This weekend’s Fire on the Rim mountain bike race in Pine attracted more than 220 riders, some 20 percent more than last year, as the tough single track continued to gain a following in its third year.
“That is pretty good growth,” said Mike Melley with the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (MBAA) board of directors.
It wasn’t the number of riders that impressed everyone, but the outpouring of support from local residents.
Melley said the assistance from the community is unprecedented and he helps organize more than half a dozen other races with the MBAA across the state each year.
“It is absolutely fabulous how the community comes and supports it,” he said. “People really go out of their way to welcome riders to town.”
Besides the race, Fire on the Rim activities included a spaghetti dinner, kids ride and several concerts. These things are not typical for all events, he said.
“It is very unique.”
On the Fire on the Rim Facebook page, one rider commented that it was one of the coolest events in a long time.
“Everyone was great and the vibe totally awesome,” the person wrote.
Another rider said volunteers and organizers had made them feel welcome in Pine.
“Not only was it a killer race, but a great event for the whole family to enjoy. We’ll be back next year. And last but not least, a big shout out to the “Men Of Parking” (parking assistants) who were super helpful and made my kids laugh on several occasions.”
Still, organizers had hoped for more riders and predicted at a planning meeting earlier this summer around 400 participants.
Shortly after the race, organizers posted thanks for everyone that did come out, including dozens of sponsors.
“We hope you enjoyed the race today and realize the tremendous amount of pride and passion that PSFR (Pine-Strawberry Fuels Reduction Committee) and MBAA take in putting on this event.”
Sponsored by PSFR and MBAA, the ride is the largest mountain bike race in Rim Country.
Launched in 2011 by the PSFR, it was a way for the committee to raise money for trails maintenance and fuel breaks and to help bolster the local economy.
In its inaugural year, just 88 riders participated, but according to a local consultant, had a direct economic impact of $5,800 to $9,000.
This year, the ride grossed more than $10,000, with two bike raffles bringing in some $4,000 of that, Melley said.
The economic impact of this year’s race is unknown, but many hotels and restaurants reported an uptick in sales.
PSFR uses two-thirds of the riders’ entry fees for wildfire prevention projects, the other third going toward trails projects and advocacy.
PSFR is working with hundreds of volunteers to build up the trails that double as fire lines around P-S, including the new Bearfoot Trail.
This year, Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin opened the 45-mile race at 7:30 a.m. with a tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots as this year’s race was dedicated to those firefighters who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire.
With Pine rated one of the top areas in the country for a catastrophic wildfire, organizers hope their work to build up the fire lines and educate homeowners about firewise efforts will prevent a similar disaster here.
Reportedly, when Raleigh Bicycles learned the reason behind the race, they donated a second bike for raffle.
Many more sponsors also stepped up to support the event.
And the riders gave their approval.
Riders commented on the difficulty of the 15-mile course on Facebook.
“Brutal trail, but worth the sweat,” one man wrote.
“Perfect course; brutal climb to test your lungs and legs and a challenging single track to test your skills,” another wrote.
“It is a challenging, legitimate mountain bike course,” Melley said. “(The riders) were tested and they were impressed by it.”
The overall winner of the 15-mile race was Dick Pack with a time of 1:32:10; 30-mile race, Terry Schmidtknecht at 2:36:26; 45-mile race, Ryan Petry at 3:32:40 and the Global Bikes/Team America took the 45-mile relay with a time of 4:25:45.