Local man wins solo portion of 423-mile ‘Salt to Saint’ ride
By Max Higbee
Sept. 28, 2017
MANTI—Bolstered by encouraging messages from family, friends and his community sent via social media, a Manti resident logged the fastest time of any solo male biker last weekend on a 423-mile ride from Salt Lake City to St. George.
Much of the “Salt to Saint” ride was along U.S. 89, including passing through Ephraim, Manti and Gunnison. And most of the 274 riders were members of teams where each team member rode part of the way, and ride facilitators recorded the time for the team as a whole. Blauer was one of 20 men who covered the whole distance alone.
The official maximum time permitted to complete the ride was 34.5 hours. Blauer finished in 29 hours and 49 minutes. The next closest solo male rider took 23 more minutes than Blauer. He finished in 30 hours and 12 minutes.
“I was born and raised here,” Blauer says. “My dad taught school at Snow College for 40 years, microbiology and botany. He really got me into biking at a young age.”
Blauer says when he was in first grade, his dad gave him rides to school on the handlebars of a Schwinn bike.
The fourth of seven children, Blauer is a graduate of Manti High School and Snow College. He met his wife, Jennifer, during his college days. He and Jennifer have six children, the oldest of whom has started giving the couple grandchildren.
Blauer is a counselor at Central Utah Academy, the school inside of the Central Utah Correctional Facility (CUCF). Years ago, he started making the 15-mile commute from his home in Manti to Gunnison on his bike.
Then he started biking with Jim Smith, a former prison warden who was working as a science teacher at the academy.
“Jim has been a mentor,” Blauer says. “My dad passed seven years ago, and he’s just filled a fatherly figure (role). He has a bucket list where he wants to ride his bike in every national park he can. He’s got that senior citizen pass (for national park admission), so we ride our bikes in parks. He’s just been all over the country riding bikes.”
Asked about his training, Blauer says that he and Smith traverse what he calls the “belly button ride:” 105 miles from Manti to Gunnison, north through Yuba State Park to Levan, on to Nephi, through Salt Creek Canyon to Fountain Green, along S.R. 132 to Ephraim, and south on U.S. 89 to Manti.
“We’d do this series of brevet rides (long-distance bike rides with checkpoints along the way), where you’d do a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K and that qualifies you to do a 1,200k, and I did that series,” he says.
“We did all of our rides down in sunny Arizona; when it was storming up here we’d go down there and ride in Arizona… That was the first time I ever rode through the night, 32 hours on a bike.”
He says he never expected to be the fastest solo rider in the Salt-to-Saint ride. He was just hoping to finish in the allotted 34.5 hours by riding at an average 14 miles per hour and sleeping for four hours at some point along the route. But once the ride was underway, facilitators tracking his bike got word to him that he was pulling ahead of other riders.
“They got excited, which made me excited, and my grandkids are…”
He teared up, but his wife picked up the story. “He had a lot of support….As we got it going and we posted on social media, people were getting excited about it.,” she says.
When Blauer came to rest stops, he, his wife and grandchildren read posts on social media from, his wife says, “family and friends, the whole community. That’s what was fun. I’d say, ‘This person and this person and this person says…you can do this.’”
Blauer rides a specialized carbon-fiber Roubaix. ”It’s French, I call it Blue,” he says. During the ride, he needed to fix a mechanical problem on his rear wheel that prevented him from coasting if he stopped pedaling.
“So Jim says, ‘I’ll call Brian [Hester of Alley Cat Bike Shop in Ephraim], and he’ll take care of it. I said, ‘What if he has other things that he’s doing?’ But Jim’s just that way. He’s got friends everywhere.
“So I pull up to Ephraim, and my mom was there, and my in-laws were there, and Jim just grabbed the bike, and Brian stopped what he was doing. He tried to fix it, but said, ‘You’re gonna need a new wheel.’
Blauer had a spare wheel in his basement in Manti. Family members went to his house and brought back the spare. Hester put it on the bike. “It took a lot of people helping out,” Blauer says. “(A) big shout out to Alley Cats.”
Both Tony and Jennifer Blauer say moral support from the community made a difference during the difficult midnight uphill sections of the route.
“I think back, there are all these tiny little miracles that you just can’t explain how they happened,” Blauer says. “Four hundred and twenty-three miles, and only one flat, and that was right before I went down the hill into Hurricane.”
If the tire had blown after he started down the stretch, he would have been put in serious danger, he says. “Help came from everywhere. I can’t explain the support that I felt.”
Reflecting on the experience, Blauer is humble. “It’s not a race, it’s a ride,” he says. “I’m just grateful to have gotten to do it.”