of the race, was among some of 70 entrants in the 526-mile race

Mountain bikers competing in the 526-mile Colorado Trail Race from Durango to Denver got underway at 4 a.m. Sunday in Durango.

By Monday afternoon, previous record-holder Neil Belchenko, using the pseudonym Ned Bachanko, was in the lead, having completed 175 miles of the course. Will Bodewes and Jefe Branham were about 50 miles behind him.

Eszter Horanyi, a former retired mountain bike racer who competed in past Colorado Trail races, said the race generally follows the Colorado Trail from Durango to Denver except for three detours around wilderness areas, where mountain bikes are not allowed.

Cyclists must complete the route entirely self-supported with no support vehicles, Horanyi said.

About 70 cyclists are competing in this year’s race, including 10 women.

Racers climb a total of about 70,000 feet on the mountainous course and about 300 miles of the course are on singletrack.

Elevations range from 5,500 feet to 13,200 feet.

The men’s record for the race is three days and 19 hours, Horanyi said.

Adam Blanchard of Salt Lake City on the Colorado Trail on Sunday.

Cyclists can choose when and how long to sleep. They decide whether to get a hotel to sleep, and cyclists also must support themselves by stopping at grocery stores, convenience stores or restaurants for food and supplies, Horanyi said.

For strategy, Horanyi said the big decision comes in deciding how much time to sleep versus how much time to stay on the bike.

“It’s always a debate of do you try to ride faster and sleep more. Or do you try to sleep less but have your moving speed be a little bit slower,” Horanyi said.

Different strategies work for different people, she said.

“But it seems like speeds are getting faster and sleep amounts are getting lower each year,” she said.

The big emphasis of the race is to avoid putting a lot of pressure on the Colorado Trail by eliminating support crews for cyclists and not having sag vehicles, Horanyi said.

This article was reposted July 26 to clarify the name of the leader, Neil Belchenko.

Scott Simmons of Durango Sunday on the Colorado Trail. He is the father of Quinn Simmons, who is racing in Europe, and Colby Simmons, who recently won a USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championships road race in Florida.