It’s going to be epic
Grand Junction Off-Road expected to draw thousands for inaugural event
Grand Junction will take center stage in the sport of mountain biking over the Labor Day weekend.
With as many as 500 amateur and professional riders set to arrive in a few days, the Grand Junction Off-Road will serve as a huge, three-day event full of fun, music and, of course, mountain biking.
It will also bring in big money to the city.
“This isn’t just a race, it’s a multiple-day event,” said Todd Sadow, president of Epic Rides, the event organizer. “Many want to be submerged in the mountain bike culture.”
The event is capped at 600 participants for the first year, and that includes up to 100 professional racers.
But with events like a mountain bike expo full of vendors, a downtown criterium race, a beer garden and an all-day Saturday concert series headlined by “Cracker,” the event is expected to draw thousands of people during the three days. All of the events, including the start/finish line (Third and Main streets) are set for downtown Grand Junction.
Sadow said most of the participants will come from outside Mesa County and will stay for multiple days, which means a nice jolt to the local economy.
“We really felt like the whole community would benefit,” said Dave Grossman, the event manager from Grand Junction.
The event is modeled around another Epic Rides race in Prescott, Ariz., the Whiskey Off-Road, which is in its 10th year.
Citing an economic impact study conducted by Arizona State University that studied the Whiskey Off-Road, Sadow said the Grand Junction event is expected to generate $975 a day per rider or visitor for the community.
Sadow said Grossman is the person most responsible for getting the event to Grand Junction.
“Dave reached out and inquired about bringing an event like the Whiskey Off-Road to Grand Junction,” Sadow said. “He’s been remarkable in bringing all the interested parties together.”
Grossman competed in the Whiskey Off-Road 50-mile event a few years ago and couldn’t help but think Grand Junction could be a great destination for a similar race.
“We were looking for an opportunity to highlight the trail systems here in the Grand Valley,” Grossman said.
Grossman moved to the area from Durango in 2004 and is now the executive director of the Grand Valley Trail Alliance.
“Everything is designed to bring people into the community and show them what an amazing trail system we have and what a great community we have,” Grossman said.
Grossman had to first sell city and county officials on the idea, then sway the Bureau of Land Management that the race course could work on federal lands.
Grossman said he approached the city at the perfect time. Grand Junction was discussing a possible pitch to bring a stage of the USA Pro Challenge road cycling race to the area, so a bicycle-focused group already was assembled.
“I put together presentations and showed them why the area is so right for an event like this,” he said.
Grossman said officials and the business community embraced the possibilities.
“We’ve gotten exceptional support from everyone,” he said.
The biggest hurdle was to get the BLM on board because the majority of the race course will be on federal land in the Bangs Canyon Special Recreation Management Area.
There were concerns about how a race would impact trail users who are not part of the race.
“These are public lands that belong to everyone,” said Chris Joyner, public affairs specialist for the BLM. “We didn’t want to close the trails.”
With the race entering the public land area at the popular Lunch Loop trail system, the BLM made it clear the trails had to still be accessible to other users.
The largest selling point to all parties was the economic benefit and the promotion of the region’s premier mountain biking trails.
“We felt that the race would be a significant benefit to the community,” Joyner said. “We were tuned in to what it meant to the community and to tourism. Bicycling is a huge economic driver here.”
Tom Eatwell, vice president of U.S. Bank in downtown Grand Junction, was a big proponent of the idea when it was first pitched. As an avid mountain biker who will be racing in Saturday’s amateur 40-mile race, Eatwell advocated that U.S. Bank be a sponsor of the event.
“One of the reasons U.S. Bank got involved is because of the exposure it brings to Grand Junction,” he said.
Events like this benefit local tourism and bring people back to the area after the event, he added.
Sadow said the plan is to grow the Grand Junction Off-Road over the next five years with the ultimate goal of reaching 2,000 participants.
Joyner said the BLM will evaluate the event on a year-to-year basis.
He also wants to make sure recreational users not participating in the event know they will have access to the public lands.
“We want people to still come out and enjoy their public lands,” he said. “We don’t want to neglect anybody’s opportunity to enjoy their lands.”
Grossman said the Grand Junction Off-Road should do a great job of promoting the area.
“It’s a great opportunity to show off the great trails we have and this amazing community,” Grossman said.