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Ride of the Ancients returns to Dolores June 26

New gravel grinder route is through San Juan National Forest

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Riders can choose between a 95-mile or 30-mile loop course on a network of gravel roads in the Boggy Draw and Groundhog regions.

The Gran Fondo endurance ride is a fundraiser for the Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance and Trails of the Ancients Byway Association.

“It’s a fun, new community event for Dolores that features the beautiful scenery of the southern San Juan Mountains,” said organizer Diane McBride, assistant executive director of the SCCA, in an interview Friday.

After a two-year hiatus, the race will transition to a mountain gravel grinder from its roots as a 100-mile desert road ride around Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

The switch was seen as ideal because of the rising popularity of gravel-road biking events, and the challenging, hilly terrain of the mountains north of Dolores. The gravel roads have much less vehicle traffic, and the cool mountain climate is also a plus for riders.

“Gravel-grinders are the new trend, and there are not many right around here, so we hope to fill that gap and attract a lot of riders,” said Susan Thomas, executive director for Trails of the Ancients Byway Association, in an interview on Friday.

The ride is casual-recreation style, McBride said, but will be timed for the competitive crowd. Awards will be presented to the top three riders in both race courses.

The race begins and ends in Dolores at Fourth Street and Central Avenue, where the Dolores River Brewery and the new Kokopelli Bike Shop are located. Festivities and live music are planned for the race finish.

The 95-mile route leaves Dolores and follows the Boggy Draw Road and Dolores-Norwood Road to the Cottonwood Road and on to Dunton. It then climbs up to Black Mesa and passes by Groundhog Reservoir before reconnecting with the Dolores-Norwood Road and onto Dolores. It has an elevation gain of 7,363 feet.

The short course climbs out of Dolores and makes a 30-mile loop using the Dolores-Norwood Road and the Boggy Draw Road. It has an elevation gain of 2,196 feet.

Race courses were designed by local professional mountain biker Ashley Carelock.

Aid stations will be on both courses, and volunteers will guiding riders. Emergency first responders will be present, and the courses will be monitored.

The fundraiser will benefit conservation and tourism efforts of both organizations.

SCCA will use the funds to support a trail information program, archaeological site stewardship program, and wilderness study area efforts.

Trails of the Ancients National Byway Association plans to upgrade its website for mobile devices and to promote tourism opportunities along the byway, which has archaeological attractions.

For more information and to register or the event, visit rideoftheancients.com.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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