A 12-Hour Adventure in the Wild West Bicycle Race

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Wild West Bicycle Race
Photo by Mark Stambaugh: The 12 Hours of the Wild West Bicycle Race presents challenges for the competitors and a scenic vista.

A 12-Hour Adventure in the Wild West Bicycle Race

The scenic mountain village of Ruidoso has a multiple number of events besides horse-racing and skiing for your participation or spectator presence. And the 12 Hours in the Wild West Bicycle Race at the Grindstone Lake mountain bike trail complex is one of those premier examples. This will be the second year at this site for the contest and has grown at such a rapid rate due to the tireless efforts of unsung organizers and course designers who – this year – have realized a sold out entrant capacity of 400 competitors.

Few people, besides those involved, may not be aware that within the sport of cycling there are nearly 65 million persons who take part in this activity, making the sport larger than either golf, skiing, tennis or snowboarding combined. Twenty-four million adults are considered cycling enthusiasts and have an average income of $57,100 and an average household income of $74,000. They annually spend $5.3 billion on bikes. Active outdoor recreation combined contributes $3.8 billion yearly to New Mexico’s economy and supports 47,000 jobs across the state.

Ruidoso, with its friendly climate, topography, altitude and scenic wonder offers possibilities not yet fully tapped or utilized. One such potentiality is the sport of sanctioned, competitive cycling. The terrain, altitude and weather are made to order for the sport. The local amenities and hospitality are already in place and only await the additional influx of cycling enthusiasts.

Enter Seth Bush, owner of Zia Rides, who organized this, and last year’s, Wild West cycling race at Grindstone Lake. Also, kudos to such local residents as Cody Thurston (and Gerardo Garcia) who painstakingly set about, with others, 10 years ago to create a bike trail system that would bring bicycle aficionados to the area. His “Field of Dreams” philosophy was, and is, “If you build it, they will come.”

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Photo by Mark Stambaugh: Ruidoso resident, Cody Thurston, started 10 years ago to implement a challenging bike trail for the betterment of tourism in this mountain village.

This the sixth year for the Wild West Bicycle Race and Bush’s third at the helm. Prior to Grindstone, the competition was held at Fort Stanton.

“We had set a limit of 400 challengers to the 12 Hours in the Wild West Bicycle Race and this year we accomplished that goal,” Bush said. “We’re absolutely overjoyed with the response. Although entrance to the contest is – at this time – closed, we may have a few spots open up for people who really want to compete. There may be an opportunity for them, after all.”

Thurston has seen his dream come to fruition, also.

“The Grindstone mountain bike trails were purposely built,” he said. “You can’t beat the nice scenery, the lake, trees, and vistas. I started working on this route structure in 2007 but it took a team of dedicated individuals in this ‘cool’ little mountain town to help achieve it. I have a sense of pride and we can see the fruits of our labor.

“The positives coming out of Grindstone are helping people see the benefits of tourism due to the infra-structure of the trails. When I could first ride them I had ‘Disneyland’ all to myself. No one was there.”

So what draws this cyclist to the sport?

“Earlier on, I took it more seriously,” he explained. “Now, I just like to ride. I have accumulated a lot of friends who ride because of it. It’s always nice to catch up with old associates and make new acquaintances.”

Thurston, who was originally from El Paso, and has been a horse-shoer most of his life, fell in love with the sport 17 years ago and journeyed to Ruidoso because of it. His cycling visions are altruistic in that he sees much better ahead, potentially, for his adopted home.

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Photo by Mark Stambaugh: Come out and appreciate the 12 Hour Wild West Bicycle Race and picturesque view.

“This wilderness is incredible,” he said. “We have roughly 100 miles of trails that are underutilized. I love this town. It’s beautiful. You can’t normally see our trails like you can Ruidoso Downs Race Track, but they are there, big as ever. More people come here from out of state for these races than from the village itself. People who ride, vacation in areas with good bike paths. Outdoor recreation is three times larger than the horse-racing industry.

“We still need to grow the infra-structure so people will come here … and then come back. Eventually, a great trail system will change the dynamics of this marvelous town. It’s something that will keep on giving – no rents, utilities, and little upkeep. It will happen.”

If you want to fully comprehend all Thurston is saying, then be sure to attend the 12 Hours in the Wild West Bicycle Race on April 22 at Grindstone Lake from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. There’s something in it for everyone, children and adults alike. Entrants have chosen to compete on four-person teams, solo or as a duo, and also by age. See the great show Zia Rides has arranged while experiencing the splendor of the Ruidoso trails.

—Michael Curran