with Rama Jon 10/99
The mountain bike race season is here. Every year it kinda sneaks up on me. The MBAA, Mountain Bike Assoc. of Arizona, race series begins with the traditional "roadies on dirt challenge" at Casa Grande the last weekend of January. The early races of the series: Casa Grande, White Tanks, Estrella and McDowell are all near the Phoenix metro area. These races tend to favor the more cardiovascularly fit racers at the expense of technical skills. The next four races tend to equalize the field as technical skills begin to play a more important part. These races will be at: Oracle, Prescott, Mountaineer, with the state finals at Williams. These courses tend to be hillier, at elevation, and are significantly more technical.
This year Arizona mourns the loss of it’s most prestigious mountain bike race, the Cactus Cup in Scottsdale. In the past, the Cactus Cup kicked off the national mountain bike race season. This year the kick off will be at the Sea Otter Classic in California. The Cactus Cup had always been on the early side for many national and international race teams, and although it was a great warmup for the Sea Otter, two national races on consecutive weekends was just too much. In addition last year, Specialized Mountain Bikes, the title sponsor of the Cactus Cup since it’s inception pulled out. It became clear that without the support of the mountain bike industry, the Cactus Cup would soon be doomed.
As the sport of mountain biking matures, one would think that mountain bike racing might also mature. In fact, just the opposite seems to be occurring. As cross country racing attendance has perhaps peaked, many new race venues for mountain bikers have sprung up. The most popular of which is down hill and dual slalom venues. These types of races are all action packed and are very spectator and television friendly. Other venues have sprouted up that accentuate the gnarliness of mountain bikers. Those include 24 hour races and eco challenges that include multi-sport activities and team dynamics.
As mountain bike racers pedal into the new millennium, there will be plenty of opportunities for competitive challenges. No matter what venue tickles your fancy, let us all remember why we ride mountain bikes in the first place. FOR FUN.
Good luck to all mountain bike racers. Let’s have a great season.