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Mountain biking: stay safe and have fun

This past weekend’s Four Corners Ride and Reggae Bike Festival put on by GECKO was an outstanding mix of competitive and non-competitive mountain, road and cyclocross bicycle events.

For those who enjoy watching others compete, the cyclocross race on Sunday afternoon was the most spectator-friendly and interesting.

Kudos to Morgan Murri for organizing all the GECKO races that have been going on all summer.

If you missed this cyclocross race, I highly recommend you catch the next one. Morgan will be putting Pagosa on the cyclocross map — no question after this weekend’s premier event. More and more local riders are embracing this exciting sport, thanks in large part to the infectious enthusiasm of our most outstanding cyclocross racer, Brianne Marshall.

As the season changes, mountain bikers can anticipate a new dimension to that sport.

For many of us, fall is one of the best times of the year to hit the trail. If this is your first fall riding season, here are a few things to keep in mind to stay safe and have fun.

Many mountain bike trails share access with hunters, so be aware of gun-toting outdoor enthusiasts this fall. Wear bright colors (orange works best) and do whatever you can to look less animal-like on the trail. Leave your favorite earth-tone outfits at home during this season. I like to also make noise; and in this case I sing loudly. However, a bell attached to the bike might be more acceptable to your riding buddies.

Speaking of looking less animal-like, let me share this story with you. My friend Patrick was stoked when he recently found a shed out on one of the mountain bike trails on Cade Mountain. It was a big six-point antler. He strapped it onto his backpack and got it home. Patrick did not get shot at but, I find the move akin to painting a target on one’s back.

In many parts of the country, fall is the driest season, which can mean fast trails. Be careful when you go screaming downhill or around windy corners. Look out for leaf litter — fallen leaves that cover the trail — which can make cornering and climbing very tricky. Pine needle cover is just as treacherous, if not more so, and it is not uncommon for mountain bikers to wipe out on easy trails.

Leaf litter can also obscure technical obstacles like rocks and roots. So, unless you know what’s underneath, it is a good idea to slow down your first time through.

Getting lost on unfamiliar trails that are covered by leaves or pine needles is easy to do. It is hard following a trail you can’t see. If you do find yourself off trail, retrace your steps and look for signs, bike tracks (not your own!) or anything that indicates you are back on track. Even familiar trails may seem confusing in the fall, since trees are bare and much of the undergrowth dies back. What might look like a trail is not one at all.

I always chuckle when people remark about the crazy weather. Living in the Colorado mountains guarantees crazy weather. And, in the fall, when the temperatures shift from warm to cool, it is important to be prepared for anything when you head out. Dress in layers and bring basic rain gear for maximum protection. I also like to scan the weather forecast before heading out for an idea about what I might encounter.

Reports from the mountain biking gang indicate the colors are turning and beautiful on the oak brush out in Turkey Springs.

Be safe and comfortable on the trail.

Trail users of another ilk will have an opportunity this weekend when GECKO stages the Devil Mountain Ultra 50 mile/50K to run through the woods and enjoy the colors. This race attracts large numbers of runners from out of town and this provides local runners with competition on home turf.

In the realm of running, 16 Pagosa runners competed in the 2011 Imogene Pass Run (IPR) on Sept. 10. The IPR is a 17.1 mile mountain race along a route that connects Ouray and Telluride by way of the 13,411-foot Imogene Pass. Many of our local runners, over the years, have completed this challenge and many more will in the future.

I congratulate the following runners for their successful performance at the 2011 IPR: Jurgen Montgomery (fifth in his age division), Tristan Richardson, Clint Alley, Roger Jensen (second in his age division), Eric Deitemeyer, Lucy Morrison, Stephanie Jones, Brandy Richardson, Theresa Snyder, Barbara Lange (seventh in her age division), Elly Heitkamp, Beth Jones, Blueberry Lindner, Monica Alley, Connie Cook and Rita Jensen (seventh in her age division).

I look forward to seeing these athletes and other local runners racing this weekend in the Devil Mountain 50 mile/50K Ultra and in other future local races.

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