Clovis News

Cycling: Big Sandy race gets wider recognition

The secret's out.

Now in its sixth year, the Big Sandy Point to Point Mountain Bike Race no longer can be considered a locals-only event.

Not when riders from the Central Coast and Sacramento sweep the top placings at the annual knobby tire celebration that starts at the San Joaquin River Gorge Management Area outside Auberry and finishes at Millerton Lake.

"I used to dominate this race when it first came out," said former winner Jeremiah Root of Fresno, who finished third in the men's pro race. "Not anymore."

Word certainly has spread about the Big Sandy. Among the 155 entrants who lined up Saturday morning were cycling teams from Sacramento and the Bay Area, in addition to those from Fresno, Clovis and Visalia.

As usual, the course was the star attraction. Pros and experts rode 23 miles, tackling the rugged Pa'San Ridge Loop before finishing on the San Joaquin River Trail.

Beginners and most sport riders did the 15-mile SJRT, which follows the contours of the river canyon before mixing in a long climb and fast descent at the finish.

"One of the most scenic courses I've ever ridden," said Ray Fortner of Livermore. "I did a seven-day stage race in Canada last year, and this was as beautiful as anything I saw up there. Phenomenal."

Ryan Chandler, a 25-year-old architecture student at Cal Poly, won the men's pro/expert race in 2 hours, 8 minutes 46 seconds. The second-year pro pocketed $375 -- $275 for the win and $100 for leading after the Pa'San Ridge loop.

Next was Jared Kessler of Folsom, who finished in 2:09:21. Root took third in 2:11:03.

Chandler took over the lead at the bridge and held it all the way to the finish.

"I hammered the first loop a little too hard and was kind of beat," Chandler said. "I could see (Kessler) probably about 45 seconds behind. I kept looking back and trying to keep my pace."

Sacramento's Nicole Dolney won the women's pro/expert in 2:55:07, with Ruste Sasser of Fresno finishing second in 3:04:10.

It was Dolney's first time riding the course.

"I loved it," she said. "I'm going to tell more people about it because I don't think people think of Fresno as a mountain biking place."

Conditions certainly were different than last year, when it snowed at the start line. Temperatures touched 80 degrees on Saturday, and more than a few racers cooled off after the race by taking a plunge in the lake.

Race organizers also caught racers off guard with a new finish. Instead of plunging into the parking lot at full speed, riders made an extra loop before an uphill finish on the exposed boat ramp.

"That took me by surprise," said Tyler Arrigoni of Fresno, who won the 35-44 beginner class. "We're used to coming kamikaze down that last section."

It was Arrigoni's second mountain bike race and the third for women's sport winner Jeanae DuBois of Fresno, who just picked up the sport three months ago.

"I did the last cyclocross race of (2012 at Woodward Park) and got addicted," DuBois said. "The cycling community of Fresno is unmatched. It's a very close-knit group, and everyone is very loving, caring and supportive."

Fourteen-year-old Cameron Sasser of Fresno won the junior division for the second straight year.