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“Carpenter Drops the Hammer”

RMTA Trials Series

40th Ute Cup

August 21 & 22, 2010

San Isabel, Colorado

By Ron Pocher

Photos By Don Olen


The Ute Indians, in their heyday, occupied significant portions of what are today eastern Utah, western Colorado, and parts of New Mexico and Wyoming. Unlike many tribal groups in this region, there is no tradition or evidence of migration to the areas now known as Colorado and Utah – ancestors of the Ute appear to have occupied this area for at least a thousand years.

The Ute’s first contact with Europeans was with early Spanish explorers in the 1630’s. The Spaniards were responsible for introducing the Ute to the horse; which greatly influenced their way of life. With the help of this newfound creature, which they referred to as the “magic dogs”, they were then able to successfully hunt the buffalo, which they practically wiped out of existence in Ute territory.

As is the case with many of the American Indian tribes, the Ute’s religious beliefs were based in nature, with animals serving as the central deities. The Ute believed that they were closely related to the bear and this majestic beast features prominently in Ute mythos.

The ancestral gods must have deemed it appropriate, as this year’s Ute Cup saw nightly camp visits by the furry invaders. Members of the Mid West Trials Association donated a rather substantial bounty to the needs of the hairy bruins, but they were successfully chased from camp, without incident, on one other occasion - the bears, not the plonkers. The foul-breathed brutes probably mistook MWTA vice president, Art Gardner, for one of their beloved brethren and therefore felt that any aggressive behavior would have been considered un-neighborly.

This year’s Ute Cup, the fortieth running, was held in the gorgeous mountains surrounding San Isabel. Although camping accommodations were a bit cozy, the sites sat sprinkled along St. Charles Creek, which wound its way down to the well-stocked Lake San Isabel. Bishop’s Castle was yet another nearby point of interest waiting to entertain out-of-state guests.

RMTA treasurer Stan Hensley, whose family has owned several cabins in the area since 1954, introduced the idea of holding a Ute Cup near San Isabel in 1999. Hensley walked the hills with Forest Service rangers and staff archaeologists prior to that first visit, and section sites were agreed upon at that time. While traps are held in the same spots during each running, exciting new layouts are always awaiting that year’s participants. Next year’s meet will return to the stunning La Garita Wilderness, near South Fork.


Ken White

Ken White

The father and son team of John and Drew Sinks were responsible for Saturday’s ride and they set a fine mixture of traps that mostly fell in the upper-intermediate to lower- advanced skill set. The day one loop came in at just over fifteen miles long but it was a tough fifteen miles as the extremely technical “Snow Slide” trail didn’t offer many resting spots. Hensley and Jeff Marcus put their heads together for Sunday’s adventure and most of this duo’s sections were similar to what the intermediate level classes would find at the typical RMTA club event. The day two loop was actually a twelve mile long up-and-back scamper on the “St. Charles Trail” that had riders starting back down the mountain once all of the entrants had completed section twenty. Hensley and Marcus threw an interesting twist into the format by requiring that the participants not only had to ride the traps in reverse order, but opposite direction as well. The exit gate for section twenty was now the entry gate for section one.


Stephen Marcus

Stephen Marcus

For the first time in this events storied history, the matter of a rider’s age would come into play. Any tie, that could not be broken by number of cleans, would go to the plonker who had seen the most summers. This format, which was brought on by the lack of a nearby “ride-off” site, is certainly familiar to any AHRMA member and brought a whole other cast of characters into the quest for the cup. Another method of tie-breaking, that was last used in the year 2000, went the way of the dinosaur when both the BLM and the Forest Service felt that any award presented to the fastest finisher would deem the event a “race” and would thusly bring up yet a longer list of permit requirements. RMTA member Kevin Busch is probably the only rider who truly misses the “Flaming Arrow” award since, more times than not, it ended up in his greasy paws.

At last year’s Ute Cup, RMTA legend Mark Manniko dropped his only point when he was forced to take a dab in the event’s very first section. The Sinks boys must have been thinking “let’s go ahead and take a few right off the bat” as Saturday’s opening trap was a real “doozie”. It’s doubtful that a true intermediate cleaned this section on either attempt, while many advanced-level plonkers were left shaking their heads as well. Riders with even more skill and experience helped warrant the difficulty of the technical section one. 49-year old Kansan Rick Lund took his only points of the day when his front wheel plowed off the face of a dust covered, off-camber rock and ended up outside the ribbon for a five. Son Dustin also needed a dab at this first trap, his only point for the day, while RMTA Pro Steven Deines had his share of first section woes as well, eventually landing in sixth place for the day with six marks dropped.


Mark Manniko

Mark Manniko

Last year’s winner, Keith Wineland, who was fresh off a third place finish in the NATC’s Pro Class National Championship, would have been a tough cat to top if a “ride-off” would have been in the cards. This was one time when being young and good looking wouldn’t provide much benefit. Although the new national number three had turned in a “clean” ride, he again found himself sitting in third behind Manniko and yet another Kansan, Jason Carpenter.

Manniko won day one on the strength of his 41 years, while Carpenter resided in second at only four years younger. Both plonkers joined the 24-year old Wineland with zeroes across the board. Dustin Land sat in fourth with that previously mentioned dab while father, Rick, rounded out the top five (with five). Colorado’s Ron Schmelzle sat in seventh, behind Deines, while two time Ute Cup winner Billy Burgener was eighth – all showing six marks lost.


Billy Burgener

Billy Burgener

Because of the age factor, Manniko looked to be in position to hoist his sixth Ute Cup. Sunday’s sections were said to be a tad easier and this rumor panned out as five riders turned in clean rides. Manniko proved that even five-time winners have their nervous moments, when he took a dab in Sunday’s first trap. The seasoned veteran probably realized, right then and there, that he would need a bit of help if his name were to be engraved into the cup yet again. It wasn’t to be.

Carpenter, Wineland and Deines were joined by the MWTA’s Jeremy Farber on day two’s zero-card list. Oh yeah, there was one more gent sitting on this dabless roster. 45-year old Kevin Busch was the day two winner, and he was understandably stoked. “In probably twenty years of trying, I finally cleaned a day of the Ute Cup”, said Busch.


David Klein

David Klein

After almost sixty miles of technical trail and eighty trials sections, Carpenter and Wineland were the only lads who hadn’t needed to put a foot down. On his way to Colorado, Carpenter surely wasn’t dreaming, that after years of trying, he’d soon be returning to the land of wheat with the Ute Cup in hand partly due to the fact that he’d blown out a few more candles during his days on earth. What’s that old saying? “Old age and treachery beats youth and skill every time”. Well I don’t really know how true that usually is, but it seemed to work out pretty well for Mr. Carpenter on this memorable occasion.


Jason Carpenter

Jason Carpenter

Manniko was the only rider to finish with just one point and he rolled home in third overall. Dustin Land needed but a dab on each day and his two points placed a second Kansan in the top five, at fourth. Deines hopped up a notch to fifth with his six-point ride. Schmelzle and Rick Land both finished with seven marks lost, but the former topped the latter on cleans – 78 to 77. Farber and Burgener also punched similar cards, with eight points showing, but Farber claimed eighth place by managing three cleans more – 77 to 74. Arizona’s Geoff Chain was the top finisher, not from Colorado or Kansas, and rounded out the top ten with his 10-card.


Rick Land

Rick Land

In team competition the Ark Valley Trials Association’s “AVTA Team”, with David Black and the two Land’s, won the “Visiting Team” division. “Tote Gote Sales” with Deines, Manniko and Wineland won the “Sponsored Team” showdown. “RMTA 3” with Keith Busch, Manniko and Stephen Marcus bested the RMTA “Club Teams”, while the final first place team award went to “Senior Team” winners, “Senior 5”, which sported Keith Busch, Burgener and Ron Pocher.

Three age group awards are handed out annually and this year’s winners, as usual, were a capable lot. Carpenter took the “Over-30” prize while Manniko waltzed away with the “Over-40” trophy and Burgener punched the lowest card of any rider “Over-50”.

In the RMTA club awards, Sarah Duke was the top Women’s class finisher while TdN teammate Wineland claimed the top Pro award. Manniko was the top Expert with Schmelzle claiming the best Advanced rider award and Pete Helfter notching the best finish by an Intermediate. Pocher snagged top Veteran honors while Burgener, who needed a wheelbarrow to haul all of his trophies back to the truck, took the top Senior award.

I remember reading where the great Winston Churchill would refer to his occasional fits of depression as his “big black dog”. An old saying in hunting, or in life in general, simply states that “some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you”. Life, unfortunately, is seldom lacking its difficult times. Some days you’re smellin’ the bear’s breath just a little better than you’d like to. The Ute believed that they resembled the bear and therefore respected it. They must have surely believed that they possessed the same amount of fight, as well. Knowing that they had one more trials event in store, or even just another motorcycle ride of any nature, would have certainly justified that way of thinking. Long live the bear. (and the Ute Cup)






Top 40%:(Awarded “Thunderbird” Medals) 1. Jason Carpenter (0); 2. Keith Wineland (0); 3. Mark Manniko (1); 4. Dustin Land (2); 5. Steven Deines (6); 6. Ron Schmelzle (7/78); 7. Rick Land (7/77); 8. Jeremy Farber (8/77); 9. Billy Burgener (8/74); 10. Geoff Chain (10); 11. Tim Hillsamer (12); 12. Kevin Busch (13/75); 13. Steve Morgan (13/67); 14. David Black (14); 15. Ben Winterer (15); 16. Keith Busch (16); 17. Marc Carpenter (17); 18. Isaac Neff (22); 19. Steven Messenger (24); 20. Jessie Wessels (30); 21. Greg Howie (33); 22. Sarah Duke (36).