Grand Canyon cyclist takes on a steam engine during race

Cyclists make their way down the final stretch of the Man vs. Machine race Sept. 26. Wendy Howell/WGCN

Cyclists make their way down the final stretch of the Man vs. Machine race Sept. 26. Wendy Howell/WGCN

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Grand Canyon cyclist Aaron Resnick took on Grand Canyon Railway's steam engine No. 4960 - a 185-ton monster built in 1923, fueled by waste vegetable oil during the Man vs. Machine race Sept. 26.

"I felt wild and passed everyone I saw, of course I placed myself too far back to start," Resnick said. "(It was) pretty exciting."

During the 53-mile ride, which had a 2,023-foot elevation change, cyclists raced down Highway 64 ending up on historic Route 66 for the final three miles of the race.

Most were betting on the cyclist to win, since the winner of the first Man vs. Machine race in 1991 was a cyclist, however, steam engine No. 4960 pulled in just ahead of the racers.

"Had I started with the pros. (professional racers), I may have been more encouraged to keep up," Resnick said. "It would've been smart to stay in a fast group and draft behind, but I had to go lone wolf to keep passing."

This was Resnick's first race and he said he signed up for the 'fun of it' and because it's was a 'big, fun bike ride.' Now that he has competed, Resnick said he has the racing itch.

"It was a hoot!" he said. "Pretty windy, (but) I made it in two hours and fifty six minutes."

Most of Resnick's prior biking experience has been limited to his daily commute to the Bright Angel Bike Shop, located at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on the South Rim.

Resnick has worked at the shop for three and a half years and occasionally rides the 100-miles from the Canyon to Flagstaff.

"You can recreate and commute at the same time," Resnick said. "So I go to Flagstaff sometimes. It's like, "Well, I could drive there or I could take a bike ride there."

Resnick normally makes the ride to Flagstaff in about six hours.

For him, racing the steam engine was just another way to see the scenery and have fun watching the one-of-a-kind race.

"I'm not afraid of losing, I'd be stocked if I finished at all and don't have a flat tire or something stupid," Resnick said before the race.

Resnick learned about the Man vs. Machine race earlier this year from a co-worker.

Over the last couple of months he and another co-worker decided to sign up for the event. Bright Angel Bicycles showed its support by paying fifty percent of Resnick's entrance fees.

While most people begin training immediately for an event like Man vs. Machine, Resnick took a different route.

"I don't really look at it as training, I just do my thing," Resnick said. "I kind of fall into a rhythm, which may have a psychological edge to it, you have to keep yourself calm and feel your heart rate."

During the race more than 200 cyclists competed against the steam engine.

First place prize for cyclists included $500 from the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel, second place received a two-night stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and two first class train tickets for the Grand Canyon Railway and third place received two first class round trip tickets on the Grand Canyon Railway.

Following this year's race, Grand Canyon Railway invited everyone to enjoy live music, food and a beer garden at a post-race party at the Babbitt-Polson Pavillion between the Williams Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Canyon Railway.

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