Payson McElveen is ready to celebrate the end of the 2019 mountain biking season in his backyard of Durango. He wants the community to join him.
In 2016, McElveen and fellow professional mountain biker Howard Grotts set out on a mission to ride every trail in Durango’s city limits in one day. After roughly 80 miles and 12,000 feet of elevation gain, the sun set on their goal before it was complete.
Only four days removed from his final race of the year – the Iceman Cometh Challenge in Michigan – McElveen will set out from his front door under the glow of early morning light Thursday and give it another shot. He hopes to be joined by other mountain bikers along the way.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” he said. “We are going to make it happen at the last minute with help from Osprey and Trails 2000. The last time Howard and I tried this, people joined us on the trail. It would be sweet if that happened again.”
McElveen, a two-time marathon mountain bike national champion, estimated the ride would be roughly 100 miles with 15,000 feet of climbing. It’s not a race, but he knows he will have to be moving at a fast pace all day to finish before dark. He said the ideal scenario would have him drop into the descent of Hogsback as the sun sets for a grand finale before he rides back home to complete the day.
“The important component is that this isn’t a race. It’s not like the White Rim (fastest known time) or anything like that,” he said. “I will have to ride at a decent clip and reduce my stops, but this is meant purely to celebrate another awesome summer of mountain biking here in Durango.”
For every named trail McElveen completes, he will donate $1 to Trails 2000, the nonprofit responsible for building and maintaining so many of the beloved trails in Durango. Several people have already signed on to match that donation, and McElveen hopes more do, as well.
“There’s a lot to thank Trails 2000 for. There are well over 100 trails with individual names, and every trail I ride I will donate $1,” he said. “I want to showcase what a ridiculously great trail system and the access to those we have in this town. A lot of towns are investing big in trail systems, but no town has the access and diversity of trails we have.”
Trails 2000 is also thankful for McElveen giving back.
“We’re thrilled that Payson, as a young athlete, is recognizing the effort that our paid crew leaders, staff, and thousands of volunteers have made in planning, building and maintaining our trail network which is the cornerstone of the outdoor recreation community,” said Trails 2000 executive director Mary Monroe Brown. “The efforts of Durango Trails 2000 began in 1990 with the mountain bike world championships and is one reason why Payson chose to attend Fort Lewis College due to of all of the mountain bike opportunities, and now he is completing that circle by giving back to the trail network that he trains on and that have provided him with so many personal connections to Durango.”
McElveen will have a Garmin GPS tracking his progress, and people will be able to follow him online throughout the day and get out on the trails and join him for sections of the ride if they would like to. McElveen will release a link to the tracking page via his Instagram and Facebook pages Wednesday.
“The more folks come out, the merrier,” McElveen said. “Ten hours is a long time to ride the bike. It wouldn’t be very fun to ride the entire thing alone.”
Funded by Osprey, McElveen will release a short video about the ride. It will be filmed by Durango’s own Dylan Stucki, who will race around Durango’s trails to get a variety of footage.
To start, McElveen will pedal his Trek Top Fuel bike up Florida Road to the route known as “Bread Express.” He will tackle the Skyline trail to Raider’s Ridge from there. Riding the entire Colorado Trail as part of the mission is, of course, not possible. But he said he may try to include a ride from the trailhead to Gudy’s Rest and Dry Fork trail because it is such a popular easy-access trail enjoyed by so many in Durango.
He anticipates having to make brief stops to pick up food and more hydration products. He will have an Osprey pack loaded up with supplies and hopes to stop as few times as possible. He does not plan on taking a light, which means sunset is his finish line no matter what.
“How many miles it will be, I don’t know,” McElveen said. “Last time, we came up short. I’m making a few adjustments and being more strict on defining what an ‘in-town trail’ is and defining that as any trailhead within city limits.
“What sunk us last time is that we got suckered into longer stops and wasted time. This time, I’ll be doing NASCAR-type pit stop action to some extent with the hope of completing the ride. There’s absolutely no guarantee, and I might come up short again, but since we are doing the donations for Trails 2000, it’s a win even if I come up short.”