By Rob Quinn, Dirt Journal
Angel Fire – got its name from the Moache Utes. Seeing mysterious tongues of red and orange licking the morning sky, one of the elders claimed it was the “fire of the gods”. Later Franciscan Friars interpreted “fire of the gods” as “the place of the fire of the angel”.
I did a little research on this epic ride from Angel Fire to the Taos Valley called the South Boundary trail. The problem was most of the mountain biking websites and blogs said you’d need “expert map following skills and a little luck” to piece the labyrinth of trails together. My interest was piqued.
It just so happens my old friend Greg Ralph had just accepted the VP of Marketing Position at the ski area at Angel Fire…which the town is basically built around.
I told him my interest, and would he be good enough to find a local to ride with us that I can bribe with dinner, beer and other things from Colorado. He said “No need, the folks at Zia Rides have put together an event that links everything together. Come on up”. Nuff said. With business in Trinidad then down to Phoenix for more of the same, this adventure screamed road trip with tax deductions. Get the work over early (South Boundary 40) then put on the feed bag in New Mexico and some of Phoenix’s finest restaurants while representing a large client. In the words of Bob Dylan. “I can’t help it if I’m lucky”.
The drive from Trinidad was easy, turning off in Raton, New Mexico for the high country and Angel Fire. The lack of folks on the road and old narrow highway feel made the vibe immediately different than what we are used to in Colorado. As we rounded the corner at the town of Eagles Nest I could feel myself relax and get into New Mexico mode. A quick drive to the ski area and the beautiful Lodge at Angel Fire where we’d call home for the next few nights. My non bike racing wife immediately gave it two thumbs up when she checked out the specious rooms and world class gym. This was shaping up to be a great trip already.
After an awesome dinner at Angel Fired pizza “in town” we headed up to packet pick up and registration at El Jefe, the slope side bar at Angel Fire.
Registration and packet pick up was smooth. While we were eating, the resort had been invaded by Mountain Bike racer types. The crew looked tan and fit, plenty of great looking race bikes racked to the 4 x 4 trucks with Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas tags (4 hours from Amarillo, ya all) With the starting line right in front and an agreement with the long suffering, Mrs. Quinn to pick our asses up in 5 to 6 hours, this caper seemed to be pretty much under control. Just one detail…The South Boundary 40.
The start had a relaxed vibe of “it’s gonna be a long one…let’s start slow”. We immediately ducked into the single track adjacent to the area which was awesome…except I got stuck behind some riders really freaking out on the super wet and oily roots…they don’t see a lot of that in the arid southwest…so not going out hard really cost me some serious time. That drained into a dirt road that climbed for what seemed forever and that allowed the field to settle in. From there I can only say this ride had it all. Huge dirt road climb that got you up. Super sketch single track on very primitive conditions (loved it!) to well-worn old school, old growth single track that I’ll bet in the day had pre- Columbian use. During the race I saw bear, mountain lion and elk poop. Yes, I am that weirdo.
This was an old school adventure with practically no bail outs and only a few aid stations. I’m that the guy that does very little research into a race course…I think too much information is not a good thing. I’m so bad I once did the Leadville 50 thinking it was the same course as the 100 only shorter! I did take note when my daughter said “this course climbs for 26 miles, after that it drops 14 down to Taos”. That’s all I needed to hear.
After a glorious labor of love and more that 4k up, you rounded the corner through some stunning old growth Aspen to what was obviously the start of the 14 mile descent. For whatever reason Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning had been in a bizarre endomorphin induced loop in my mind for the last 4 hours of climbing at 165 BPM and when I crested the mountain, the lyrics:
“I see Angels on Ariels in leather and crome.
Swoopin’ down from the Heaven to carry me home”
Carry me home the Angels did…with one of the best descents in an event I can recall that required three blessings and one Hail Mary from the Padre before you finished. You can have your touchdown Jesus. I’ll take the singletrack one. For me it was one of those magic days when the wheels never touched the ground after mile 26. God bless the inventor of the seat dropper as long as we are throwing around religious accolades.
Rolling in in just under the goal of 5 hours, the greatest crew chief in the world, my wife Jeanne rolls in minutes after I finish with clean, dry clothes and an easy to fill request of lunch while we wait for our daughter to finish…who has not had the luxury of my Mediterranean training schedule while grinding out 50 hours a week at the 1st gig out of college. Bummer. Gotta suck. Ping me when you turn 60. It’s a friggin blast.
Like clockwork…we get texted when we finish our burgers in Taos that our daughter is ready. Tired but no worse for the wear Erin gotter done.
Her wrist computer said she burned over 6,000 calories.
The perfect day was not over. We headed back to Angel Fire for the awards ceremony at El Jefe. The awards event was very cool. Seth the promotor from Zia Rides is a great guy and everybody hung out late and talked story and enjoyed the feeling you get after a job well done.
Zia promotes events in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. www.ziarides.com
In summary, I’d give this event a 10. It truly fit the bill for a tough ride on trails I’ve never ridden. Staying at Angel Fire was so nice and relaxing we are already planning next year’s trip to this event. Next year…we’ll save Sunday so we can take advantage of the world class lift served down-hilling at the resort. All South Boundary 40 racers got a discount on their lift tickets the next day. www.angelfireresort.com
The best thing…The only bumper to bumper traffic we experienced was pulling into Tomasita’s New Mexican Restaurant in Santa Fe…where I began my journey in recouping 6,000 calories!