The Shady Burro Enduro Is One Of The Stars In The Rocky Mountain Enduro Circuit

Races don’t have to be Nationals to be fun

Luke Bender
After crashing out of an almost certain win on Saturday, Luke Bender rallied back to win Sunday to clinch the overall. Here, he winds through a stand of aspens in Sunday’s first special test.Mark Kariya

Now in its third edition and serving as rounds 7 and 8 of the Rocky Mountain Enduro Circuit (RMEC), the Shady Burro Enduro in South Fork, Colorado, is too late in the year to serve as an ISDE Qualifier. And though its restart format is similar to events in the AMA Enduro National Championship Series, promoter Scott Bright’s desire to keep it a two-day race precludes its inclusion in that series. So it’s likely destined to remain “just” a regional race.

But ISDE and Dakar veteran Bright finds that acceptable as he strives to make it a must-do regional race incorporating lots of typically rocky, pounding single-track, plenty of miles, breathtaking scenery (some of that due to the altitude, of course), and a small town that welcomes OHV users.

Haydn Franklin
Shown here setting the fastest time in test four on Saturday, Haydn Franklin from Texas ripped, finishing second overall both days.Mark Kariya

Bright’s plan must be working as the Shady Burro consistently reaches its US Forest Service-mandated rider limit and attracts riders from some distance (like former AMA National enduro AA rider Matt Stavish from Minnesota) who plan it as part of a Colorado riding vacation. In another example, Haydn Franklin drives from Texas with his wife and son, and all three participate to kick off a week of exploring trails in the Centennial State, capping it off by riding the Ute Cup observed trials classic the following weekend.

And it’s both close and enjoyable enough to bring Colorado’s Nicole Bradford out of retirement for a nice long, challenging race that reminds her of how most enduros used to be. “It’s a unique event where you’re up in the high country and Scott puts a ton of effort into it,” Bradford explained after finishing third in 45+ A—the men’s class. “And the climate here is nice; some of the enduros that we’re doing in Colorado are kind of hot.”

Kelby Pepper
After posting the best score on Saturday, 40-something farmer Kelby Pepper had to settle for third on Sunday.Mark Kariya

The battle for the top spot belonged to RMEC regulars. Former US ISDE World Trophy team rider and 40-something farmer Kelby Pepper put it to the field on the 105-mile first day, but the 80-mile second day and weekend overall belonged to 2017 RMEC series runner-up Luke Bender. Actually, Bender was on his way to the win on Saturday until a few miles from the end of the seventh and final special test of the day when he made a costly mistake.

Shady Burro
Participants are treated to a National-caliber race, though the Shady Burro will remain a top regional event for the foreseeable future.Mark Kariya

“I fell off the trail, the bike got stuck in a tree, and I had to pull it back on the trail,” Bender admitted, a chore that he estimated required two and a half minutes. “[On Sunday], I rode a little bit conservative [there]. I was doubting myself [after yesterday’s mishap], but I knew I do well [in South Fork]. We rode that test last again today…but I knew if I could just get to the end [mistake-free], it would be a better result than yesterday.”

town of South Fork
The town of South Fork welcomes dirt riders and other OHV users as well as a number of outdoor enthusiasts.Mark Kariya

He was right and earned his first RMEC triumph of the season with Franklin second both days for second overall, Pepper ending up third.

Shady Burro
The route out of town may be simple, but it leads to some awesome, challenging, and scenic trails.Mark Kariya
David Barclay
David Barclay is upbeat as he begins Saturday’s ride en route to fourth in 50+ C.Mark Kariya
dead trees
Sadly, a huge number of dead trees is testament to the damage the bark beetle has wreaked on the forests.Mark Kariya
Trey Jones
Sixth overall on Saturday and fourth on Sunday gave Trey Jones the Semi-Pro victory.Mark Kariya
Teylon Pepper
Kelby Pepper’s son Teylon earned the Open A win and was top A overall after finishing fourth and sixth overall.Mark Kariya
Nicole Bradford
Off-road legend Nicole Bradford (right) is retired from racing full-time but does like to enter fun races, the Shady Burro among them. Instead of riding the Women’s class, she went head to head with the men, earning third in 45+ A. Next to her is Vreni Lupear, who started riding only last year, the former professional skier finishing third in Open B against a tough field of guys.Mark Kariya
Curtis Aday
Curtis Aday sails through the final test of the weekend en route to winning Vet A.Mark Kariya
Achille Lorge III
Although some parts were a bit dusty, most of the trail—especially in the tests—provided perfect dirt. Here, Achille Lorge III speeds to fifth in 50+ A on Sunday.Mark Kariya
Shady Burro
Every rider looked forward to these signs after all-out efforts in each test.Mark Kariya
Luke Bender
Luke Bender accepts his overall winner’s trophy from promoter Scott Bright to cap off the weekend.Mark Kariya