Race makes ‘last-minute’ shift from Vail
WOLCOTT – From now on, the local mountain bike race series will have to find other venues than those managed by its title sponsor, Vail Resorts, unless series organizers find more money for insurance coverage to race at Vail and Beaver Creek.The Vail-Beaver Creek Mountain Challenge race series continues Wednesday with race No. 3 at 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott. The race was originally slated to take place on Vail Mountain, but, for the first time in the series’ 21-year history, Vail Resorts representatives won’t allow races at Vail or Beaver Creek, due to liability concerns.”We’re not comfortable with the insurance coverage for the races,” said Vail Resorts vice president Bill Jensen. “We’ve really focused the last six months on our promoters and their insurance coverage. The risk factor in mountain bike racing is high enough, and because Vail Rec District is a government agency, it puts too much liability on the venue, even though we’re not putting on the race.”Jensen said that last winter’s misfortunes on the mountain, the most notable being the Dec. 19 death of 13-year-old Ashley Stamp of Steamboat Springs, who died at Vail when she was warming up for a ski race and collided with a snowmobile driven by a Vail Resorts employee – an incident from which VR is now facing a lawsuit – was “a contributing factor” to Vail Resorts’ decision on canceling Wednesday’s race at Vail and the Aug. 10 race scheduled to be held at Beaver Creek.
The new Aug. 10 venue, which will mark the race series finale, is yet to be determined. Jensen did say that if the rec district is able to meet the insurance coverage needs, the Beaver Creek race could foreseeable take place as scheduled. “The rec district can get more insurance for their races, which is what everyone else has done,” Jensen said, also mentioning the rec districts’ necessary amount of coverage for mountain bike races at Vail or Beaver Creek is a private matter between Vail Resorts and the race promoter. “The amount of coverage is significantly higher than what they currently have,” Jensen said. “We’re carefully reviewing all the insurance that all the promoters have. Our sponsorship shows that we’re very supportive of biking in the Vail Valley. We support a lot of different biking events.”Jensen pointed out that VR is the sponsor for two teams competing in the 2005 Race Across America, including Team Beaver Creek-Vail, which won the event Monday. Vail Resorts is still allowing the Vail Rec District’s trail running series to take place at Vail and Beaver Creek under the existing insurance coverage. Jensen said the reasoning for this is that “trail running is a low-risk activity and mountain bike racing is high-risk.”Vail Rec District representatives said they plan to do everything in their power to maintain racing venues at Vail and Beaver Creek.
“For us, it’s very important to have the races at Vail and Beaver Creek,” said VRD Mountain Challenge race series organizer Brian Doyon. “As far as we’re concerned, there’s only so much our insurance company can do in a timely manner. Right now, I’m working on each venue one at a time. We’ll do everything we can to get the venues back to Vail and Beaver Creek. It’s not just having VR as a title sponsor, it’s all the people helping out on the mountain at both Vail and Beaver Creek – ski patrol being on the course, trail crews, everyone. Plus, the courses are fun and challenging to the riders. Doyon said that if the rec district is unable to come up with adequate insurance coverage to race at Beaver Creek Aug. 10, the venue will likely be changed to the long-standing rider favorite course at Lost Lake on U.S. Forest Service property. Doyon said race series organizers are very thankful to the Forest Service, property owners at 4 Eagle Ranch and Vail Resorts, without whose sponsorship, race organizers wouldn’t be able to distributing the $900 in prize money following each race.And the race goes onThus, Wednesday’s race will consist of three-plus mile laps on rolling doubletrack and singletrack at 4 Eagle Ranch.
“It’s definitely a moderate course,” Doyon said. “It’s probably the flattest, easiest course in the series. The passing will be fairly easy. I think the biggest challenge will be the heat.”Pro racers will ride four laps while sport racers will ride three and beginners two. The race begins with a quarter-mile climb up a rocky doubletrack and plateaus on a mesa overlooking the golf course, where racers continue on singletrack through grass and sage, to a gradual, rocky descent, leading to pastures and a tractor road.Last year, Jimi Mortenson – who, along with fellow locals Mike Janelle, Brian Smith and Toph Leonard, won the Race Across America Monday – won on the 4 Eagle Ranch course with a finish time of 51 minutes and Summit County rider Monique Merrill won for the women in 1 hour and 1 minute.”We’re very fortunate that the folks on this private ranch bailed us out at the last minute,” Doyon said. “It’s a nice course on private land, and we feel very lucky to race here.”The course will not be open to preride until 4 p.m. Wednesday. Race day registration begins at 4:30 p.m. and closes at 5:30 p.m. before the 5:45 p.m. start. Awards and post-race party will take place at the 4 Eagle Ranch restaurant. For directions, or more information, visit http://www.vailrec.com, or call (970) 479-2280.Vail, Colorado