USA Cycling professional mountain bike racer Shawn Gregory took first-place in the Kona Bikes Old Pueblo 24-hour race in Tucson, Ariz., on the weekend of Feb. 19 and 20 in the male solo singlespeed division.
This is the first time the 40-year-old, Dolores resident has won the Old Pueblo after placing second last year. The Old Pueblo is one of the largest 24-hour races in the world. The race hosted nearly 1,900 contestants on the 17-mile trail, about 20 of which were from Southwest Colorado, and racers battled 50-mile-an-hour desert winds, rain and cool night temperatures in the 30s. But that didnt slow Gregory down, as he won his division in 15 laps.
I go down to Arizona a lot and try and ride on the trails down there, Gregory said. Tucson is tough because for us up here, its difficult to train riding mountain bikes when there is snow everywhere.
Gregory keeps an odometer on his singlespeed mountain bike and he says he has rode close to 4,400 miles on trails within the last year. The 2010 mountain bike season was Gregorys best and he feels that 2011 has been even better so far. He is currently ranked No. 2 nationally in the solo singlespeed category based on his finish in the 2010 USA Cycling 24-hour Mountain Bike Nationals in Moab, Utah.
This year has started out really well so far, Gregory said. Last year, I was on the podium in pretty much every single race I did.
Originally from Denver, Gregory, President and founder of Tuffy Security Products, located at 25733 Road H, uprooted his business to Cortez mainly because of what Southwest Colorado offers in mountain biking trails. Gregory says the trails are some of the best in the world.
Its a really good place. People travel here just to ride on our trails here, said Gregory. I think some local people dont know that. One of the reasons I moved here was for the mountain biking in the area.
Rico resident Jeff Hemperley, 44, also competed in the male singlespeed solo division and took fourth-place. Hemperley, originally from Las Vegas, Nev., is friends with Gregory and the two have trained together for about the last five years.
I raced against him in the Escalante Days race in Dolores. I met him through there and just became good friends, Hemperley said about Gregory. We both have the same interests and aspirations, and both like riding singlespeeds.
Hemperley doesnt race pro, but each USA Cycling race is open class and welcomes anyone. He and Gregory take pride in beating competitors almost half their age.
Were all on the same playing field. Im an old man and still kicking the youngins butt, Hemperley said with a laugh.
Hemperley feels the high altitude training in Southwest Colorado has put him in the best shape of his life, but states that mountain bike racing is a very mental game.
If you get weak mentally, Its game over, Hemperley said. Youre going to be cold, youre going to be wet, youre going to be tired, you might hallucinate a little bit. The 24-hours are tougher. You got to go from point A to point B. Theres no option to quit, unless you get hurt or something crazy happens. Its equally as much mental as equally it is physical.
Next up for Gregory and Hemperley will be the Big Friggin Loop in Sedona, Ariz., on Saturday, March 19.
Gregory is sponsored by Tuffy Security Products, Kokopelli Bike and Board, Big Loop Maps, Schwalbe Tires, Trek Bikes, Hammer Nutrition, Trails 2000 and the International Mountain Bike Association. Fans can follow Gregorys progress through his blog at www.shawngregorymountainbiker.blogspot.com and Hemperleys progress through his blog at www.elfreakofromrico.blogspot.com.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at [email protected].