Branham wins Colorado Trail Race

Jefe Branham and Jesse Jakomait race the Colorado Trail near Gold Hill. Photo by

Jefe Branham and Jesse Jakomait race the Colorado Trail near Gold Hill. Photo by

Jefe Branham of Gunnison, Colorado, won his second Colorado Trail Race in a row on Thursday morning, reaching Waterton Canyon finish just after 8 a.m. for an unofficial finish time of 4 days, 4 hours, and 14 minutes. Branham holds the record for the course at 3 days, 23 hours, and 38 minutes, which he set during the 2012 race riding from Denver to Durango — the opposite direction of this year’s race.

Jesse Jakomait of Colorado Springs rolled in less than 50 minutes later for an unofficial finish of 4 days, 5 hours, and 8 minutes. Branham and Jakomait waged a neck-and-neck competition for much of the race, occasionally trading the lead and never falling more that a few miles back — based on different stopping points. Branham estimated he slept fewer than four hours over the course of the entire race.

“I can’t even comprehend how messed up those guys are gonna be upon arrival to Waterton,” commented Stephen Greibel, the organizer of the Colorado Trail Race who rode this year but dropped in Salida due to hand numbness. “Barely any sleep, 550 miles and 75,000 feet (or more?) of climbing. And that doesn’t even say it all as lots of the climbs require technical skill and/or hike-a-bike. Fully self-supported, eating who knows what gathered from 15 minute stops in only a few towns. Hydrating with 2 water bottles filled from creeks along the trail. Just. Awesome.”

The third and fourth-position riders, Travis Wildeboer and Neil Beltchenko, were about a hundred miles away from the finish on Thursday morning. The first non-Colorado-resident on the roster, Max Morris of Tucson, Arizona, was about forty miles behind them in fifth position. As of this posting, 13 riders had scratched and 61 were still listed as on course, although a few more have likely left the course. Bec Bale currently leads the women’s race at mile 237 of the route near Gunnison, Colorado.

This year’s Colorado Trail Race is shaping up to be another year of high adventure. Most riders were caught in major thunderstorm on a high mountain ridge during the first day, with reports of intense rain, accumulating hail, and lightning striking trees at close proximities — close enough that some riders abandoned their bikes and took cover. There were no small number of course deviations as riders navigated the route. Michelle DeLieu of Rochester, New York, developed altitude sickness and spent two nights on Indian Trail Ridge before descending to Rico, Colorado to recover. Undoubtedly more harrowing tales will emerge from this year’s race.