Kenny Wehn, of the Stans NoTubes Masters Team, throws down the hammer en route to winning the masters division at the Whiskey 50, recently held in Prescott, Ariz. A former pro rider, Wehn, 43, came up with the idea for the team, made up of elite Durango riders older than 30./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

Still rocking and rolling

Stans NoTubes masters prove there’s plenty of air left after 30
by Jen Reeder

The weather forecast for Gallup, N.M., on April 14, 2012, called for snow and wind gusts up to 40 mph. Durango’s Michael Carroll and Joe Burtoni were planning to race in Gallup’s “Dawn ’til Dusk” 12-Hour mountain bike race. But feeling older and wiser at 40 and 52, respectively, the masters-class cyclists opted to skip Gallup and head to Fruita’s “Rumble at 18 Road,” where they found sunny skies for their race. They also found spots on the podium: Burtoni won the 50 plus group, and Carroll placed second in 40-49. Meanwhile, Dawn ‘til Dusk was called due to weather.

“That’s the beauty of being a master – you can be wise in how you choose and where you choose to race,” Carroll says with a grin.
The masters racing category (riders 30 years and older) for cyclists is growing in the United States, and it’s no surprise that Durango is part of it. This is the first season of the Stan’s NoTubes Elite Masters Cycling Team, a men’s team with the roster of Burtoni, Carroll, Kenny Wehn, Frank Mapel and Ted Compton. Though they work full time and have families, they remain avid cyclists who find time to train and compete, usually in cyclocross (a cross between mountain biking and road racing).

The masters team was the brainchild of Wehn, 43, a former pro mountain biker, wildland firefighter for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and mechanic for Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team. He wanted to find a way to work for the women’s team and still continue to race, and lit upon the concept of a men’s masters team.

“I wanted to build a Durango-based team with only Durango riders so that we could showcase Durango and the plethora of talent we have here,” Wehn says. “My idea was instead of doing a pro team, to do an elite masters team that gave people who still wanted to race competitively kind of a professional environment without doing the whole professional thing.”
The NoTubes dudes, from left: Ted Compton, Kenny Wehn, Michael Carroll, Joe Burtoni and Frank Mapel./ Courtesy photo

They’ve already racked up some4 impressive wins this year. For example, Wehn placed first in Masters 35+ at the Mellow Johnny’s XC race in Austin, Texas, and in the Men’s Open division at the Whiskey 50 in Prescott, Ariz. Durango-native Mapel (also a former pro) won in the Masters 35+ category at the recent Alien Run in Aztec.

“We’ve been on the podium in almost every race that we’ve been in since we started this season,” Carroll says. “We sort of do it all. We wanted to have people who were in every discipline so that we could compete in every discipline and be engaged in most of the local races that are here, and then try to be a force to be reckoned with on the national front, at least in terms of masters racing.”

But the team has loftier goals than winning, like inspiring other busy people to find the time to get on a bike.

“We try to lead by example in terms of showing people that you can train and you can be a competitive cyclist and a healthy cyclist and still have a job and still have a family. Sometimes it’s a juggling act, but you can really live that lifestyle,” says Carroll, an associate director at the Wilderness Society. “I talk to so many people that are like, ‘I don’t have time.’ And I get that – we’re all slammed, all the time – but if I had to name the busiest person I know, it’s probably Joe (Burtoni), and Joe still makes time for it.”

Burtoni, an associate broker at Coldwell Banker and (not coincidentally a team sponsor), often is training by 5 a.m. He enjoys the camaraderie among masters racers at competitions and says it is common for masters to share advice with one another about training and equipment.

“We’ve all got to be at work on Monday is sort of a rule,” Burtoni says. “We all know we’re not making a living at this. There’s no pretension – it’s really nice.”

Burtoni, who got into mountain biking in his 30s, says moving to Durango in 2002 motivated him to up his game.

“It took probably a season to get used to the level of fitness here, which is off the charts,” he says.

Moving to Durango in 1999 inspired Carroll, who was a junior road racer and competed in Belgium before getting off the bike for more than a decade, to start riding again because of the rich cycling culture here.

“Bob Roll was one of my childhood heroes, and I saw him ride down Main,” Carroll says. “I rented a house from Ruthie Matthes, who is a World Champion. If you’re a cyclist, these are people you have posters of.”

He says a major goal of the team is to support and contribute to the entire cycling community in Durango. They admire riders of all ages, from the young DEVO riders, to the Fort Lewis College racers who compete well while maintaining strong GPAs, to current pros and legends like Ned Overend and Walt Axthelm. Carroll is happy that Durango was recently named a Gold Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.

“It’s yet another sign that the cycling community in Durango continues to grow and strengthen,” he says. “The city itself is going out of its way to really make it a bicycle-friendly community.”

As for future plans, the Stan’s NoTubes Elite Masters Cycling Team hopes to add a mentoring component to its program, possibly taking on a junior rider next season or helping to develop a women’s masters team. In the meantime, they hope to be good ambassadors for Durango’s active lifestyle when competing around the country, and to enjoy training at home.

“I think we need to pinch ourselves more often,” Burtoni says. “This is not the norm: this is Durango.”

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Burtoni at Rumble at 18 Road, where he took first in the 50+ bracket./Courtesy photo