Nevada County resident Alicia Berardi completes 100-mile Tevis Cup, 30 years after first attempt | TheUnion.com

Nevada County resident Alicia Berardi completes 100-mile Tevis Cup, 30 years after first attempt

Area competitors and their results

Nicole Chappell‐Wertz, of Auburn — 29

Jennifer Mather, of Grass Valley — 32

Kathie Perry, of Auburn — 33

Frank Smith, of Grass Valley — 42

Alyssa Stalley‐Gonzalez, of Auburn — 49

Alicia Berardi, of Grass Valley — 52

Debbie Glasow, of Auburn — 67

Kim Dean, of Auburn — 75

Teri Miller, of Auburn — 76

Kim Barger, of Auburn — 87

You couldn’t blame Alicia Berardi for having somewhat of a traumatic flashback.

It was just past 8 p.m. at the Foresthill checkpoint of the Tevis Cup ride. Her trail buddy, Amrita O’Leary, had just made the difficult decision to pull out of the 100-mile Tevis Cup.

That meant Berardi and her one-eyed Arabian, Revere, would have to traverse some of the most difficult section of trail solo, in the dark, in order to make the finish line in Auburn before 5:15 a.m.

“It was a really emotional moment,” Berardi recalled, less than a week after she rallied to finish the 2019 Tevis Cup within the mandated 24 hours. “I had a fear of going out alone … The American River canyon has really steep drop-offs, it’s challenging, it’s dark and your horse is tired.”

O’Leary’s departure was a serious blow to Berardi’s confidence, leaving her to wonder if Foresthill was going to be her Waterloo once again.

It was there, after all, that she dropped out of the 1988 Tevis Cup, in her one previous attempt at the grueling endurance race. That decision haunted Berardi for 30 years. And that lost opportunity was what led Berardi to start a three-year-long training process to ride the Tevis Cup once again.

This time, she said, her support system didn’t let her down. In particular, she said, husband James urged her to keep going.

“It’s been such a full circle for me,” Berardi said. “It’s a lifetime achievement.”

A dream deferred

Berardi said she has wanted to ride the Tevis Cup since she volunteered as a crew member in her teens.

“I was just enamored with it,” she said.

At 22, Berardi decided to take a shot, making it two-thirds of the way before pulling herself out of the race during a vet check.

“I didn’t have the necessary support,” she said. “I felt really bad about it — my horse was fit. But you really need a lot of support, you need a pit crew, and I didn’t have that. I gave up and didn’t follow through with something that meant a lot to me. It stayed with me.”

Berardi got married and raised a family. But she never let go of that dream, even though she didn’t own a horse for 15 years. When a horse came into her life 15 years ago, she decided to get back into endurance racing. But with young kids still in the house, she realized she just didn’t have the time she needed.

She ended up breeding her mare and raised the colt, Revere, with the hope that some day they would do the Tevis together.

“I kept (that dream) alive in the background,” she said.

“But you don’t just wake up one morning and say you’re going to ride the Tevis,” she added. “It takes a lot of time and preparation.”

Berardi turned to mentor Vicki Testa, an “amazing inspiration” with thousands of endurance rides under her belt. Over the next several years, she took Revere on one long 20-25 mile ride and several shorter 10-milers every week. She also prepped her horse to the best of her ability, fine-tuning every aspect from feed to tack. Exercising her own body also was a priority, she said, noting that she needed to be able to give Revere a break by walking alongside him.

Berardi stressed her success was also due to a “whole community of people who helped me achieve this, to pursue this dream … To finish something I started to not give up on that dream, means a lot. That’s what kept me going out there.”

Race Day was an important milestone for Berardi for a completely different reason — it was her 28th wedding anniversary.

“My husband James was there for me,” she said. “It was the best anniversary gift — well, maybe not for him,” she laughed. “He was so great.”

Berardi said it was also incredibly important for her to have her parents waiting for her at the finish line, even though it was 4 a.m.

“My mom suffers from muscular dystrophy,’ Berardi said, “It’s not easy for her to get around.”

Race Day

Just after 5 a.m. Saturday, Berardi and Revere were part of the spectacle as 184 horses and their riders raced out underneath a nearly full moon, leaving Robie Equestrian Park for the beginning of the 64th annual Tevis Cup.

Since 1955, riders have gathered in the area to compete in the race, which takes a single horse and rider along 100 miles of the Western States Trail from the Truckee-Tahoe area to Auburn.

Berardi admits to having a little bit of an anxiety attack right before the race, when she contemplated having to ride “this incredible distance.”

But in a lesson that can be applied to every facet of life, she just broke it down, focusing on making it to each checkpoint.

“That first step is the hardest one,” she said,

Making the decision to keep going in Foresthill was also “a big moment.”

But, even though that last stretch felt a bit hallucinatory, Berardi said it was “amazing.”

“We got in the zone and just flew,” she said, “I felt like angels were guiding me down the trail.”

Berardi noted that typically, about half of the riders end up completing the Tevis Cup. This year, the percentage was slightly higher at 54%, likely due to cooler weather.

After more than 16 hours on the trails, 18-year-old Sanoma Blakeley, of Terrebonne, Oregon, and her 10-year-old dark bay Arabian gelding, RA Ares Bay, emerged from the darkness in Auburn, outdueling three-time race winner Jeremy Reynolds, 39, of Dunnellon, Florida, and his Arabian mare, RTR Rimfires Etta, during the final stretch of the race to win this year’s Tevis Cup. The two were within feet of each other coming down the final stretch, so close that it took several minutes before an official announcement was made declaring Blakeley the winner.

In total, 99 of the 184 riders that left the start line successfully completed the ride. Of the junior riders to race, five of nine finished. The race also attracted 26 international competitors, and of those, 14 reached the finish line.

Berardi placed 52nd, right in the middle of the pack.

“I was pretty happy about that,” she said.

Competing in the Tevis, for her, represented the overcoming a challenge — the “not giving up.”

“Just being at the starting line, I felt like just being there and starting was important,” Berardi said, “Of course, finishing felt awesome. … The motto of the Tevis Cup is ‘To finish is to win,’ which I think is beautiful.”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lizk@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236. Sierra Sun reporter Justin Scacco contributed to this story. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.


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