Meet riders who will be kicking up dust at Vail Outlier Offroad Festival, Sept. 9-11 |

Meet riders who will be kicking up dust at Vail Outlier Offroad Festival, Sept. 9-11

Melanie Wong
Special to the Daily
U.S. National Mountain Bike cross-country champion Erin Huck will look for another win at this year's Outlier cross-country race and another podium in the enduro.
Eddie Clark | Special to the Daily |

If you go …

What: Vail Outlier Offroad Festival: cross-country, enduro and trail running races, plus bike demos.

When: Friday, Sept. 9, through Sunday, Sept. 11.

Where: Races start from Mountain Plaza in Vail Village.

Cost: Race fees vary. Demo tickets start at $12.

More information: Visit

Bike nerds, unite!

That could be the rallying cry for the Vail Outlier Offroad Festival, a fall celebration of trails, bike racing and all things related to fat tires that returns for its second year from Friday through Sunday.

The fledgling event features a number of racing disciplines, including a three-stage enduro race, and a rough, tough cross-country race, both of which are USA Cycling Rocky Mountain Regional Championship events. Vail Village will also be the host site for the popular bike expo.

The Outlier will have something for cyclists and racers of all kinds, said race organizer Mike McCormack.

“In the end, the draw will be a weekend of fall cycling in Vail,” he said. “Then, add the element of riding some terrain that most people don’t normally ride. As for enduros, they’re still few and far between compared to cross-country races. But don’t forget that we’re all bike nerds — the expo will be a big draw for anyone who loves bikes.”

Like last year, the cross-country race will feature a 25- to 30-mile backcountry route that starts and finishes in Mountain Plaza. Riders will navigate a short opening lap via Lion Down and Onza Alley before heading out on a course that dips into Vail’s Back Bowls. The enduro race — a mixed format that includes several stages of timed descents and untimed climbs — will also return. This year’s course incorporates Radio Flyer and new sections of PMT.

The runaway hit of last year’s Outlier was the bike expo, which allowed people to demo and see the latest bikes for 2017 for the first time. This year’s Outlier expo promises to be even bigger than last, with many companies bringing their newest wares.

And just what kind of bike nerds can be expected at the Outlier? Certainly a good number of fast ones. We’d like to introduce you to some of the Outlier competitors who are expected to kick up some dust at this year’s races.

Erin Huck: Cross-country and enduro

The lone female on the Scott-3Rox team ran away with the win at last year’s Outlier cross-country race. This year, the Outlier will be capping off a very ambitious season for the Boulder-based racer, including World Cup racing in Europe and National Championship wins in cross-country and short track in July. This year also marks her first season as a full-time pro. Not having to worry about taking conference calls or sneaking in lunch rides has made a huge difference, she said.

Huck will look to defend her cross-country title at the Outlier, and for fun, she’ll also be competing in the enduro. While gravity events aren’t her main discipline, she said more technical riding doesn’t faze her.

“World Cup races are just so different than typical American cross-country races. They’re usually a lot more technical than what we see here. I wear kneepads the first time I ride a World Cup course. Also, there are a lot more racers, usually 60 to 90 women, and it’s a lot more aggressive. You’ll be pushed or grabbed at some point,” she said.

Switching back to the high-altitude, long-format cross-country races of Colorado will be a nice change of pace. Huck said she jumped at the opportunity to race in Vail last year and is excited to return to the Outlier.

“I love Vail in the summer. There’s lots of stuff to do downtown. It’s just beautiful, kind of like an escape,” she said.

Cristhian Ravelo: Cross-country

This season has been a big one for Eagle County-based racer Cristhian Ravelo. The 23-year-old Tokyo Joe’s rider won the Silver Rush 50, came in an impressive eighth place at the Leadville 100 alongside some of the country’s top cross-country pros and then hopped straight over to Breckenridge for the six-day Breck Epic.

“I definitely think this has been somewhat of a breakout year, although there’s still a lot to accomplish,” Ravelo said. “At Leadville, I showed I was able to ride at the top. I remember at one point at Leadville, I was on a climb with guys who had just come out from the Tour, guys I look up to. And there I was climbing with them in the top five.”

Cycling runs deep in Ravelo’s family. His father was a professional road cyclist who raced in the family’s native Colombia, Spain and the United States during the ’80s and ’90s. Ravelo, however, gravitated toward ski racing. It wasn’t until a few years ago that he started taking what he had considered “offseason cross-training” on the bike more seriously.

With the help of a new coach, Jake Wells, and off-the-bike support from his family, Ravelo hopes to see how far two wheels will take him. He’ll be a podium threat at the Outlier, where he said he’s excited to show off his home trails.

“Racing at home is the best. You get to showcase the trails you ride all the time, and riding in September in the mountains is some of the coolest riding around,” he said.

Nate Hills: Enduro

Dillon-based enduro pro Nate Hills took second at last year’s Outlier. The current has had its ups and downs, punctuated by podium finishes, crashes and mechanicals alike. However, Hills, who has been racing at the professional level since 2003, takes it all in stride.

“Any athlete will tell you that you can’t worry about what you can’t control,” he said. “Racing is definitely a big mind game, but I always trust my ability and know I can do well if things line up. You have to take the good with the bad and try not to get too down about things. It balances back out.”

He said he’s curious to see what the enduro course for this year’s Outlier will be like. Last year’s race was on the less-technical side, requiring riders to pedal hard versus relying on gravity.

“They did a great job with it as a first-year event. Of course, you don’t want to scare people off by making it too hard,” Hills said. “I’m hoping they’ll use a little more technically challenging tracks this year. I kind of enjoy gravity-fed trails, where you’re limited by how fast your brain will let you race. I think all race directors are trying to find that happy medium for their courses.”

Jenny Smith: Cross-country

Jenny Smith, of the Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team, is looking for some redemption at this year’s Outlier after finishing a disappointing sixth last year. She spent most of last season sick, the consequence of trying to balance the roles of being the mom of a toddler, team manager, cycling coach and professional racer. It seems she’s got it down now — the New Zealander-turned-Coloradan has had a very successful season, which included a third-place finish at the Leadville 100.

“My goal this year was to be healthy. I did a complete 360 on my lifestyle and coaching. I’ve had one cold all year, so I’m super stoked,” she said. “The Outlier will be the last race of the season, so I’m really exited to end with a fun cross-country race.”

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