Busy Saturday at Outlier Offroad Festival
VAIL — Zack Vestal with SCOTT bikes was expecting to have about 20 people visit his tent to demo bikes Saturday at the Outlier Offroad Festival.
By 2:30 p.m., he had demoed out more than 60.
“We’ve all been staggered by the response to this,” Vestal said. “From our standpoint, just as a brand that wants to demo bikes, we’d consider it a wholesale success.”
David Lee came in from Florida to demo bikes.
“My buddy lives in Eagle, he told me (the Outlier) was this weekend so I planned my trip around it,” he said.
Larry Hoffer didn’t have to travel as far. The Vail resident said the festival was exactly what he was hoping for.
“My bike is a 35-pound, 26” bike that’s 8 years old,” he said. I need to buy a new bike, where else could I try a bunch of different bikes?”
Aside from the demo itself, the actual bikes that are available for demo is the most exciting element of the festival, said pro mountain biker Jay Henry.
“If you’re a bike geek, this is the best time of year, I saw lots of new stuff at this festival that I hadn’t seen before,” Henry said. “I ride the SCOTT Genius 2015 and I just saw the 2016. It looks rad.”
First EVENT AFTER INTERBIKE
The fact that a professional like Henry saw the new model of his own bike for the first time at the Outlier is a testament to just how fresh a lot of the product is that’s on display in demo tents at the festival. Vestal said festival is timed perfectly with the rhythm of the release cycle for bigger brands like SCOTT.
“This is actually the first weekend after the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas, so this is the very first time anybody can see a 2016 bike,” he said. “Honestly, though, we didn’t have high expectations just based on the time of year. But we have been absolutely mobbed.”
A fall bike festival, where newly launched bikes can meet their future riders, is something that hasn’t been available in the Rocky Mountains before Outlier. Henry said the festival brought back fond memories of another celebration of mountain biking that took place in the fall in Vail — the International Cycling Union’s World Championships.
“It was around this time of year, similar weather, similar foliage, it was so beautiful, I was like ‘It seems like someone should do this here every year,’” Henry said.
That was 14 years ago, in 2001, right after the national tragedy that occurred on Sept. 11. Henry finished fourth in Saturday’s pro race; there was a five-person podium so he got to stand in Mountain Plaza and receive an award with crowds watching. It reminded him of some fond memories from the 2001 World Championships.
“Alison Dunlap won the championships and carried the American flag across the finish line, right where we’re standing right now,” he said. “It was probably the coolest thing I had ever seen. Not a lot of Americans have won the World Championships.”
Henry fought it out with friend and rival Josiah Middaugh, who took third in Saturday’s cross-country race. A 25-mile competition, it took riders up Mill Creek road through Vail’s Mushroom Bowl in an area mountain bike racers had not competed in before. Middaugh — a pro off-road triathlete — knew the course a little from the Vail Recreation District’s half marathon running race, but said he had not experienced anything like Saturday’s race before.
“It was unbelievable, the colors, the weather, it was like the half-marathon course but then going downhill down the front side – Big Mamba, Fred’s Lunch and Hank’s Hideaway,” Middaugh said. “Really fun.”
Henry said even while suffering to keep up with Middaugh, he couldn’t help but be in awe of the fall foliage.
“You crest of the top of that climb and you see Holy Cross and the back bowls, even during the race when I was at my limit, I thought ‘That is incredible. That view is incredible,” Henry said. “I’m surprised I was up near the leaders. I thought Josiah was going to win the whole thing. This is his time of year right now.”
Middaugh, an Eagle-Vail resident, won the Xterra off-road triathlon national championship race on Sept. 19, and is currently preparing for world championships on Nov. 1. He said in the climb at Saturday’s race he was able to hang with the leaders, Russell Finsterwald and Fernando Riveros, but lost them on the downhill. Still, less than a minute separated the three at the finish. Finsterwald, a 24-year-old World Cup racer and the current short track national champion, said it was his first race of this type – a long climb followed by a long downhill.
“This is more like an old-school style XC race, but I like the format and the trails were amazing,” he said. “It’s the first race like this I’ve ever done.”
Finsterwald also called it a “decent payday;” the competitors in Saturday and Sunday’s races will split a $25,000 purse.
“I don’t do a lot of fall races, I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t come up here and do this one again next year if they have it,” he said.
Middaugh and Henry both agreed a nice prize purse will always be the best way to attract top talent such as Finsterwald. For Middaugh, who is training for Xterra World Championships on Nov. 1, being able to race against World Cup athletes without leaving his own town is the best training he can imagine, he said.
“The guy that I’m chasing, Ruben Ruzafa, is a World Cup racer, so basically I need to be racing at that caliber,” Middaugh said. “And I didn’t have leave town to do it.”
The Outlier Offroad Festival continues today with more demo opportunities starting at 9:30 a.m. in Mountain Plaza at the base of Gondola One, and an enduro race on the mountain, also starting at 9:30 a.m. Awards will be held at 3:45 p.m. in the demo area. Public bike hauls are anticipated to be impacted on both of Vail Mountain’s gondolas until 3 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.outlier.bike/.