Mountain bikers seeking events beyond the ordinary cross-country race can choose from a number of epic events in 2011. These races range from one-day epics to multi-day stage races, self-supported or supported. Make your New Year’s Resolution to accept the challenge: pick up the gauntlet thrown down by creative race promoters across the United States and Canada.
Arizona Trail 300 and Arizona Trail Race (starts April 15): You’re on your own for both the AZ300 and the AZR with 750 miles. Singletrack abounds, and the 750-miler includes carrying your bike on a Grand Canyon traverse hike. Starting at Parker Canyon Lake in April 2010, AZ Trail racers faced 6 inches of snow. Winner Jefe Branham finished 300 miles in two days and nine hours. Mark Caminiti finished 750 miles in 15 days, 15 hours. There are no check points, no entry fees, and no support. For the contenders, it’s sleep-deprived bike-packing with speed. For everyone else, it’s a multi-day and night ride on a beautiful trail that traverses deserts, pine forests, and even aspen groves.
Tour Divide (starts June 10): Another self-supported race without entry fees, the Tour Divide is the world’s longest mountain bike race at 2,745 miles. Racers start in the Canadian Rockies in Banff, Alberta, and end at the Mexican border, traversing the Continental Divide multiple times. Matthew Lee won last year with a time of 17 days, 16 hours. Watch the Ride the Divide movie trailer to get an idea of the beauty and suffering in this race.
The Arizona Endurance Series offers ten one-day, self-supported epics ranging from 47 to 115 miles. On January 29, the Antelope Peak Challenge offers a 65-mile race starting at 7 a.m. or a 115-mile race starting at 3 a.m. Like the Arizona Trail and Tour Divide, there are no entry fees and no prizes, racers must be self-supported. Promoter Chad Brown cautions: “It’s up to the participant to understand the route, and also have full responsibility for their navigation and well being.”
Trans-Sylvania Epic (May 29-June 4): In its second year, this 7-day supported stage race in Pennsylvania’s central mountains starts in State College. Stages are 10-50 miles in length. Bicycling Magazine’s Selene Yeager was the 2010 women’s champion, read about her race here. Register before March 1, and the entry fee is $899. On site camping and other meals will add costs. There is $10,000 in prize money.
BC Bike Race (July 2-9): This fully-supported mountain bike stage race offers 30-50 miles a day, mostly on singletrack. The current cost for this race is $1,899, with limited spots remaining at this price. It includes jeep roads, double track and technical single track trails in British Columbia in the Vancouver and Whistler areas. This year, racers can choose the BC Bike Race Challenge course—same places, but racing only 15-25 miles per day.
Trans Rockies (August 7-13): Another Canadian stage race with full support, the Trans Rockies starts in Fernie, BC and ends in Canmore, AB. This year, the race celebrates its ten year anniversary—it’s the oldest mountain bike stage race in North America. The pros will be there to celebrate and suffer. Competitors holding a UCI license and racing in the Open Men or Open Women categories will compete for over $30,000 in cash prizes and 2,500 UCI points. Race entry fee ranges from $650 for solo riders, to $2,900 for teams. Additional packages will add to the cost. Solo riders may compete in the 3- or 4-day race, and teams of two compete in the 7-day event.
Breck Epic (August 14-19). This year’s event in Breckenridge, CO, offers 3- and 6-day stages. Get ready to suck wind in the high altitude of the Colorado Rockies. The 6-day includes 40,000 feet of climbing over 240 miles. The 2010 race stages ranged from 31 to 43 miles. Race fees are $995 for solo riders or $1900 for teams of two. Camping, lodging, meals will add costs. Last year’s prize package was $10,000 split between men’s and women’s (solo and team) categories.
Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race (September 28-October 1): In its third year, this race celebrates the tight twisty single track of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Over five days, racers will climb 40,000 feet total during stages of 12 to 40 miles. Registration opens January 1, 2011; last year’s early entry fees were $650 for Open, $750 for Pro/Elite, and $1300 for teams. Last year’s event offered $20,000 in prize money divided among the top five in all categories, with additional daily prizes. In 2010, Jeremiah Bishop took top honors in the Pro men’s field and Amanda Carey won the Pro women’s race.
Do you have a favorite mountain bike epic left off this list? Let us know so local cycling Examiners can write about it in 2011.