October 19, 2022 835 PM
MARFA — All manner of cyclists rode into town last weekend to participate in the Marfa100 bike race, a 60-plus-mile trek on scenic FM 2810. The event, founded circa 2010, has experienced steady growth in participation over the years, setting yet another record this year with around 330 riders, up from 250 in 2021.
Some participants opted for a more mild 30-mile route, and not all rode traditional bicycles — two rollerbladers, a recumbent bike and elliptical bike joined the Peloton at the starting point this year. Volunteers manned aid stations at various mile markers, race support assisted stranded riders with flats, and friends and family gathered to cheer on the weary cyclists. Many lingered for an impromptu hang at the finish line. One rider pulled goat heads out of their tires, others awaited teammates and guzzled celebratory cold beers.
Cactus Liquors team member Joey Benton’s post-race beverage of choice on Saturday was a Guiness tall boy. Benton put on the Marfa100 for many years with partner Faith Gay until 2018. “We worked really hard on making an event that was really about community, and about celebrating the empty spaces and how beautiful the landscape is out here,” he said.
But the Marfa100 has recently been taken to the next level by Zeke Raney and Elizabeth Farrell, said Benton, who have been putting together the event since 2020. Team Cactus was established in 2021 and this year included 24 local riders ages 18 to 65, many of whom finished in the top 20.
“A lot of these people have been riding together in some capacity for the last 30, 40 years. It’s made up of friends and family and not based on any kind of credentials as a racer, but it’s more as a participant in cycling in the area,” said Benton.
Some of the local riders, including Kevin Urbanczyk and Mark Yuhas, have played important roles in helping establish the mountain bike trail systems in the state and national parks and participated in various races around the Big Bend over the years. Benton designed the Cactus Liquors team uniforms, which this year included matching oversized visor sunglasses in shades of neon pink and yellow.
Scott Del Vecchio, who lives in Alpine and rode with the Cactus Liquors team, placed 10th in the men’s category with a time of 2 hours 53 minutes. He said he appreciates that the race is well-organized and centers around having a good time. “We don’t have many races out here,” said Del Vecchio, who has been participating in the event since 2019. “It’s just one of those pillar dates in the year.”
Another West Texas team that showed up to represent their area in the Marfa100 was Crazy Cat Cyclery, out of El Paso, named for the cyclery shop established in 1994. The shop’s owner, Roberto Barrio, said he and his fellow riders have been long connected to the cycling events in the Big Bend, having attended the Mas O Menos mountain bike race put on by Desert Sports for many years and more. Barrio participated in the Marfa100 its very first year and said he was struck by the uniqueness of the event and the variety of cyclists.
“In year one I remember lining up with cruisers,” Barrio laughs. “You know, you have this mentality of like showing up in lycra and then all of a sudden you line up next to a cruiser and you realize, ‘Hold on, this is going to be a little different.’”
In addition to their tri-county connections, Crazy Cat also regularly sends riders to participate in bike races in Mexico, in Ojinaga and Chihuahua. Barrio said the West Texas cycling community is very sincere and focused on being one big family.
“It’s always been about trying to grow the sport in West Texas because we’re distinctly different than the cycling scene in Central Texas around Austin [and] in San Antonio. It’s a totally different vibe. I think it’s a vibe that people take a lot of pride in,” said Barrio.
Ana Hernandez of Crazy Cat was participating in the Marfa100 for the second time and came in first in the women’s category with a time of 2 hours 49 minutes, despite having suffered a flat tire. Hernandez, who is originally from Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico, started cycling when she was 13, and at age 15 went to a school for athletes in Mexico City. She was drinking both a beer and a watermelon agua fresca at the finish line, having completed her first race since the pandemic.
“I came here one month ago to train and know the road better,” said Hernandez of her performance. “I just started training again. I don’t race this year in any professional races, but we will see next year.”
The fans and riders weren’t the only ones stationed dutifully at the finish line, Lynn Hauka, chip timer with DoMore Race Services, was ensuring cyclists were being properly timed. Each cyclist is given a chip which corresponds with the chip reading mat placed at the start and finish of the race that measures down to one one hundredth of a second.
“Even recreational, people are really passionate about wanting to know how they did. So we all are really passionate about getting it right,” said Hauka.
Kim Vozar, from Austin, was participating in the Marfa100 for the fifth year in a row and said the views and route are really what keeps her returning every year. “It really is the prettiest ride that you can do. I also love that it’s just pretty much an out and back. You don’t have to remember any turns, you just keep on going and that downhill is just the most fun thing you’ll do all year,” said Vozar.
Vozar rode on her “all ‘round gravel and road rig,” which, without shedding its baset and other gear, normally weighs around 75 pounds. “I don’t feel like you really need a road bike if you’re just in it to enjoy what you’re doing. I come in last, like pretty frequently. Which is fine,” Vozar said, laughing.
This year, riders traveled all the way to Marfa from 13 different states including New Hampshire, Tennessee, Colorado, New York and more. The Marfa100 was put on with the help of local venue The Capri, restaurant Convenience West, coffee shop Frama, and Cactus Liquors. Mallory Jones offered post-race massages, Micah Francis played music at the afterparty as DJ Dr. Melt, Colin Waters of Lumpware Ceramics provided gifts to winners, Marfa Film Shop operated a photobooth, Sarah Vasquez photographed the event, and Kristal Cuevas hosted yoga. Farrell designed the Marfa 100 2022 jerseys.
The charitable race was able to raise $4,115 in donations for the Marfa Volunteer Fire Department, which is currently working to fund a fire station expansion project.