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Spaeth named top singlespeed racer

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Los Alamos cyclist Caroline Spaeth was named women’s singlespeed champion for the 2013 New Mexico Off-Road Series racing season.

Now in its 14th year, the NMORS comprises 11 races staged throughout the state that challenge riders with a wide variety of competitors and terrain. Finishers receive points for their position at the end of each race, and total points are tallied at the end of the series to determine the winners of the series categories.

Competitors are required to enter seven races to qualify.

To win the yellow NMORS jersey, Spaeth won six of the seven races she entered. Racing on a singlespeed is no easy feat in this state’s race series. Unlike racers on regular bikes who have a range of gearing to use for climbs and descents, singlespeed riders must choose a single gear combination for each race.

With race terrain ranging from rocky and rolling desert hillsides in Las Cruces, to erratic, steep climbs and descents at Silver City’s Signal Peak Challenge, to venues with every type of terrain and topography in between, gear choice itself can be daunting for the singlespeed racer — too easy a gear and the rider is spinning and coasting on downhill and flat terrain, too hard a gear and the rider is trudging uphill pushing the bike.

Most singlespeed riders end up selecting a gear combination that errs on the side of punishing during climbs in order to maintain some ability to pedal on more level terrain.

The Chile Challenge at Angel Fire Ski Area climbs 1,400 feet in one, 5.5-mile lap, yet Spaeth completed one and a half laps on her bike, beating the geared Category 2/Sport women racers in the process.

“The Angel Fire course is ridiculously steep,” Spaeth said. “I was just glad to get that one over with, and I’m glad my mechanic had managed to set me up with a larger gear in back that didn’t make the painful ride even worse.”

In Albuquerque, Spaeth raced 12.5 miles, climbing 1,500 feet, on Sandia Peak ski area trails to win the singlespeed trophy for the state Cross-County Mountain Bike Championship, a separate award outside of the series.

In her last race of the season, the High Desert Screamer in Gallup, Spaeth elected to ride her singlespeed in the more difficult 30-mile Professional/Category 1 geared women’s class.

Spaeth finished third overall behind one professional woman racer and one Category 1 expert-class woman racer, netting a $350 cash prize for her efforts and another singlespeed win in the series.

Spaeth races as a member of the New Mexico Spokettes, an elite women’s bike and triathlon race team.

She was sponsored by, and received excellent mechanical support from, Little Jimmy’s Wheelhouse, a Los Alamos bicycle repair and maintenance shop.

While getting a couple of months’ rest in her legs, Spaeth has not yet decided about racing in the off-road series next year but said she is considering trying out gears on her bike.