A field of 176 gritty and determined cyclists from around the western United States turned out for the second running of the Fire on the Rim Mountain Bike Race conducted over old Jeep trails, paths and roads near Pine and Strawberry.
The turnout was a welcome surprise to organizers who prior to the race said they expected to draw about 130 entrants after attracting 88 a year earlier.
When the dust finally settled Sept. 16 on the three-day race, former Payson High School football standout Matt Sopeland, 35, emerged victorious in the 15-mile race, winning both the overall title and open men’s championship in 1:21.44.2.
Last year, Sopeland took first in the open men’s race in a time of 1:23.88.
In the 30-mile race, 38-year-old Scottsdale cyclist Ryan Clickner pedaled his way to overall honors and the open men’s crown touring the two-lap course in 2:48:48.4.
Clickner is a veteran on the USA Cycling circuit having competing in numerous races including the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Valley of the Sun Stage Race, Superior Road Race and the Sea Otter Classic.
In the grueling 45-mile race, William White, also a Scottsdale racer, scorched the course in 3:43:44.4 to win the overall and open men’s title.
White is a frequent competitor on the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (MBAA) circuit having won the 2010 Prescott Punisher and the 2009 Flagstaff Finale.
He’s also a past champion of the Usery Pass Time Trial, the Skull Valley Road Race, Superior Road Race and the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Marathon.
In addition to Fire on the Rim featuring three races of differing lengths, it also was highlighted for the first time by a beer garden, carbo-loading dinner and live music.
On Sunday, a fun ride was held on the Cabin Loop Trail.
A Kids’ Kamp proved popular among parents who relished having a spot where their children would be supervised and entertained during the hours Mom and Dad were on the course.
All proceeds from the race go toward the Pine-Strawberry Fuels Reduction committee, which works to clear and maintain firebreak lines around the community.
Last year the first-ever race earned $35,000. With the 2012 field more than doubled, organizers are expecting even greater earnings.