Roger Pedretti drove 1,100 miles from Wisconsin to participate in the 72nd Annual World Championship Pack Burro Race Saturday in Fairplay.
And after fighting through leg cramps to finish 11th on the Short Course in a respectable time of 2:28.50, it was obvious he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The Pedretti family is synonymous with burro racing in Fairplay and beyond, and the Pedretti name is well entrenched in the anals of the storied racing event which occurs there each summer.
This summer, due to COVID-19 and the uncertain status of the event, Roger was the only one in his family participating in Saturday’s race.
Every year, a large number of Pedrettis gather at the Fairplay burro racing event from around the nation, always donning easily identifiable yellow shirts to honor Rob Paretti, Roger’s brother, who won the Long Course in 1999 but tragically passed away in 2004.
Just after Rob’s death the family held a memorial in his honor in Canon City. A family member brought a burro in full racing gear to the memorial, sparking the entire family to begin attending and participating in the Fairplay event. That tradition has continued and grown stronger amongst the Pedretti family every year since. Some years, as many as 30 friends and family are in attendance and many of them are racing.
“You know, Rob and Hal Walter finished nose-to-nose back in 1998 and 1999,” Roger said while cooling down from Saturday’s race. “Hal won one year, and Rob won the next. They had some epic battles. I consider Hal a good friend.”
Since Rob’s passing, his younger brother Rick won the Short Course in 2013, and Rob’s nephew, Danny Peretti, won last year’s Short Course in impressive fashion at the age of 16.
Saturday’s event marked Roger’s 16th consecutive year to participate in the high-profile race. He has finished as high as third in the Fairplay event, and once notched a top 10 finish in the Leadville leg of the WCPBR Triple Crown.
Roger, 59, had no prior history of distance running prior to his first time participating in the Fairplay race. At sea level, Roger trains and competes without any discomfort at all. But at altitude, he has been plagued by leg cramps in recent events.
“I was fine today ... really good, in fact ... until the eleventh mile,” Roger reported. “Then my calves started cramping. I was running in the top 10, felt really strong and was hoping to pass a group in front of me just before the cramps set in. Then I just made it my goal to hold my position and not let anyone pass me, which I was able to do.”
Roger was running in good company, as his burro, Call, was Danny’s companion during last year’s Short Course victory. While feeding Call a well-deserved post-race carrot, he reflected on his burro’s performance.
According to Roger, as was seen in 2019, Call is always capable of finishing as high as his human counterpart dares to take him.
“This burro [Call] was capable of finishing top three, and he was ready to go, so it certainly wasn’t him holding us back,” Roger said with a chuckle.
Danny was unable to attend this year due to obligations with his high school cross country team in New Jersey. Danny has a twin brother who is equally talented but was unable to run in 2019 due to injury.
According to Roger, the field had best prepare next year for the return of the Perettis en masse.
“Next year, all the Perettis plan to attend and we plan to race in everything,” Roger said.
This year, Johnny Hamilton, a former hunting partner of Rob’s, and his son Travis were in attendance. Renee Fisher, a friend of Rob’s mother, was also in attendance.
“We had a few yellow shirts here today, even on an off year,” Roger said.
Yellow Pedretti shirts could also be seen on Clarke Poos, an ad representative of The Flume, and his wife, who have become friends and fans of the Pedrettis over the years.
“It’s just great to get out and see all the friends I’ve made here over the years,” Roger said. “That’s what it’s really all about.”
Finishing 11th out of 41 competitors with severe leg cramps over the final three miles and covering 13.6 miles in under two-and-a-half hours wasn’t at all shabby on Roger’s part.
Driving more than a thousand miles and competing gamely without the typical sea of yellow shirts around him for moral support was pretty gutsy, too.
And while the bulk of the yellow-shirted crew was undoubtedly missed this year, it should be noted that Roger’s representation in 2020 was everything one would expect from a Pedretti, and more.