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Gravel grinder returns to Dolores

Ride of the Ancients will take place June 18 on gravel roads in the San Juan Mountains north of Dolores.
Annual race features three courses through San Juan National Forest

The Ride of the Ancients gravel grinder will be held July 9 in the mountains north of Dolores.

The bike event is a fundraiser for Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance, Friends of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and the Trail of the Ancients scenic highway route.

Ride of the Ancients includes three races of different lengths – 103, 30 and 19 miles.

The main, 103-mile route features 7,804 vertical feet of climbing through the San Juan National Forest. It follows mostly gravel roads from Dolores to Dunton, up Black Mesa to Groundhog Reservoir, then along the Dolores-Norwood Road and finishing with 10 miles of single track in Boggy Draw.

The 30-mile route and 19-mile family route encourage youths to ride. Electric bikes are allowed on the 30-mile route.

An alternate route for the 103-mile race avoids the single-track; however, pro racers must ride the single-track.

Race organizer Diane McBride said 116 participants have signed up. The cap is 200. Last year, 127 cyclists rode the event.

“We’re especially trying to attract more youth participation,” said McBride.

To do that they added the Family Affair division, which invites two generations of the same family to ride the 19-mile route through Boggy Draw trail and road system. Riders choose from the categories of two adult generations, adult and teen or adult and youth.

All rides begin and end in Flanders Park in Dolores.

Music and commentary by Bentley Monk will provide additional excitement while spectators visit vendors including Kelly’s Kitchen or Yia-Yia’s Concessions.

Music by Ed Kabotie and the ‘Yoties, Sage Bond and Hunter E. Redday begin at the Dolores River Brewery at 1 p.m. A $5 cover will be charged for nonriders.

Volunteer shifts of two to three hours are available for race day and the day before. Volunteers are needed for course marshals, aid stations, entry to the beer garden and more. All volunteers receive a swag bag with goodies including a Ride of the Ancients ball cap.

The race event strives to highlight Native American Tribes that have ancestral ties to the landscape of the Four Corners and the race route.

On the day before the race, July 8, Navajo stand-up comedians James and Ernie will perform at the Turquoise Raven Art Gallery in Cortez. Saturday’s music at Flanders Park features Navajo and Hopi musicians. On Sunday, Ed Kabotie will give an alternative Native American history talk at the Cortez Cultural Center. Event times are pending.

Gravel grinder events are becoming more popular in the biking world and are designed to take advantage of the remote and scenic gravel roads throughout the backcountry.

Gravel bikes are similar to road bikes but are designed with rims that can take a wider tire with increased traction. The bottom bracket is set lower for more control. Riders also use mountain bikes and road bikes in the race.