Chaos on the cliffs near Rifle |

Chaos on the cliffs near Rifle

Joelle Milholm
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

RIFLE, Colorado ” Usually, Marshall Harmon relies on his dirt bike’s motor to carry him around the JQS Trails on the Roan Plateau in Rifle.

On Saturday, his legs were forced to propel him as he entered the Roan Cliff Chaos cross country race. They turned out to be a powerful force as the 14-year-old Silt resident finished the 6-mile course in 43 minutes to win the competition’s 9-rider beginner division. Harmon even said he enjoyed changing his mode of transportation.

“It was fun. I do a lot of this on my dirt bike, had it scouted out pretty good. It was just a blast,” he said. “A lot of downhill, not a lot of pedaling.”

While Harmon was pedaling, his dad and brother were roaming different trails on their dirt bikes. That’s what he used to do before his dirt bike broke down.

“I am a dirt biker and my dirt bike exploded in the beginning of this season, but it’s working out. Maybe this opportunity in biking will get me more fit for dirt biking,” Harmon said. “We ride all these trails all through here. My brother and my dad take off on their dirt bikes and I eat their dust on my bike.”

The 33-rider (only 30 finished due to bike malfunctions) Roan Cliff Chaos field was split into three divisions with beginners doing one lap, sport racers completing two and experts having to make four loops. Carbondale’s Len Zanni turned in the fastest time in the expert division by finishing the 24-mile race in 1 hour 53 minutes and 22 seconds. For the first three laps, Zanni and Eagle’s Mike Skellion were neck and neck. Zanni then pulled ahead of Skellion to beat him by 53 seconds.

Saturday marked Zanni’s first Roan Cliff Chaos experience and as a regular on the Aspen Cycling Club and Mountain States Cup circuits, said he enjoyed the annual Rifle race.

“It was great. I was riding with Mike. We had a great time. It’s a great day ” grassroots racing at its best,” Zanni said. “I stuck with Mike the first three laps and then fourth lap we were kinda of duking it out a bit. It is just the kind of course you have to stay consistent and try not to wash out your front tire and try not to crash and just stay focused.

Adam Spector finished third in the expert race with a time of 2:01.15, while the New Castle wife and husband duo of Kelley and Josh Cullen followed in fourth and fifth.

Kelley Cullen was the lone female rider in the expert category and got a lot of complements for busting out a 2:03.15 time.

Seth Kaufman won the sport division with a 1:08.43 mark. Scott Cary and Keegan Swirbul followed in second and third with times of 1:11.54 and 1:12.40 respectively.

Jaques Houot, the 73-year-old biker also know as “Frenchy” who makes an appearance in most races in the valley among others, signed up for the beginner division, but was peddling so well on Saturday that he chose to do another lap. His time of 56 minutes placed him fifth in the beginner division and then he rode the second loop just for fun.

The second chapter of the Roan Cliffs Chaos will take place today in the hill climb near the cross country course on the Roan. Zanni opted to skip part two of the event, instead choosing to celebrate Father’s Day with his family. Harmon also plans to take the day off after his first mountain biking competition.

“I would do that maybe in a week, not right now,” Harmon said.

There are a handful of racers who will be back at it today, hoping to clock the two fastest times of all the riders who are pulling double duty. The accomplishment will earn the crown of the king of Roan Cliffs Chaos for the quickest male and the queen of the event for the speediest female.

The hill climb, which is taking place on Bureau of Land Management land that is closed off to vehicles because of debris and washouts but still open to ATVs and bikes, will get in gear today at 8 a.m.

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