Calvert makes it four in a row at Pajarito
Race report by James E. Rickman
(June 12, 2010) LOS ALAMOS, N.M.—Some regard the Pajarito Punishment cross country race as grueling. Not Damian Calvert (Sport Systems Mountain Top Cycling).
“I had fun,” Calvert said after completing Los Alamos’ signature mountain bike race two minutes faster than his time last year. And anyone who happened to see the Albuquerque racer hammer out two laps on the demanding course—which throws out 3,200 feet of climbing and nearly as much descending over 18 miles of twisty, technical singletrack—couldn’t disagree. Calvert’s climbing speed matched many other racers' pace on the flats or even on the downhills. He cruised through some of the more technical sections of the course as if he were riding on pavement. No wonder the 37-year-old seemed to be enjoying himself after crossing the finish line in 1:43:18.
Calvert’s long-time racing rival Michael McCalla of Santa Fe, N.M., came in just 59 seconds behind, substantially closing the gap that Calvert had created in the men’s racing field during the first lap. But this year’s victory makes four in a row at Pajarito Mountain for the New Mexico racing powerhouse.
Nina Baum’s victory in the professional women’s category made for two in a row, as well as Albuquerque domination on the winner’s podium. Baum (Cannondale Factory Racing) says she’s planning to retire from the racing scene after this season is complete. She said the same thing last year after smashing the course record in the Frazer Mountain Madness hill climb, which will take place again next month. Like Calvert, Baum seemed to be having a lot of fun out on the course. She crept closer to busting the two-hour mark this year, finishing in 2:02:36—almost 12 minutes faster than her performance last year at the Pajarito Punishment. With speed gains like that, it would be a shame to see the amiable racer hang up her cleats without going under two hours. (It’s something to consider, isn’t it, Nina?)
The crew at Pajarito Mountain did an impeccable job with the race, making this year’s changeover in race direction absolutely seamless. The trail was in fine shape and well marked, and timing and organization seemed to go off without a hitch, thanks to an army of eager volunteers and a highly motivated Ski Area staff.
About 150 people showed up to race and a good majority stuck it out and finished this year. Up and comers to watch in the New Mexico racing scene include Angel Fire’s Lewis Gaffney, racing for Team Taos Fit. The 17-year-old racer has grown in physical size as well as athletic and technical ability. His 1:57:57 finishing time at Pajarito indicates that he’s now a well-established member of New Mexico’s New Guard of racers.
Another tiny racer to watch out for is Kaden Murdock out of Las Cruces. At the tender age of 13, young Murdock has been seen bombing around on his bike for most of the New Mexico Off-Road Series races this year. He’s small, fast and rides with a stoic expression reminiscent of a coyote chasing down its prey. Hopefully we’ll see him around the Land of Enchantment’s racing scene for a while.
Despite the fun that seemed to be occurring on some parts of the race course, they do call the race at Pajarito Mountain the “Punishment” for a reason. The prolonged climb and technical nature of the course does cause some racers to cross the finish line bleeding or crusted with so much dried salt that they could make margaritas.
“It’s awful, but that’s why I love it,” said one racer staggering back to his car.
For complete results, please visit thePajarito Punishment website.
For more race photos, please visit James Rickman Photography