THREE SPRINGS - There were college mountain bikers, budding Air Force pilots, middle school bikers and cycling legends.
And there were trail runners, trail walkers and trail volunteers.
The Big Gulch, organized by Trails 2000, reached into the Durango trail community Saturday with a festival that included the annual Squawker Mountain Bike Classic college races.
Showcasing the Telegraph and Horse Gulch trail systems from the Three Springs side, The Big Gulch also offered open division and youth races.
"It was a tough course. The climb up to the ridge really gets to you," said Durango native Howard Grotts, who won the elite Men's A race Saturday, pedaling in the colors of the Colorado School of Mines.
"It's nice knowing the trails, but it's still tough," said the Mines freshman, who won his second consecutive college cross country race.
Grotts, a former Durango DEVO youth cyclist who grew up riding the trails around Durango, won last week's college race at Sol Vista near Winter Park.
"Trevor (Downing) and I were there together," said Grotts, who rode with the top three cyclists from the start. Grotts managed to pull away over the final few miles of the 30-mile race, finishing in 2 hours, 50 minutes.
"That climb up Telegraph, that's like his climb," said Downing, who finished second for host Fort Lewis College.
"It was an amazing course," he said. "I've never ridden the first section by the hospital ... but it was great."
Downing said the FLC cyclists enjoyed the opportunity to race on their home turf, avoiding the usual long road trip for weekend college races.
"This weekend was much better than last weekend," he said. "It's so nice to wake up in your own bed and make breakfast in your own kitchen."
FLC teammate Colton Andersen finished third in the top category, the Men's A field, helping the Skyhawks to a strong start on the first of two days of mountain biking competition.
The college races will continue today with short track racing behind Mercy Regional Medical Center and dual slalom races at Chapman Hill. Downhill racing also was staged Saturday at Durango Mountain Resort.
Sage Wilderman of Fort Lewis, one of the most versatile cyclists on the Skyhawks' roster and the defending national collegiate champion, dominated the Women's A cross country race. She added a second cross country victory to the one she captured at Sol Vista.
"Usually, I just ride the front side of the gulch, so this was great," said Wilderman, who also won short track and downhill titles last weekend near where she grew up in Winter Park.
"It was fast, fun, technical - the funnest race course I've ever done," she said as a trio of FLC classmates joined in a celebratory stadium wave in the finish area.
"What can I say? I like bikes," said Wilderman, explaining her versatility. Her downhill skills provided more than helpful in Saturday's victory, she said.
Cyclists up and down the FLC roster raved about Saturday's cross country course.
"It was a really fun course," said Greg Sevick of Fort Lewis, who won the Men's C race Saturday morning.
"I felt good (Saturday). I really like the (technical) ridge section," said Sevick.
"I liked it ... I've never finished first in a race before," he said.
FLC teammate Cale Adams was a close second in the Men's C race despite finishing with a badly bent front wheel.
Adams, from Gunnison, said he had to ride the last 35 minutes of his race on a wobbly wheel.
"It was like riding an exercise bike with someone holding the front brake," Adams said.
Darin Baer of FLC was third in the same category on a singlespeed bike.
"This was my first race on a singlespeed," said Baer, who came to Fort Lewis from Los Angeles.
"I walked a couple of sections ... but that's where I was able to pass some people," he said of the steeper sections of Telegraph Trail.
The Fort Lewis College cyclists raced alongside bikers from Colorado State University, the University of Colorado, the University of Wyoming, Mesa State College and the Air Force Academy.
"It's a competitive club sport (at the Air Force Academy)," said Evan Glowiak, a cadet from Michigan.
"We have to find time on our own after class (to train). It's really tough ... but it's a nice outlet."
Glowiak said the weekend races are a pleasant break for the cadets, who have exceptionally busy schedules all week.
"I still have a lot of homework to do (tonight) when we get back," said Glowiak, who is considering his options as an Air Force pilot or engineer.
At the other end of the spectrum, Durango DEVO cyclist River Weiss, 13, won the youth mountain bike race Saturday.
"The race was a little longer than I expected, but it was fun," Weiss said.
The Miller Middle School student also volunteered to help with The Big Gulch, assisting Mary Monroe and the Trails 2000 crew, which hosted a fundraising run in conjunction with the collegiate races. (Former FLC cross country runner Dylan Peterson won Saturday's trail race after cheering on the current Skyhawks at the Tom Standt Memorial Run on Friday in Durango.)
"In Durango, we have such a spirit of enjoying events and participating in events and volunteering for events," Monroe said. "You could feel that spirit at the starting line (Saturday morning); you could even feel it at the volunteer meeting."
She said she was ecstatic with the turnout for the inaugural trails celebration at Three Springs, which included interested spectators like cyling legend and Hall of Famer Ned Overend, pro mountain bike Troy Wells, Joe Burtoni of the Durango Wheel Club and Gaige Sippy, the director of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.
The Squawker MTB Classic will feature more racing in Three Springs today with the short track starting at 8 a.m. The dual slalom racing will start at 11 a.m. at Chapman Hill with practice runs starting at 9 a.m.