The Co2uT bike race will host 1,200 cyclists for courses that run from Fruita, Colorado, into Utah. [Desert Gravel]

Growing up near Lake Powell, Morgan Murri has driven the Interstate 70 corridor countless times. A stretch of highway that can be easily ignored, Murri and his company Desert Gravel are now sponsoring a bike race between Fruita, Colorado, and Utah that has been a year in the making.

“There’s this whole region north of I-70 that’s not on anybody’s radar,” Murri said in an interview with the Moab Sun News. “I started exploring, spending time out there with my family and riding around, which led to piecing together some cool trails. I thought it could be a really cool bike ride.”

Originally planned for October 2020, the race — styled as Co2uT — was pushed back multiple times due to rising COVID-19 cases at the time. Murri, an avid bike racer and coach, wanted to bring more bike enthusiasts to the land between Colorado and Moab for a premier cycling experience.

“We received many heart-wrenching messages with people saying that this was the only thing they had to look forward to,” said Murri. Finally, with restrictions eased and vaccinations increased, Co2uT is set for May 22.

1,200 cyclists from 29 states will descend upon Fruita this weekend for the gravel races which run on five different course options.

The options include the 30-mile “Fruitadens,” 75-mile “Stegosaurus,” 100-mile “Triceratops,” 125-mile “Utahraptor,” and monster 185-mile “Allosaurus” course, which runs all the way to Cisco, Utah. All courses are gravel loops that ultimately return their riders back to Fruita.

“Through these ups and downs, we’ve built a really great following of cool people,” said Murri. With a background in small-town economic development and tourism, he looks forward to bringing new visitors to Fruita after the race:

“Everyone will return to downtown Fruita for some beers — like we’re getting back to normal,” he said.

Murri also looks forward to another event later this year: Rexy. Planned for this Halloween, Desert Gravel will host this 208-mile race from Fruita to Moab that can be done solo or in four-person relay teams. Registration has opened on the company’s website; solo cyclists can sign up for $248 and teams $125 each. With 11,400 feet of elevation gain through some of the country’s most challenging terrain, Rexy won’t be for the faint of heart.

“It’s unbelievable how incredibly diverse, unique and different this terrain is,” Murri said about the two upcoming races. “I used to think there was nothing out here but antelope, oil wells and dirt roads. There’s so much more out there than people think,” he said. With hopes of it becoming an annual event, Co2uT will be more than a cycling competition — it’s a return to normalcy on the Colorado Plateau.