Ramping up for big ride
A mountain-bike race in the shadow of Colorado National Monument will give the Grand Valley a much-needed early fall tourism boost and ramp up its red-rock visibility among followers of the sport.
Local officials and Arizona-based Epic Rides are planning a three-day bonanza of mountain biking south of Grand Junction that officials say could invigorate the Grand Valley economy.
The race over the Labor Day weekend fills a needed hole in which few events are planned, said Barbara Bowman, Visitor and Convention bureau division manager.
The event also would bring a competitive element to the area, one that would be the culmination of a series of mountain-bike races.
“Since the nature of the event matches up well with Grand Junction community interests, it’s likely to be positioned as the Grand Finale of the mountain-bike season in North America each September,” said Todd Sadow, president of Epic Rides.
The project to attract Sadow to the Grand Valley was the brainchild of Dave Grossman, coordinator of the Grand Valley Trails Alliance, who took in Sadow’s “Whiskey Off-Road” event in Prescott, Ariz., a 9-year-old event.
Grossman envisions a series of events in Grand Junction, including a beginners race on Friday, long and short races for amateurs on Saturday, then a pro race on Sunday culminating with a concert.
An industry trade show also would be part of the event.
“The timing is perfect” for a trade show because of the likely presence of top pros and their teams at the Grand Junction event, Grossman said.
Organizers hope to attract 600 competitors and 2,000 spectators. While final arrangements are being made, “We expect to see a very significant cash purse at the end in the Grand Valley,” Grossman said.
The Whiskey Run this year is offering a $35,000 purse, split evenly between male and female competitors.
The idea is tempting enough that Grand Junction, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and other local governments have agreed to kick in $40,000 in cash and in-kind contributions for the event, Bowman said, noting that the final arrangement is being negotiated.
The Bureau of Land Management also is seeking public comment on the final routes of the races for the event. All stem off Monument Road and are separate routes for 15-, 30-, and 45-mile races through the scenic Bangs Canyon area.
The start and finish for the races will be in downtown Grand Junction, but the trails through the Wingate and Chinle sandstones will pose a unique challenge, Grossman said.
Most similar races “are pretty tame trails,” Grossman said. “The trails we have here are both strenuous and very technically challenging. They will push the competitors to the limit.
“We should see the best pros in the world competing on our trails system.”
Spectators will be able to take it all in at viewing locations at several points along the routes, not just at the beginning and end downtown, Grossman said.
Epic Rides is looking to put on other races at various locations around the country, Sadow said, prompting Grossman to note that the Labor Day event in the Grand Valley “is our opportunity to get in on the ground floor.”