12 HOP bike race showcases outdoor recreation

ALAMOSA— This weekend's 12 Hours of Penitence - 12 HOP - mountain bike race is expected to bring over 200 contestants, their friends and family to the natural beauty of the Valley's Penitente Canyon.

"It is a very unique event," said race director Tamera Rice. "It has a really upbeat atmosphere indicative of the mountain bike community." Rice is also the Adventure Sports Coordinator and Adams State University.

The race is a 12 hour-long endurance race over a 16.8-mile course that weaves through Penitente Canyon. Solo, duo and three-person teams will traverse a combination of open meadow single tracks, paths amidst vertical rock cliffs, over large bluffs and rocks, and the infamous hike-a-bike section where riders carry their bikes over the trail.

This is the third year for 12 HOP and, to date, over 80 contestants have registered and well over 100 are expected by race time. The race runs Saturday, begins at 7 a.m. and runs to 7 p.m. - 12 hours of penitence.

"This is a great opportunity to showcase outdoor recreation in the San Luis Valley and promote the region outside the Valley," said Mick Daniel, Executive Director of SLV GO.

Each year, proceeds from the race are used to benefit a local project. This year, half of the funds from entrance fees are to be donated to the Rio Grande Composite Rattlers, a new competitive mountain bike team for high-schoolers. The funds will be used to help buy bicycles for team members, equipment, and cover team travel expenses. Any high school student in the San Luis Valley can join the team; beginner or advanced cyclist. The Rattlers are on Facebook at RGC Rattlers.

The Rattlers are coached by Brian Stevenson from Monte Vista High School and Larry Roberts. Both are certified by the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, NICA.

"The Rattlers are an important cause because they give kids who are looking for an alternative sport something to do," said Rice.

Participants don't have to be a racer to experience 12 HOP. Event organizers hope to grow the race into a mountain bike festival and this year it boasts a festive mood with food, music and local beer. Anyone can come enjoy the excitement of the race and the beauty of Penitente Canyon. Two bands, D Mountain Lookouts and Milo Matthews, will play from around 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Three local breweries - Three Barrel Brewing Company, San Luis Valley Brewing Company, and Square Peg Brewerks - plan to have plenty of brew on hand. Remember to bring a cowbell to clang encouragement and support for the racers.

For those who want to take part but don't want to ride, volunteers are needed to help run the day-long event. This is a community run and sponsored event. Volunteers can help with registration and check-in, aid stations, be a course marshal, be a part of the timing crew, general support, and clean-up.