SANTA FE, N.M. — Although the number of participants in off-road mountain bike events has been down in recent years, members of Santa Fe’s CORE Crew are hoping things turn around a bit when the 14th annual La Tierra Torture rolls around April 27.
The CORE Crew, a grass-roots organization that puts on several cycling and running events in the area throughout the year, raises money to help local charitable organizations, said rider Jan Bear, one of the group’s founders.
“We like to embrace a healthy lifestyle, race a little more and raise some money to give back to the community to maintain trails in our area,” he said.
The composition of the group has evolved over the years, with new members joining as others faded away.
“We have about 12 or 13 people who are in charge of different things,” Bear said. “Getting volunteers, marking trails for races. We talk about the races we’re going to put on. When we get a little money in our account, (we discuss) where we’re going to give money back in our community. We’re a low-key organization. We’re not a huge fundraiser.”
Still, over the past 13 years, the CORE Crew has raised more than $100,000 that has gone back to organizations like New Mexico Search and Rescue, the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico, the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society and the Chainbreaker Society.
“We also work with quite a few local groups, bike shops, who give us some money to help out or in-kind donations that we use as giveaways for our raffles,” Bear said. “We try to work with people that want to work with us and see some value in what we’re trying to do. Over 13 years, $100,000 is a lot of money.”
Before there was even a named group, Bear and some others picked up organizing the Torture Race after the city of Santa Fe gave it up following many years presenting the event in the 1980s and 1990s.
At the time, the trail system at La Tierra was just being formulated and created, and the continuation of the race was seen as a good way to publicize the then-new trails.
“We put on a race that first year and it’s slowly taken off since then,” he said. “We’ve continued to do it every year except 2017, because the city was giving us difficulty with permits, so we took it to Glorieta and called it the Lost Tierra Torture.”
The revived race is in the vicinity of where the old race used to be, although back then, the nearby N.M. 599 highway didn’t exist.
The first revival race drew 180 riders and subsequent races topped out at about 220. Organizers are hoping to see those levels again.
The race now is a USA Cycling event, so there are three levels of racing, with beginners (Category Three) going one loop of “mixed terrain with single track trails and some old double track on old road beds,” said Bear. “Intermittently, things open up and allows people to pass more easily.”
So despite its fearsome name, there are many more frightful races around the state.
“Of all the mountain bike races in the state, this is right in the middle in terms of difficult terrain,” Bear said.
“There are some that are a lot more steep and some more technical so, in the big picture, … this is pretty mellow. Certainly, the faster you ride something, the harder, more technical, it is.”