Marfa100 charitable bike race experiences record number of participants   

Marfa resident Manu greets Cactus Liquors teammate Tony Curry with a celebratory beer as he crosses the Marfa100 finish line. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

MARFA — “Everything hurts” was the consensus among Marfa100 cyclists crossing the finish line this past Saturday on the scenic Pinto Canyon Road.

Sounds of whizzing gears and labored breathing were met with celebratory “woohoos” as finishers dismounted their bikes and cracked open cold beers. They had just traversed over 100 kilometers, or 60 miles, of remote desert road, surrounded by yucca and sweeping mountain views.

Member of the local Cactus Liquors team Mark Yuhas sat on the pavement to catch his breath, his bike lying inert nearby.

“Couldn’t have asked for any better conditions except for the damn wind!” Yuhas said.

Yuhas, who lives in Terlingua, first participated in the race years ago on a tandem bicycle with his wife, but was riding solo this year. He is part of a local cycling group that rides together often in the area, participating in Ft. Davis Cyclefest and the recent Sushi Ride hosted by Marfa100. He says the region is, for the most part, really supportive of cyclists.

“Traffic is mostly friendly. That’s a really beautiful thing. People aren’t angry that you’re out there. It’s so remote out here that they’re on vacation and they’re thinking a little differently about bikes on the road,” said Yuhas. “It’s a pleasure to ride out here, and if you stop on the road with an emergency, and you wave at somebody, they’re gonna stop out here in West Texas and ask what the problem is.”

The Marfa100 doesn’t just attract cyclists from the tri-county area like Yuhas, but draws a larger crowd of riders from across Texas and other states including Minnesota, Colorado and New York. A total of 250 cyclists participated in this year’s race, a record number for the event which was founded in 2010. Of those, a total of 60 riders were representing the Austin-based cycling collective Breakfast Club.

“This scenery is incredible. I mean, you can’t beat it,” said Jordie Whittle, a member of Breakfast Club who finished second place in women’s overall. First place went to her teammate William Derrick for a time of 2:39:05.

Whittle was resting her legs and polishing off perhaps the best Lonestar she’d ever had. A first-timer to the race, she said conditions were favorable, but the route offered some unique challenges.

“It was the wind that was pretty tough for us,” Whittle laughed. “There were a couple guys that I would share the work with, and that really helped. Especially at the end, our group kept absorbing people and then we could share the work a little bit more. But ultimately, it ended on an uphill climb, which was really hard to sprint up.”

Elizabeth Farrell, who organized the race with her partner Zeke Raney, echoed Whittle’s sentiments about the Marfa100’s remarkable route.

“We’re really lucky to have FM 2810 out here as a road to ride. Local cyclists, that’s the ride that most people do a lot. It’s great because there’s very little traffic on that road,” said Farrell. “It’s beautiful, goes through the ranch land, and the 100k ride is particularly nice because you get to see an actual change in landscape as you go along. You’ll notice the plants change as you go up and up in elevation, and then it’s nice because the whole way back is downhill. But the way out is more uphill. I think the Marfa 100 is a special ride because of that road.”

Farrell and Raney, who took over organizing the race in 2020, first met while riding the Marfa100 in 2018. After going virtual in 2020 due to the pandemic, they had a lot to sort out for this year’s in person race.

“We’re excited by how enthusiastic everybody is to be out here. We’ve got a record number of people registered this year. That’s the most I think the race has ever had,” Farrell said. “Yeah, by far,” Raney added.

In another effort to expand the scope of the race, Farrell and Raney decided to offer a 50k for the first time ever this year, an abbreviated route compared to the original 100k, which attracted an additional 50 riders to take part.

With increased participation, the organizers made a concerted effort to source locally. The Capri hosted the race, The Waterstop provided catering, High Desert Dye tie dyed the T-shirts, the Marfa Yogi hosted a yoga class, and coupons for local businesses were placed in swag bags. In all, the event raised $2,500 for the Marfa Food Pantry.

“Our primary focus is just getting people out cycling. We’re excited about people that are new to cycling, or people that just want to ride their bike and don’t necessarily feel like they want to go fast,” Farrell said. “We wanted to add the 50k as a way to make a little more approachable event for people that might be intimidated by doing the whole distance,” said Farrell.