2010 Santa Fe Brewing Company Frazer Mountain Madness
(July 25, 2010) Taos Ski Valley, N.M.—How do you turn a taste of unpleasantness into a full-blown banquet of misery? Just add water.
Two days of steady rains might have spelled cancellation for many other New Mexico mountain bike races, but for the sixth-annual Santa Fe Brewing Company Frazer Mountain Madness, it simply meant more fun.
For those unfamiliar with the annual mid-summer suffer-fest, the Santa Fe Brewing Company Frazer Mountain Madness, held at Northside at Taos Ski Valley, is actually two events in one—comprising events nine and 10 of the New Mexico Off-Road Series. Day one is a hill climb to the 12,163-foot-high summit of Frazer Mountain, located next door to New Mexico’s highest point, Wheeler Peak, while the second day provides cross-country racers with a chance to enjoy a dizzying maze of singletrack on the mountain. With a starting line located at around 9,500 feet above sea level, both events are notorious for their prolonged climbs and lack of oxygen.
This year they became known for the rains.
The good news for racers was that the mountain absorbs moisture like a good shock absorbs a rock garden. Despite the deluge, riding conditions remained pretty buff—at least until the real heavy stuff started coming down during the second hour of Sunday’s cross-country race.
Category 1 and professional riders took three laps around the mountain. That’s 21-and-a-half miles with more than 4,000 feet of climbing. Category 2 riders rode just under 16 miles with 3,000 feet of climbing, while the Category 3 and beginner riders enjoyed 10 miles and about 2,000 feet of climbing.
The mountain itself was clothed in the lush, green splendor of summer. Patches of purple, red and yellow wildflowers adorned the mountain like crown jewels. The damp dirt beneath the lines of singletrack crisscrossing the area was the color of rich chocolate cake and every bit as sweet. Though rain was not officially falling at the starting area at the beginning of the race, everything at 10,000 feet and higher was cloaked in cloud cover, and the fine gray mist deposited moisture on everything.
The climb up the mountain was as steep as a balloon mortgage rate offered by Goldman-Sachs to a recently-divorced fast-food worker with a credit rating of 420. The trails were as wet as the armpits of the disadvantaged mortgagor signing the dotted line.
On the first lap, professional rider Damian Calvert of Albuquerque, N.M., charged up the climbs as if they were the flats. Rival Cameron Brenneman was chomping at Calvert’s heels, just seconds behind. The seven-man pack of professional men was divided by young rider Lewis Gaffney of Angel Fire, N.M., who was riding in the 18 and under Category 1 expert division—and the only one of the three racers in that category to complete the race. When the race was all said and done, Gaffney would finish just 10 minutes behind the professional winners and fourth place overall.
As the race progressed, the weather stopped fooling around and the mists turned to full-fledged rains. The top of the course turned sloppy and water droplets on bikes and shins morphed into spackles of mud.
Most of the racers wore looks of grim determination as they gutted it out on the course, but sole professional woman Nina Baum of Albuquerque wore a cheerful smile as she pedaled—providing her own self-contained rays of sunshine that seemed to warm the course ahead of her.
Calvert slowly pulled away from Brenneman with the second and third laps and eventually won the event by a full two-minutes, finishing in 2:10:35. Third place finisher John Searles completed his third lap six minutes behind Brenneman in 2:18:57.
Baum, who won the hill climb the day before and who holds the world-record for the hill climb from 2009, finished the cross-country race in 3:08:35.
Gaffney, the young upstart from Angel Fire, completed the race in 2:20:39.
It’s worth noting that four crazed individuals entered the race in the Category 2 open singlespeed division. David Wilson of El Paso completed his two laps on the mountain in 1:47:19, nearly 15 minutes ahead of the competition. The other singlespeeders, in order of finishing were Chris Hereford, Joshua Torres and JJ Torres.
As usual, the race was well-run and well-organized and the Schwag bags were generous—full of interesting items not usually seen at other races. Those interested in trying out the Frazer Mountain trails without the pressure of competition can do so. Details are available on the Northside website.
For full race results see the Frazer Mountain Madness site.
For more photos, please visit James Rickman Photography.