12 Hours of Mesa Verde 2021

written by: Marlee Dixon

7:00am Le Mans Start at 12 Hours of Mesa Verde

Racing is back on in Colorado where the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde happened this past weekend.  After a year off, 2021 attracted over 750 racers! Located in Cortez, Colorado, the race course uses the popular and well-built Phil’s World trail system.  The course is 16.4 miles of fast flowy descents and technical climbs.  It is almost 100% single track and a classic Colorado race that attracts many local and non-local racers year over year. 

This year the weather was beautiful with warm sunny skies, a few dark clouds and wind gusts but over all very ideal temperatures.  Most competitors set up camp the night before the race, camping on the course, which creates a very inclusive event environment.  After a year of isolation, it was a great atmosphere to reconnect with friends and fellow racers!

Due to Covid the race started in one-minute waves this year with teams starting first, followed by duos and lastly solos.  At 7:00am the first racers began the run in the Le Mans start.  The first lap includes a longer road section at the start, allowing the fast duos and solos more time to pass the slower teams in front of them.

After a year of not racing for many people, this race brought out some very competitive racers in each category! A new course record lap was set for the fastest female time as well as a new QOM for Strava for the entire single-track race section of Phil’s world.  Melissa Rollins out of Salt Lake City had never ridden Phil’s World until the race weekend and is the fastest female Mesa Verde has seen! Even after hitting a tree and getting knocked off her bike she was able to crush the previous fastest lap time.  Rollins was part of a 3 person team and is looking forward to doing the race again next year. 

2021 Fastest Lap Time Winners

For the solo women Tam Donelson started out in the lead for the four laps followed by Chelsea Strate and Tami Taylor.  On lap 5 Strate moved into first place with Tami Taylor and Carly Bonwell behind her.  Strate continued in first for the rest of the race and commented, “After Lap 6 I was informed that I was now in 1st, and I had 10 minutes left to start a 7th lap, so I went for it, also not knowing where the next rider behind me was. I was stoked to smash my original goal of 6 laps with 7, and winning was the icing on the cake. I learned after I crossed the finish line that I did 2 laps more than 2nd place, but I don’t regret getting those extra laps on the sweet, sweet Phil’s World single-track because that course was a blast!” 

Chelsea Strate from Minneapolis, MN rode to the Women’s solo victory Photo: Courtesy naggan.com

For the solo men it was a very tight race between Josh Tostado, Truman Glasgow and Sam Vickery.  Glasgow came in first after the first lap but then broke his chain.  Tostado took the lead but Vickery caught up and passed Tostado in the next few laps.  Tostado and Vickery raced neck in neck for the rest of the day until Vickery crashed and damaged his deraileur.  Tostado took the lead in the 2nd to last lap and won the race.  Glasgow caught Vickery after his crash and finished 2nd, less then one minute ahead of Vickery (3rd place).  Tostado beat all his previous records on the course, finishing 8 laps in under 11 hours.  When asked how the race went, he commented, “I had to dig deep to keep up with the young guys!”

Men’s Solo Podium

12 Hours of Mesa Verde – Cortez, CO

The 12th Annual 12-Hours of Mesa Verde (Cortez, Colorado) welcomed perfect weather after two years of being cursed by the weather gods.  Approximately 850 racers from more than a dozen states traveled to the small town of Cortez, Colorado, on the race’s traditional Mother’s Day weekend to race the world renowned Phil’s World trail system.  Racing Mom’s were honored with a special ribbon on their bike.

Enduro racer Krista Rust was a last minute replacement for the top 3-person female team. It’s been years since she last raced XC luckily she had her 2010 26 inch Cannonade hardtail. Photo by: Barak Naggan High Desert Photography

For the past eleven years the race has used the same course, however this year the course was altered, and lengthened, due to some land ownership issues.  The new course eliminated some techy, rocky sections and added some fast, flowy sections that kept racers full throttle for the duration of the 18-mile course.

In the Men’s Solo race Josh Tostado (Santa Cruz/Shimano/Maxxis) led from start to finish, but not without some pressure from Christoph Heinrich (Kuhl).  In the end, Tostado completed 8 laps in a time of 11:29:06.  Heinrich also completed 8 laps with a time of 11:44:28.

Josh Tostado gets some air on his way to a solo win. Photo by: Barak Naggan High Desert Photography

The Women’s Solo race was dominated by Shirley Leydsman (Team Red Rock).  Leydsman, a former triathlete and road cyclist, changed her focus to mountain biking in 2016 at the age of 45.  Leydsman simple goal of enjoying riding her bike all day helped her capture a convincing win at her first attempt at 12 Hours of Mesa Verde.  She completed 7 laps in 11:35:56.  Her closes competitior was Sara Sheets (Oskar Blues) who also completed 7 laps in 12:02:22.

Bettina Mills, racing in the 3-4 person Co-Ed category posted the fastest women’s lap with a 1:21:39 and Nick Gould (OG’s) put down the fastest men’s lap (1:12:39) helping his team secure 2nd place in the Men’s 3-4 person category.

Shirley Leydsman has been chewing up the competition this season. Photo by: Barak Naggan High Desert Photography

After the race, athletes were treated to a huge pasta dinner hosted by local restaurant, Lotsa Pasta and a free beer along with a raffle and awards for all categories.

Not only does 12 Hours of Mesa Verde offer up a great day of epic racing, proceeds of the event go to support Cortez’s at-risk youth.  In 2016 $55,100 was donated to this great cause.  The race board hopes that this years great turn out will increase that amount!

Click Here for full results from all categories 

Jen Hanks enjoys some airtime on her way to a win in the 2-person female event. Photo by: Barak Naggan High Desert Photography