Mountain

Kait Boyle, Kurt Refsnider set FKTs on 137-mile Kokopelli Trail

Teammates overtake the marks of Rebecca Rusch (2013) and Lachlan Morton (2020) on the climbing-intensive Utah trail.

Last Friday, yet another famous Fastest Known Time fell — twice — when Kait Boyle and Kurt Refsnider set new high marks on the 137-mile-long Kokopelli Trail from Moab, Utah. Pro riders Rebecca Rusch and Lachlan Morton previously held the women’s and men’s FKTs on the Kokopelli.

Teammates Boyle and Refsnider (Pivot-Industry Nine-Revelate Designs-Kuat Racks) started off together along with endurance legend Lael Wilcox.

The Kokopelli Trail features almost 15,000 feet of elevation gain, piecing together 4×4 roads, singletrack and dirt roads over the La Sal Mountains and along the Colorado River.

Boyle faced a long road back to ultra riding after a car accident left her with a shattered pelvis two years ago. Photo: Cort Muller

Created by the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association in 1988, the Kokopelli Trail has one of the oldest FKT cultures of any long-distance mountain bike trail. The trail was first ridden in a single day by Gary Dye in the mid-1990s, and an informal race on the trail took place for nearly a decade in the early 2000s.

For a Fastest Known Time, riders must ride completely self-supported, including carrying their own water.

Boyle, Wilcox, and Refsnider had planned their FKT attempt for November 10, but a winter storm prompted them to ride on the 6th instead.

The Kokopelli Trail is no easy ride at any speed. Photo: Rugile Kaladyte

Boyle, winner of the 2018 24-Hour world championships, broke Rebecca Rusch’s 2013 record by 25 minutes, coming in at 13 hours and 7 minutes. Boyle’s ride comes after a nearly two-year-long recovery from a car crash that left her with a shattered pelvis and other internal injuries.

“After 2 years since racing my last ultra with a massive recovery process that never offered any certainty that I’d be able to race ultras again, I was really unsure of what I’d be capable of doing on Kokopelli,” Boyle said. “Having ultraendurance powerhouse Lael Wilcox offer to race me added the vulnerability on top of wondering if I would be able to hold a record pace and if my body would even hold up to the 13-plus-hour effort.”

“But the 6,000 feet of climbing to get over the La Sals felt effortless as I rode away from Lael,” Boyle said. “Time flew as I navigated the chunky climbing leaving the La Sals, and my legs surprised me as I held a steady pace in the second half of the race. The wheels started to fall off near the Utah/Colorado border, but I found my reserves for the last 15 miles of singletrack, riding happily and strongly to the end at the Kokopelli Trailhead.”

Refsnider is an ultra-endurance specialist who has wins and records on the Arizona, Colorado, and Iditarod Trails, as well as in Tour Divide. In fact, he held the Kokopelli Trail FKT before EF Pro Cycling’s Morton set a new standard of 11 hours 14 minutes in May. On Friday, Refsnider took back the title with a ride of 10 hours and 56 minutes.

Refsnider’s handling skills served him well all day in retaking the FKT. Photo: Rugile Kaladyte

“I really wasn’t sure if my legs would have the speed to best Lachlan’s time, but on the chunky descents and climbs after the first 7,000 feet of climbing, I found myself grinning and still smashing along. That’s always a good sign,” Refsnider said. “Ninety miles in, my legs put up a bit of protest, but more dried mangos did the trick, and I was able to keep the power up right into the final miles of singletrack. I also really enjoyed the grey, moody atmosphere; it’s a relatively rare one to experience on the Colorado Plateau.”

Just hours after finishing, rain moved in, the peaks of the La Sal Mountains received a coating of fresh snow, perhaps drawing the 2020 Kokopelli riding season to a close.