Grand Junction Off-Road course will be a challenge for all riders
Hard-core racers, big money and a challenging course — it’s the first-ever Grand Junction Off-Road mountain bike race, expected to draw hundreds of competitors.
On Sunday, Sept. 1, more than 50 professional mountain bike racers will take off from downtown Grand Junction on an epic 40-mile trek. The grueling course will take riders over technical singletrack, four-wheel-drive roads and lots of climbing — 6,700 feet of total climbing over the 40 miles.
A $20,000 cash purse will go to the top placers.
“The prize purse is equal for both men and women, which is unique,” event manager Dave Grossman said.
Grand Junction’s Ross Schnell and John Klish, and Wade Newsom of Carbondale, are some local racers who will be competing.
Kona rider Kris Sneddon, Cannondale rider Ben Sonntag, and Carl Decker, who rides for Giant Bicycles, are some of the stronger riders in the field for the men.
For the women, Cannondale rider Monique “Pua” Mata, Teal Stetson-Lee and Chloe Woodruff are expected to contend for the title.
Sonntag and Stetson-Lee return to the region to compete after they claimed victories at April’s Rumble at 18 Road race north of Fruita.
The men take off from the start/finish line at Third and Main streets at 7:30 a.m., with the women starting 10 minutes later.
The first three miles of the course will be on pavement as riders race to the Lunch Loop area off Monument Road.
Grossman said a number of factors were considered when putting together the course.
“We designed the course to put in a lot of double track before we get into the singletrack, so riders can spread out,” he said.
He also said they wanted to be conscious of not occupying too much of the popular Lunch Loop area on a busy holiday weekend.
“We didn’t want to impact the trail system too much, so we wanted to keep the trail open for people who want to go out and ride that weekend,” he added.
The professional race will be the culmination of three days of racing in the inaugural event.
A 15-mile beginner/entry level race that will start at 3 p.m. Friday. Also Friday, a downtown fat tire criterium for pros and fun seekers will take place.
The “Clunker Crit” is a free event at 6 p.m. with participants decorating bikes and having fun cruising around downtown.
The professional riders take the criterium course at 6:15 p.m., beginning with the women’s race, and the men take off from the start/finish line at Third and Main streets at 6:50 p.m.
Hundreds of amateur mountain bike riders will participate in Saturday’s 30- and 40-mile races.
For Grand Junction amateur rider Trish Brown, who will compete in the 30-miler, it’s exciting to have an event in the region.
“This is a great place for mountain biking. I’ve ridden those trails at Lunch Loop so many times,” she said. “It’s kind of exciting, and I hope (the event) is successful.”
The 45-year-old, who recently competed in a 70-mile race in Wyoming, said the course is daunting and will be a big challenge physically and technically. The 30-mile course has 3,900 feet of climbing.
Tom Eatwell of Fruita said this kind of mountain biking event is as much about the culture as it is about hitting the trails and the competition.
“Mountain bike racing in general brings together great people,” he wrote in an email. “There is an atmosphere of camaraderie, kinship and brotherhood that is unexplainable. To have an event of this size just magnifies the experience. The racing is fun, but the overall atmosphere is what is exciting to me.”
Eatwell, 48, who first started racing in 1995, will compete on the 40-mile course.
“This course is hard. I think it is going to surprise a lot of people,” he said, adding he has ridden the course. “The climbing is very steep in spots. It has some absolutely relentless sections that seem to go on forever.”
The race is modeled after the Whiskey Off-Road 50-mile race held in April in Prescott, Ariz.
Todd Sadow of Epic Rides, which organizes both events, said the goal is to create a national mountain biking race series, and Grand Junction is a great place to add the second event.
“Grand Junction is a world-class mountain biking destination. We’re looking for iconic mountain bike destinations to build a national series,” he said.
Sadow said the goal is to try to grow the Grand Junction event to 2,000 participants over the next five years. This year’s event was capped at 600 riders.