Revenge is on its way |

Revenge is on its way

MONTEZUMA – It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact force seeking bodily vengeance, but there’s no doubt a large dose of revenge is on its way for mountain bikers …

Riders set off onto a grueling course at 4 p.m. Friday in the 17th annual Montezuma’s Revenge 24-hour Bike Odyssey. High in elevation and in personality, most who have participated in the race consider it the toughest yet most character-endowed event ever to take place in Summit County.

“There’s no bones about it, it’s dang hard,” said Mark Thompson, who took third in last year’s race and made a last-minute decision to race Friday. “Most of us are looking to do the race and survive and finish. It’s a huge physical test no matter how far you get. I loved it, but I was worthless for weeks after that race. I tried to race a couple more times after that but there was nothing left.”

The race begins in Montezuma and consists of 200 miles, 35,000 feet of elevation gain to a high point of 14,270 feet at the top of Grays Peak, and 10 crossings of the Continental Divide. On top of all this, the course is unmarked, and racers have to cover the most difficult parts of it in the wee hours of the morning, finding their way with headlamps.

The course has yet to be completed. Three-time Revenge winner Rishi Grewal (1999, 2001 and 2002 champion) has come the closest to completing the course, having begun the 11th of the 13 loops and covered 166 miles and 29,014 vertical feet. Alma resident Colleen Ihnken broke the women’s record in last year’s race, having completed eight loops, more than 123 miles, and climbed 24,334 feet.

Ihnken will not compete this weekend, as she is taking a break from racing after competing in the cable-broadcasted Global Extremes event that ended in May on Mount Everest. Last year’s Revenge was her fifth, and she maintains that it is the best race of all time.

“It’s definitely my favorite event,” she said. “It’s just got so much character. At every start, it seems like there’s something crazy happening – dogs racing around, a horse rearing up, some old lady in her rental car parked across the race course, naked women on bikes …”

To kick off last year’s event, a few female racers and pacers spiced up the first three spectator loops riding clad only in helmets and bike shoes. Needless to say, this ensemble couldn’t last the duration of the race, as accessories become progressively more important as the temperature drops, night falls and the terrain becomes rougher.

“It’s something you have to prepare for,” said Blue River resident Josh Tostado, who took fourth in last year’s race and won’t compete this weekend because he doesn’t feel sufficiently fit for such an undertaking. “I prerode every loop, and even preriding, you have no idea where they are. The best part of the race was Grays. When else could you have your bike on your back and be hiking up a Fourteener at 4 a.m.?”

Because of the navigation aspect of the Revenge and the amount of hiking involved, some competitors view the event as more of an adventure race than a 24-hour mountain bike race.

“You’re not sitting on your bike for 24 hours,” said two-time Revenge winner Monique Merrill, who is unsure if she’ll race this weekend, having just taken fifth in an international Saab adventure race in Idaho last weekend. “You do a lot of vertical in some adventure races, and this one is pretty gnarly. It really is a great local race. People go crazy at night. It’s a fun event.”

The 2003 Montezuma’s Revenge kicks off at 4 p.m. Friday in Montezuma and ends at 4 p.m. Saturday, when the racer farthest into the course wins. For more information or to register, visit, or call (970) 668-8900.

Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at

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