Mountain’s Revenge 24-hour challenge continues old-school mountain bike tradition
One-of-a-kind 24-hour competition starts Saturday afternoon in Montezuma
The Mountain’s Revenge, a 24-hour, high-Alpine race that is designed to be “unfinishable,” will return Saturday, Aug. 7, to the traditional starting line outside of the old historic schoolhouse in Montezuma.
Race host Adam Shaw said 12-16 cyclists are expected to take on the mountain bike endurance challenge on trails up near the Continental Divide. The race challenges riders to complete as many backcountry loops as possible in 24 hours before calling it quits. In 2019, race champion Andrea Wilson won with 77.3 miles and 10,981 vertical feet climbed.
“It’s the hardest 24 hours on two wheels,” Shaw said. “It’s all high-altitude, high-Alpine riding. It’s not a groomed single-track trail. It’s gnarly bowling-ball and toaster-oven-sized rocks everywhere. And the views are just out of this world.”
The Mountain’s Revenge is the legacy incarnation of Montezuma’s Revenge, a once fabled, sanctioned mountain bike event that challenged some of the sport’s best endurance racers in the Montezuma area from 1986 through 2006. Rob Ilves, Shaw said, originally designed the event to be “a race under the full moon that couldn’t be finished.”
Along the way, racers experienced some of the most awe-inspiring sporting backdrops imaginable, including the traditional Gray’s Loop stage that required racers to scale to the top of Grays Peak above 14,200 feet with their bike. In all of those years of legendary efforts, Josh Tostado set the Montezuma Revenge record in 2005 by riding 156 miles and attaining 32,350 feet of vertical gain.
Shaw himself first discovered the Montezuma’s Revenge after he moved to Summit from Wisconsin in the late 1980s, when stumbling across a poster in a town house he was tasked with maintaining.
“I thought, ‘Holy cow, that looks so cool,”’ Shaw said.
Shaw never raced in the original Montezuma’s Revenge events, though he volunteered. He said Ilves gave him the blessing to revive the event. Shaw ultimately did under the similar name at the encouragement of the Colorado Endurance Series, which said to host the event in a free format and under the U.S. Forest Service’s recreational use rules for nonpermitted events.
Without race entry fees and support crews, The Mountain’s Revenge carried the legacy of racing around the Continental Divide on unmarked, rugged loops all above 9,000 feet in any sort of weather.
“I have always joked about it, but Revengers are not normal,” Shaw said. “They kind of enjoy the impossible challenge. It really is like no other event out there. Yes, there is a ton of hiking and pushing your bike, but you are literally going over mountains.”
The “impossible challenge” is how the event consists of more total mileage “than a racer can humanly finish,” Shaw said. Most racers average around 90 to 100 miles, which is less than half of all the loops Shaw drafts up. The loops also are tweaked each year.
Bernie Romero, 48, of Dillon, will race his single-speed in his eighth Mountain’s Revenge on Saturday, the most of any cyclist.
“It’s your classic mountain bike race; a roots mountain bike race like back in the ’80s out on Jeep roads,” Romero said. “Most of it was unrideable.”
Romero said The Mountain’s Revenge makes all other races seem tame in comparison.
“I’ve raced national championships, and once you do a big race like this there really are no butterflies going into another race,” he said.
Romero said he preps for each year by riding at some of the loops, and he said the terrain is now more rugged than usual due to erosion from recent rain. Shaw said another element that will make this year’s race different than years past is that it will occur on a new, not full, moon. The new moon, Shaw said, will play into something else special for this year.
“Something that is not being announced until the start,” he said.
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