Cycling: Race gets an early start in 2009

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By The Staff

It might seem too early in the year, but the Pajarito Punishment mountain bike race starts up Saturday.

The Pajarito Punishment will get going at 9 a.m. at Pajarito Mountain. The event will cover two days with the Punishment race scheduled for Saturday and a new downhill race Sunday.

The race is the sixth leg of the New Mexico Off Road Series. Some of the top riders around the state attend the yearly race.

This year’s race, however, will be one of the earliest dates in the history of the event. In 2008, the race was held in August, the same weekend as the Los Alamos County Festival.

In 2008, the Punishment’s male and female winners both repeated from the year before. Damian Calvert took home the men’s top honors for the second year in a row, while Jennifer Tribe-Wilson took the women’s pro category victory.

Calvert, from Albuquerque, finished the men’s pro/semi-pro division by more than four minutes over runner-up Michael McCalla. Tribe-Wilson of El Paso, Texas, had a cushion of more than 3-1/2 minutes over Nina Baum.

Calvert is scheduled to return this year in an attempt to three-peat. It was unknown as of this morning, however, whether Tribe-Wilson would be back. Registration closed Thursday night and Tribe-Wilson’s name did not appear on the registration’s website.

The entire Punishment course runs above 9,000 feet, making it one of the most challenging courses on the off-road series.

The race, which organizers said is spectator-friendly, starts in the parking lot of Pajarito Ski Area, heading out and back through Cañada Bonita and back toward the ski area lodge.

The course rolls up to an altitude of approximately 10,330 feet at its highest point.

For Sunday’s downhill race, which starts at 11 a.m., a brand new course was designed by highly-regarded racers Rich Strang and Chris Boice. The course, designed specifically for downhill racing, runs east of the ski area’s Aspen lift.