EAGLE — It may be the middle of winter, but there are people in Eagle already preparing for mountain biking season.
The organizers of the Eagle Outside Festival and Firebird mountain bike race announced that the second annual event will be May 17-18, and the fledging racecourse will be bigger than ever. In addition, the successful bike demo days will return, but this time with upwards of 60 bike companies on hand, double the number from this past year.
Race organizer and Eagle resident Mike McCormack, who is behind wildly successful races such as the Firecracker 50 and Steamboat Stinger at their beginnings, said his eventual vision for the Firebird is to establish it as a “bucket list” race.
“We just want a big fun racecourse that elevates the Firebird into such an event that people will mark their calendars for, make a weekend of it and travel to do it,” McCormack said. “You just have to treat people to a huge experience.”
That experience will start with a new, bigger backcountry loop of a racecourse. Last year, due to permit limitations, the course involved multiple loops on a couple classic trails.
This year, the unofficial race course (pending trail conditions) will take riders up into the backwoods of Eagle on a combination of doubletrack, dirt road and singletrack that will include signature Eagle trails such as Pipeline and Easy Rider.
Showcasing The Best
Eagle mountain biker Courtney Gregory, who is helping create the racecourse, said the course will showcase some of Eagle’s best trails.
“I think there will be some terrain in there that will be new even people who live around here, some of the less-ridden parts,” he said. “I’ve been riding these a long time, and I guess I’ve always kind of tried to let the secret out. A lot of people come ride Boneyard and the Eagle Ranch loops and that’s it, but there’s so much more.”
Event organizers hope to draw people from all around the state for what is considered an early season race, and so far it seems to be working. McCormack said registration is already at 75 percent of last year’s.
“Last year’s course was really fun, but it was what we were left with,” McCormack said. “With this course, though, it really shows people the embarrassment of riches that’s in the backyard of Eagle.”
It doesn’t hurt that entry fees are relatively lower than other similar races — depending on category, fees will range from $20-$50 per rider.
The town is behind the effort as well, looking to commit $15,000 worth of town funds (pending board of trustees approval) to the event.
Eagle Marketing and Events Coordinator Amy Cassidy said the town is definitely behind the event and aims to draw more Front Range and even out-of-state competitors.
The Vail Recreation District will also be holding their trail race, the Boneyard Boogie, during that weekend — a perfect chance to show that Eagle trails aren’t just for biking. There will also be a half-marathon and Chromoly Chef competition.
“We were at the (high school mountain bike league) awards and there was a lot of national awareness for the Firebird,” Cassidy said. “People definitely know about it and are talking about it.”
McCormack hopes it will be the Eagle community’s big debut, maybe earning the town a spot among the top biking towns in the state.
“The community here is still kind of a hidden secret,” he said. “It’s still very local, which is part of its charm. There’s different terrain here. It’s a real small town, and surrounded by public land. It’s a very welcoming place.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.