Written by: Shannon Boffeli
Saturday morning, riders lined up to take on the Tinker Classic. The first-year event located two hours north of Las Vegas, in Beatty, Nevada, welcomed it’s first 100 racers brave enough to tackle the 60 or 100 kilometer distances.
Riders would be taking on the challenge of conquering the desert conditions while being treated to a tour of western history including the ghost town of Rhyolite, abandoned mines, narrow-gauge railroad tracts, and more wild burros than they could count.
The Tinker Classic is a point-to-point style event that starts in Beatty and ends at the desert oasis of Spicer Ranch where finishers would be treated to free music, beer, and tacos while reliving the challenges of the day.
Temperatures were already warm when the race started at 7:00 AM. As the leaders sprinted out of town on the day’s opening climb a herd of burros immediately buzzed the front group just as the sun broke over the hills.
Riders started on a long, 6-mile climb to the day’s highpoint of 4,600 feet.
The race’s namesake, Tinker Juarez (Cannondale), took up the lead, charging through a 20-30 mph headwind. Juarez was joined by Evan Plews (Ridge Cyclesport) and singlespeeder Steven Mills (New West Medical).
As the opening road kicked up Mills dropped off as his single gear became harder to turn over.
Juarez and Plews carried on, cresting the next steepest climb of the day and descending the rubble-strewn Silica Mine road. A steep, boulder-filled mining road, Silica Mine road is the most difficult section of the Tinker Classic and the one that prevents riders from choosing a cyclocross bike for the otherwise gravel-grinder-type course. Even with fat tires Silica Mine produced many flats and even more crashes as riders navigated through the jumble of loose rock.
The women’s race changed briefly on this descent as Jen Hanks (Pivot/DNA Cycling) worked her way into the lead past Anne Perry (Bingham’s Cyclery). Perry, a former road racing national champion, had opened a lead on the early climbs with Hanks closing it down on the rough descents but once the descending was over Perry wound it up again and surged back into the lead.
Riders rolled back through Beatty and on to the turn-of-the-century ghost town of Rhyolite with it’s crumbling stone buildings and open air museum before crossing the border into California and Death Valley National Park. Despite the intimidating locale, temperatures remained in the mid-eighties with a cooling breeze keeping the racers comfortable.
A long grind on the old Tonopah narrow-gauge railroad grade was followed by 10-miles of steep rollers heading to the finish at Spicer Ranch.
At the front of the pack Evan Plews overtook race leader Tinker Juarez just miles from the finish line and appeared poised to take the win before missing a late-race turn and getting off course. Plews was well off course before realizing his mistake virtually ending his race.
Juarez moved back into the lead and rode uncontested over the final miles to the green oasis of Spicer Ranch and the win of his namesake race.
Second place went to Justin Thomas (Boulder Cyclesport) with singlespeeder Steven Mills finishing off an impressive day as the third person to cross the line. William Pease was the fourth rider to cross the line for third in the open men’s event. He was followed by another one-speeder Shannon Boffeli (Pivot/DNA Cycling) putting two singlespeeders in the top-5 overall.
Anne Perry showed off her road legs tearing through the railroad grade and dirt roads opening up a hefty lead taking the win in 4 hours 53 minutes.
Amanda Felder (Bear Valley Bikes) overtook Hanks for the second spot and held on all the way to the line. Hanks came home in third.
At the finish riders enjoyed free tacos and beer while luxuriating in the cool green grass at Spicer Ranch sharing stories and collecting their awards that included a generous cash payout for the open men’s and women’s category.
The 60 kilometer race was won by 50-plus rider Tim Zandbergen (Velosport/RideBiker Alliance) with a time of 2 hours 41 minutes. Gina Rau was the fastest female finisher with a time of 3 hours 32 minutes. The 60k course followed much the same route as the 100k without crossing into Death Valley.
The overall Tinker Classic experience was overwhelmingly positive; a well-organized event, especially for a first-year race, highlighted by some of the friendliest race volunteers I’ve ever encountered and a local community truly excited to play host for this event. I can only imagine year two will be even better.