GoPro Mountain Games adds enduro bike race in Eagle

Mihai Moga rides on the Pool and Ice Rink Trail in Eagle.
Jeff Cricco | Special to the Daily |

What’s an enduro?

According to the Vail Valley Foundations’ Tom Boyd, an enduro differs from a standard mountain bike race in that riders will ride uphill to timed, downhill race sections. The uphill sections aren’t timed.

But, Boyd said, enduro races require riders to have less-specialized equipment, especially since no one knows what the exact route is until the night before the race.

“You can ride the trails, but you won’t know if that’s the course,” Boyd said.

EAGLE COUNTY — The GoPro Mountain Games are expanding this year, both in Vail and outside of town.

The Vail Valley Foundation, the event organizer, Wednesday announced some new locations for the games — set this year for June 9-12. In Vail, there will be a new focus on expanding events into Lionshead Village. But perhaps the biggest news is the addition of a June 10 enduro mountain bike race on the trails around Eagle.

While the vast majority of events will stay in Vail, the foundation’s media chief, Tom Boyd, said adding an enduro race to Eagle makes a lot of sense. Enduro racing is a growing part of the sport, Boyd said, but Vail isn’t the best place to hold that kind of event.

The main reason is conditions. Trails around Eagle are far more likely to be dry and ridable by scores of competitors. Vail Mountain, on the other hand, is likely to still be drying out.

That news was warmly received in Eagle, where town officials and business owners have been working for the past several years to turn the town into a recreation destination.

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The Eagle Outside Festival is a few years old, and becoming more popular every year, and the end-of-summer state high school mountain biking championships is quickly becoming an established event. Other events are coming this year, too, from a meeting of 80 cycling league directors and coaches from around the country to a group representing Japanese youth baseball. Eagle Mayor Yuri Kostick said adding the GoPro enduro will expand the town’s profile even more.

“This is a great sign for how far Eagle’s been able to come with recreation-based tourism,” Kostick said.

That effort is being packaged with other events in the valley, too. Town events coordinator Amy Cassidy said Eagle Outside Festival organizer Mike McCormack has been promoting both the Eagle Outside event in June and the new Vail Outlier mountain cycling events in September, Cassidy said.

“It really expands the focus of the valley as a (recreation) destination,” Kostick said.

Tara Picklo is the co-owner of the Yeti’s Grind coffee shops in Vail Village and downtown Eagle. Picklo said she’s thrilled about a GoPro event coming downvalley.

Beyond the competition itself, having an event in Eagle may draw people just to ride over the course of the weekend.

Picklo also welcomed the idea of moving events in Vail to Lionshead Village. Picklo rides in the cross-country mountain bike race every year. Having that event finish in Lionshead is a good idea, she said.

“It’s been overflowing (in Vail Village) the past few years,” Picklo said. “It’s been really tight.”

Spectator and competitor numbers from the 2015 event bear that out. Last year’s games drew 3,000 total competitors — although a number of people compete in different events. The same is true with spectators. That total number was more than 62,000 in 2015, although, Boyd added, a person who attends, say, a slackline event and a climbing event the same day counts as two spectators.

Still, it adds up to a lot of people, with more coming every year.

“That speaks to the energy around mountain sports,” Boyd said. “It makes sense to expand.”

Boyd said Lionshead is “clearly the next space” to add a bit of breathing room for both athletes and spectators. While the exact lineup of events isn’t final, Boyd said athletes, spectators and families will find plenty to do.

“Lots of people park at Lionshead, then take the bus into Vail Village,” Boyd said. “Those people can now start and end their mountain games day at Lionshead. I expect it to be just as invigorated as the Village.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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