Local racers can now fall under national ranking
2006 Vail mountain bike race seriesMay 17 – Eagle Classic, starting at the Eagle movie theaterMay 31 – Hammer in the Hay, starting at 4 Eagle Ranch in WolcottJune 14 – Davos Dash, starting at the Holiday Inn parking lot in West VailJune 28 – Lost Lake Loop, starting at Red Sandstone Rd. in VailJuly 19 – Vail Mountain Grind, starting at Golden Peak in VailAug. 2 – Beaver Creek Blast, starting at the base of the Centennial chair lift at Beaver Creek
All races begin at 5 p.m. for junior riders and 5:45 p.m. for adultsMore information can be found at http://www.vailrec.com, or by calling 479-2280. EAGLE COUNTY – The local mountain bike race series is going national this season, but organizers say the experience will remain the same. The series, as always, will consist of hammering on dirt roads and singletrack on Wednesday nights with dinner, beer, prizes and opportunities to share trail triumphs and challenges to follow.But this season, the Vail Recreation District is teaming up with the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) for its race series, which begins May 17 with the Eagle Classic in Eagle.The rec district found itself in a situation last season in which it needed more than $2 million in insurance coverage to use venues such as Vail Mountain. Without such coverage, the series had to relocate the Vail race. This season, NORBA, run by USA Cycling, was the answer, and the rec district can take its races to wherever it gets approval from the US Forest Service.”We need it for insurance purposes,” said bike series organizer Brian Doyon of NORBA. “Knowing that we have that cap on our (coverage), it alleviates the worries.”While venues will be familiar to regular race participants this season, Doyon hopes that the NORBA sanctioned aspect of the races will lure riders from other parts of the state and the region to compete, and put a new spotlight on the mountain bike scene in Eagle County.”When we do something like this, it gives the series more credibility,” Doyon said. “It’s more exposure for the good riders we have here. I think we’re going to have the exact same character as before. As far as the riders, our categories who have less participants in the long run will hopefully have more.”
Where do you rank?The NORBA component of the race series will allow participants to earn points and be ranked regionally and nationally and also will allow serious racers to qualify for the national championships, slated for July this summer with a venue to be determined.”We’re offering them the opportunity to be involved in the bigger picture,” said NORBA representative Dean Crandall. “There’s a ranking system, so riders who go to races earn points and eventually they’ll get ranked in our region, then in the country. The top 10 riders in (each category) of the series earn a berth in the national championships. Maybe you’ll see more riders coming from places like Denver and Boulder to race in the series.”Not all riders in the Vail series are required to join NORBA and thus be involved in the national ranking and point system. Those who prefer to forego NORBA licenses will register for the series or each race as they always have, plus an extra signature on a NORBA release form, and the rec district will foot the bill for individual NORBA day licenses. The series has its own ranking and point system, which will be conducted as it always has been, independently from the NORBA system.”We’ll do the same thing we always do,” Doyon said. “People aren’t required to get a NORBA license.”A galaxy far, far awayThe local mountain bike race series began 22 years ago when a handful of racers took to Shrine Pass on their rigid-forked tank bikes, inadvertently overtaking the truck that launched the race, carried the stopwatch and aimed to beat riders to the finish line.The series has grown every year since, particularly among female, beginner and youth participants, and last season, each race averaged about 250 riders.
While each race has its pro category featuring local and visiting elite riders, there are also expert, sport, veteran, singlespeed, beginner and junior categories, divided among men and women and various age groups. “It’s one of the best grassroots mountain bike race series in the nation,” said Ellen Miller of the local series, which she has done almost since its inauguration. Miller has seen the organization and the competition evolve every year. But she said the increase in female participants and the die-hard nature of some racers hasn’t detracted from the social lure and enjoyment of the races.”For me, it’s a big deal, community event,” Miller said. “I’ve been racing for years, and I feel so comfortable. I’m almost 50 years old. I can race and have a great time and see all of my friends. It’s so participant-friendly. It’s great fun.”Each race is followed by a party and awards ceremony. When the series began in 1984, awards consisted of watermelon slices. This season, the rec district has procured Larabar as a sponsor, and boxes of the natural energy bars will be given to top finishers and raffled off after each race, along with other locally donated prizes.As far as venues, some new courses are in the works, but the 2006 series will consist of six of the old favorites.The Eagle race will feature a slightly different course than in years past, altered to avoid some of the newly paved roads in the area and keep the race largely on dirt.NORBA license holders can buy season passes for the whole series for $98, while non-NORBA members can race all season for $110. Single-race registration fees will be the same for licensed and non-licensed riders.Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 748-2936, or email@example.com. Vail, Colorado
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