Firecracker 50, Breck 100, the Fall Classic: Has Summit mountain bike racing reached capacity?
Summit Fat Tire Society
Mountain bike racing is not for everyone, but one thing is for sure — Summit County has a long history with it. The first Fall Classic was in October of 1984, which is not too long after the “invention” of the mountain bike, or at least the introduction of mass-produced mountain bikes.
Since that snowy October day in 1984, the race scene in Summit has blossomed. Take the Summit Mountain Challenge Series: It has been around since the late ‘80s and is probably one of the best examples of community-based, grassroots racing in the country. The hard but friendly competition welcomes everyone: novices who are really excited about the sport, those who feel they need motivation to get in better shape, folks looking to meet new people to ride with and even some pretty fit and fast riders.
The series was started by Greg Guras of A Racers Edge and carried on by Jeff Westcott and the Mav Sports crew. Through the years, Jeff has managed to keep it fresh and fun while respecting the series tradition. He has experimented with different formats for some races, but he’s also kept some of the classic point-to-point courses, like the Pennsylvania Creek Grind.
The Firecracker 50 began in 2001. It was one of the first of its kind — not a real ultra-endurance race but longer than a traditional cross-country race. Mike McCormick and Jeff Westcott founded this one. If I remember right, I helped put that course together at something of the last minute. We tossed around a few options, but we settled on what is more or less the same basic layout the race still follows.
Back to the Classic
Then, there is the Fall Classic. This race began in 1984, organized by the late Tim McClure and a local group of friends identified as the “Breckenridge Telemark Society.” After the first edition, it became an official stage race, with three stages over two days. The stages included a hill climb up the notoriously steep Humbug Hill Jeep road, a circuit race around the Breckenridge Nordic Center and a point-to-point cross-country race. After a few years, the race became the finals of the Colorado Off-Road Points Series, which in its heyday was the top regional race series in the country.
I was the race director for the Fall Classic from 1987 to 1997. That was a great time to be a promoter. Not only was it easier to get permits from the U.S. Forest Service for a race, liability wasn’t nearly as big of a concern as it is now. I guess you could say we got away with a lot that you wouldn’t even think about now. Being younger probably had something to do with it also!
The Fall Classic continues to this day, promoted by Jeff and the Mav sports crew. While the race is no longer a stage race, it continues to be one of the true originals on the race scene.
So, I’ve gushed about racing, about how great it is and all that. Are there downsides? Yes. Promoters and I don’t discount that for some people, all the races — and it’s not just mountain biking, we have a full season of trail running also — are an inconvenience and nuisance. That’s why it’s important for all the race promoters and racers to be good neighbors.
And, for the most part, I think they are. I know that promoters work hard to mark courses no earlier than necessary and remove the course markings immediately after a race is finished. They also constantly stress etiquette, like being nice to the general public, throwing trash where it belongs and being a good sportsman to the racers.
Are we at capacity for races? Probably. The saturation point always varies depending on whom you ask, but my thought is that it would be tough to start a new race on the trails in Summit County. Not only would it impact the non-racing public even more, there are only so many volunteers out there, and it takes a huge number of volunteers to make these races happen.
Shameless trail-work plug
Onto non-racing content: There are a couple opportunities to help your trail system in the next few weeks. One is a large volunteer project Aug. 15-16 on Tenderfoot Mountain. This is mostly geared to moto riders, but the trails will also be open to bicycles. Go to http://www.voc.org for more info.
The other workday is with the Town of Breckenridge on Aug. 15 to finish the Weber Gulch trail. We didn’t quite get this one done last week, and with a little more help, we’ll knock it out. Go to http://www.townofbreckenridge.com for more info.
Mike Zobbe is the vice president of the Summit Fat Tire Society.
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