Around 200 cyclists descended onto Delle in Skull Valley Saturday to compete in the fourth annual Wild Horse Gran Fondo. Riding either mountain or gravel bikes, the cyclists rode on County B gravel roads over and around the Cedar Mountain Wilderness Area. They had the choice of riding a 31-mile or 76-mile course.
The 31-mile course, called the Little Wild Horse, included a climb over Hastings Pass, while the longer course featured both Hastings and Rydalch pass’s — for 5,000 vertical feet of climbing. Feed zones with water and food were on both courses for the riders.
The top male and female winners on the 76-mile course were Mark Currie of Ogden with a time of 4:18:15 and Breanne Nalder of Salt Lake City in 5:00:55. For the 31-mile course, Aaron Phillips won in 1:53:34 and Jennifer Cherland in 2:09:34.
According to the event’s founder and director, Chris Magerl of Salt Lake City, one of the inspirations behind the Wild Horse Gran Fondo is his love of historical trails. Hastings Pass was the route the ill-fated Donner-Reed Party took in 1846 to get over the Cedar Mountains before nearly perishing while crossing the Great Salt Lake Desert and Bonneville Salt Flats.
“To look west from the top of Hastings Pass and see where the wagon wheel ruts went toward Pilot Peak is just amazing to me,” he said.
Magerl said about 90 percent of the cyclists finished. Those who didn’t were mostly because of mechanical breakdowns that couldn’t be fixed on course. He said only a few didn’t finish because of fatigue. He noted one of the highlights of the event for many of the cyclists is the opportunity to ride somewhere new and different. He said many after the finish commented on the area’s open beauty, with sweeping views of Skull Valley and the West Desert.
The term gran fondo is Italian and loosely translates into “Big Challenge.”