The TommyKnocker 10 mountain bike race, organized by Zia Rides, kicked off Saturday morning for the first time since 2019. The 10-hour endurance relay competition, canceled two years ago due to COVID-19 restrictions, took place at Fort Bayard.
This year’s event allowed runners to curve among huge junipers, get a little wet through stream crossings, and see beautiful views of the valley below. The course was a 12 mile intermediate loop with an 840 foot elevation gain and attracted the most riders Zia Rides has ever seen.
“We had just over 350 people signed up, and there are always no-shows, so I think we were just down to around 350,” said Seth Bush, owner and race director of Zia Rides. “The race was a success, and I haven’t closed the books on the event, but I think it will be financially successful, so that’s good.”
Bush said he didn’t expect the huge turnout this year — 350 runners, with about 500 people in total — saying he wasn’t sure what to expect after years of COVID.
The race offered food and drink as well as vendors including Peddler on the Path, a cafe on wheels serving local coffee and pastries. Pizzart provided wood-fired pizzas that were an instant hit with runners and other event patrons. The Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery offered premium craft beer and spirits, as well as package pickup downtown the day before the race.
Runners came from all over the Southwest to participate and show their support for family and friends who are running.
“I would say my core areas are Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado – that’s where I draw primarily from,” Bush said. “I organize events in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. People from Washington and even British Columbia participated in the race.
His teammates Carlos Navar and Luis Encerrado flew in from El Paso to compete in this year’s event, which Navar said didn’t go as planned for him.
“I had gastrointestinal discomfort and was really nauseous, so it was kind of a nutritional issue,” Navar told the Daily Press after the race. “We did two laps each, and on my second attempt I didn’t feel good.”
Navar said Encerrado carried the race for the team, allowing them to finish in sixth place.
“I think the race went pretty well, to be honest,” Encerrado said. “I’ve done Zia rides in the past, but this was my first TommyKnocker. If the ride happens again, I’ll change some techniques.
Silver City runner Jamie Thompson also took part in the race, but said he was just there for fun.
“I was just messing around,” he said. “The bike shop sponsored us, so I was just doing it for a laugh. I was really not in competition. None of us were – we just wanted to see the other people who love cycling. Some people competed, but our team was not serious.
The name TommyKnocker stems from an ancient mining superstition, Bush said, and was chosen as a tribute to Silver City’s mining history.
“A TommyKnocker is the ghost of the mine that warned the miners,” he said. “Before a collapse in a mine, the walls usually start banging, and there is a superstition that it is the ghosts of miners warning people to get out of the mine.”
In addition to a number of adult categories, the race also offered children the opportunity to race. Children aged 3 to 9 took part in an abbreviated version of the intense class, with help from 13-year-olds. Bush said the goal of the race was to be family-friendly and provide a little something for everyone.
Fourteen-year-old Addison Pearson took part in the race with a team of four and said he had a great time. He is a student at Aldo Leopold Charter School in Silver City and said he has been racing team ATVs for a year. He said he loved the race and would definitely do it again.
“Our original plan was to do nine laps, so I think it went well,” he said. “I was really happy with my lap times. I did a 59-minute lap and an hour-long lap, which was 10-15 minutes faster than I ever thought I could.
Addison’s father, Martyn, and 13-year-old sister, Zeyah, also participated in the race, making it an event for the whole family. Martyn is one of the owners of Gila Hike and Bike and said he hoped Bush would see the event first hand as he thought everything went well.
“My partner is training for the Tour of the Gila, so he wanted to do all of his laps in one block,” Martyn said. “Instead of saying ‘he takes a turn and I take a turn’, I did all my tricks first, and he did all his tricks second – and it was funny, because they went so pretty similar for both of us, the first few laps we felt fantastic, the third lap started to hurt a bit and the fourth lap was pretty lousy.
Martyn said he had fun and enjoyed doing his entire run early, which allowed him to clean up and take a nap before heading out to support the other runners.
“I thought the race was spectacular and it went really well,” said Zeyah.
Jordan Archunde can be reached at [email protected] press.com.