‘12 Hours of Penitence’—endurance mountain bike race challenged Penitente Canyon riders

Penitente Canyon in the southwestern area of Saguache County has a long history of uses, with Native American cultural sites; wagon tracks from the old Spanish Trail; and a history of refuge for the Penitente Brotherhood, a group of Catholic monks who lived and operated in the Colorado/New Mexico area for many years. Recently the area has been known for its otherworldly rock formations as well as camping, rock-climbing and hiking opportunities. Today Penitente is again seeing rapid recognition for another activity, world-class mountain biking. For the last ten years the area was spoken of as one of “Colorado’s best kept mountain biking secrets” but that probably changed on the weekend of October 18.

The first annual “12 hours of Penitence” mountain bike race was a great success, bringing together Over 400 people and 118 racers from around the state and country for twelve hours of endurance racing on Penitente’s extensive and challenging trails. The rules were quite simple; there were categories of solo, two-person and three person teams riding an 18-mile technical course. Winners were those who did the most loops, and the fastest loops in a twelve-hour span.

Economic opportunity rolls in on fat tires

Proceeds from the race were dedicated to Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, a non-profit group

that brings volunteers together from all over the state to do conservation and trails-related projects. The other goal of the race to was to generate economic activity by promoting recreational opportunities throughout the valley, both benefiting small business in the general area of the race (such as the town of LaGarita in Saguache County) as well as bringing attention to the variety of recreational potential of our vast public lands.

The race was the inspiration of Sydney Shalot, a Salida resident with strong ties to the valley and Crestone in particular. She single-handedly wrote the proposal, found sponsors, got the permits, and found ways to incorporate local businesses so they could benefit from the race.

Of note: Michael Hayes, Principal of the Charter school placed first in the two-person category, and Jason Anderson, Saguache County Commissioner, placed second on a three-person team. With the success of the event, a second annual race is a strong possibility.