Firebird race will double as state champs | VailDaily.com

Firebird race will double as state champs

Racers climb the Firebird XC trail. The race returns to Eagle on Saturday, June 3, as part of the Eagle Outside Festival.
Daily file photo |

EAGLE — The course is different this year, but the stakes are the same.

On Saturday, the Firebird XC race will return as part of the Eagle Outside Festival, an annual event designed to showcase the town’s mountain biking culture and trail system. Last year, the Firebird XC was designated by USA Cycling as the state championship race, and that designation has extended to this year’s event, as well.

State champion Howard Gratz, of Durango, last year said the intense climbing sections and the large backcountry loop made for a unique race.

“On paper, 32 miles didn’t look that long, but it was pretty challenging out there,” he said.

This year, riders can expect a more conventional cross country race. It will be 25 miles and will take riders on a few of Eagle’s classic trails including Boneyard, Redneck Ridge and Pool & Ice Rink and Haymaker. Local racer Karen Jarchow, who finished second in last year’s race, said the new track will be more spectator friendly.

“It will be closer to town, with shorter loops and a lap format,” she said. “Then we’ll finish with a lap on the BMX track.”

OPEN FOR ALL

The Firebird XC will also have a 19-mile version of the race, a 13-mile version and an 8 mile short loop. The races are open for anyone with a USA Cycling license to enter, and day-of licenses are also available.

This year, entry for juniors is free of charge.

“We want to make the sport as approachable as possible for the younger generation,” organizer Mike McCormick said on Thursday.

As a result, the junior categories are stocked full of competition.

“Especially the competitive junior category, those age groups are just stacked with kids,” McCormick said.

The race had more than 200 mountain bikers registered as of Thursday, and McCormick said they’re expecting a large amount of day-of racers, as well.

“We’ll probably be between 300 and 400 for the race, which is awesome, bigger than years past,” McCormick said. “Looking at the pro field, it doesn’t look that robust, but in talking to some of the regional pros, I know they’re coming.”

Among the bigger names expected to show up on Saturday is cyclocross racer Katie Compton, who has won more than 20 World Cup competitions.

“We’re really excited to have her,” McCormick said. “She’s a true force of nature.”