Bicycle race, $20,000 purse rolling into Grand Junction

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Professional mountain-bike riders will compete for a $20,000 cash purse in the Grand Junction Off-Road, what promoters hope will grow to become the crown jewel of a series of endurance mountain-bike races.

The Grand Junction Off-Road presented by US Bank will draw in amateur riders as well as professionals who will compete for their shares of the purse, as well as some spectators, who will see everything from athletic skill and power to some NASCAR-style pile-ups, just on two wheels.

“There will be spots where people will catch some air, and some of it will be accidental,” said Dave Grossman, the Grand Valley Trails Alliance coordinator who urged local officials and promoters to put on a race. He will manage the event for the promoter, Arizona-based Epic Rides.

Though the 40-mile professional track beginning and ending in downtown Grand Junction, after coursing through the Bangs Canyon area, is “not tame by any means,” Grossman said it poses no significant hazards.

The key to the Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 event, however, is its family orientation, said Barbara Bowman, manager of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.

For many, the main attraction will be downtown, where a festival atmosphere will include an industry expo and music, Bowman said.

The Grand Junction Off-Road will fill a significant open spot in the downtown calendar, Labor Day, when little else is scheduled, Bowman said.

As a result, the race has the backing of the city, visitor and convention bureau, Grand Junction Regional Airport and Grand Junction Economic Partnership.

The economic partnership is sponsoring the outdoor expo with the idea of using it as a recruiting tool to expand the outdoor industry in the Grand Valley, Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Kelly Flenniken said.

Mountain-biking enthusiasts — and the businesses that serve them — also are looking forward to the event.

“We’re pretty stoked about it,” Ryan Cranston, owner of Ruby Canyon Cycles, 3091 Main St., said.

“I feel like it’s a race that’s really going to showcase aspects of Grand Junction mountain biking trails” and will put them on a par, at least with those in Fruita, Cranston said. “The stuff in Grand Junction is every bit as good as what’s out there.”

The race will shed new light on the Grand Valley, already well known for having some of the best mountain biking in the world, agreed Max “Snazzy” Connors at Over the Edge Sports in Fruita, 202 E. Aspen.

The fact that the 2013 race will be the inaugural race will should be an aid to drawing talent from among professional mountain bikers, Connors said.

“Everyone likes to get to say they were there at the first one,” he said.

If he were a pro, said Chris Brown of Brown Cycles, 549 Main St, “I’d do it.”

The Grand Junction Off-Road is expected to become the grand finale of several races, promoter Todd Sadow, president of Epic Rides, said. Epic Rides also promotes the Whiskey Off-Road in Prescott, Ariz.

“With $55,000 of prize money between the Prescott, and Grand Junction events, the quality of racing will be second to none in the world,” Sadow said.

Nate Wilson, who said he expects to compete in the event, though not on the pro level, said he expects many local riders to make a mark.

“Grand Junction has some amazing riders and athletes” who could do well, and the purse is significant enough to attract professional riders, Wilson said.

The event will be a valuable economic contributor, said Steve Gunderson, US Bank Western Colorado regional president. “US Bank actively supports the community, and we are excited to partner with Epic Rides in bringing a new economic driver to the city of Grand Junction that also highlights the natural resources in Mesa County.”



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