Coolest race: Rabbit Valley Rally a popular event for mountain bikers

Grand Junction’s Ross Schnell is hoping to win one of two races this weekend at the Rabbit Valley Rally. Schnell, who won the inaugural time trial and cross country race, didn’t compete last year and isn’t sure if he will enter both races this weekend.


Rabbit Valley Rally

What: USA Cycling Mountain States Cup mountain bike race event

When: 10 a.m. Saturday & Sunday

Where: Rabbit Valley trail head

What’s at stake: USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships qualifier

There is a $5 per rider per event user fee. This includes season pass holders.

Jay Henry has never won the Rabbit Valley Rally, but it’s his favorite race of the season.

The 35-year-old Avon professional mountain bike racer is one of several expected to compete Saturday and Sunday in the Mountain States Cup third annual Rabbit Valley Rally in Rabbit Valley near the Utah border.

“We mostly race in the ski areas,” Henry said. “To have a wide-open technical desert course is awesome. It’s the coolest race of the year.

“You never know where your fitness is going to be. It’s one of my favorite places to ride.”

The rally, a qualifying race for the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Championships, will consist of a 3-mile time trial race beginning with the men’s age 15-18 Category 2-3 division at 10 a.m. on Saturday with a cross-country race at 8 a.m. on Sunday. The pros race at 1 p.m. on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday.

The pros and Category 1 racers will compete in a 31-mile cross-country race mostly along Kokopelli’s Trail, Westwater Mesa Trail and Western Rim Trail.

Category 2 racers will compete on an 18-mile course that includes the Western Rim Trail. Others will compete on a 10- to 12-mile loop.

Henry, who won the Mountain States Cup cross-country season points title last year, is one of nearly 30 professional racers expected to compete in the Rabbit Valley Rally. There are divisions for juniors and adults, men and women of all abilities.

Henry placed second in the time trial and the cross-country race last year and was third in the time trial and fourth in the cross-country race in 2008.

Grand Junction’s Ross Schnell is competing in the cross-country race and possibly the time trial. He won the inaugural Rabbit Valley Rally time trial and cross-country race in 2008, but didn’t compete last year.

“A repeat win would be nice but I’m definitely not expecting to duplicate that this year,” Schnell said in an e-mail. “It’s always nice to race locally and sleep in your own bed. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll race both days or just the cross country on Sunday.”

Schnell competed in the Sea Otter Classic last weekend in Monterey, Calif., but had mechanical problems and didn’t place.

“Early season is always a mixed bag for me because I’m targeting key events later in the summer,” Schnell said. “My season is actually going to be quite long this year as I’ll be defending the Singlespeed World title at the end of October.”

A handful of cyclists on the team will compete in the event, including team founder Mike Driver.

“The time trial race is against the clock,” Driver said. “Racing at top speeds and navigating mountain bike terrain makes it interesting. Riding a bike in a straight line is difficult when your heart rate is at its max. We call that operating in the red. It’s a neat race because spectators see 80 percent of race course.

“In the cross-country race, we have a climb to Westwater Mesa with a 12 percent grade about a quarter of a mile. It’s steep enough, most of the riders will be completely cooked. It’s a great place to watch the race. You can drive in to Westwater Mesa.”

Driver is competing in Category 1. He placed fifth in one race and ninth in the other race last year.

Riders can register each day at 8 a.m. at the main parking lot off the interstate exit at Rabbit Valley.


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