After a nine-year hiatus, the Fall Classic Stage Race returns to Breckenridge
BRECKENRIDGE – Resurrected from a day when mountain bikers wore hair nets instead of helmets, the Fall Classic Stage Race returns to Breckenridge this weekend.
The race, which became a legend in Summit County in the 1980s, has not taken place since 1993. It was brainstormed in 1983 by a few rugged telemark skiers as a fund-raiser for the Breckenridge Bump Buffet.
“There was only about 20 of us that did it,” said Scott Yule, one of the Classic’s original organizers and participants. “As far as mountain bikes went back then, they had pretty much just arrived on scene. The first two years of it, it was a single-day cross-country race starting on Baldy Road and finishing at the bottom of French Gulch. It was only about 7 miles. No one had helmets. A few people had hair nets.”
The Fall Classic became a three-stage race in 1985, and included a hill climb up the now-impossible-to-ride Humbug Hill, a short track at Breck Nordic Center and a cross-country race around Breck’s most sacred trails. The course itself became a legend, and the names the original organizers gave to many sections of it still hold today – Toxic Forest, Heinous Hill, Yellow Brick Road, etc.
Through the years, each race had its own highlights.
“The second year we did it, it snowed 4 or 5 inches,” Yule said. “The whole course was slick mud, and we were all going down sideways on our big, heavy bikes.”
In 1985, the race became sanctioned by the National Off-Road Bicycling Association. The Classic eventually became the final for the now-defunct Colorado Off-Road Points Series. In 1986, the race was dedicated to Mike McClure and Steve Field, who were also original organizers of the event, and died in a backcountry avalanche on Mount Guyot the previous winter.
In 1988, race organizers showed the “world premiere” film of the previous year’s Fall Classic, and in 1989, Vail hosted the World Mountain Bike Championships. European riders were humbled by the “training” they thought they’d get in riding the Fall Classic.
“That year, we had teams from all over the world,” Yule said. “These incredible riders were so impressed with our terrain. I think the elevation kind of levelled the playing field. It was just so exciting to have all these amazing Europeans do a race that was organized by 17 old telemark guys. We have had some real up and comers who have won this race over the years – Mike Kloser, Sara Ballantyne, Rishi Grewal – it would change year to year.”
In 1991, Mike Zobbe of the Summit Fat Society took over the event, and it became too big to handle in 1993, which was its last year with hundreds of racers.
Until now, that is. This weekend, the Fall Classic will return to Breckenridge, and will be run by Summit Mountain Challenge gurus Jeff Westcott and Mike McCormack of Maverick Sports.
“I would hear stories about the Fall Classic,” Westcott said. “I spent my first nine winters here, and I’d hear these stories – about snow in the Little French flume, people throwing up at the top of Humbug Hill, joints being passed around at the start line for a ceremonial herb. The Fall Classic was always in the back of my mind as something that used to exist and was really cool. It’s the return of a tradition.”
The Fall Classic Stage Race takes place Saturday and Sunday in Breckenridge. The race is part of the American Mountain Bike Challenge (AMBC) and requires a NORBA license ($5 per day). The traditional Humbug Hill Climb will be replaced by a milder version at the Breck Ski Resort, and will kick things off at 9 a.m. Saturday. The Breck Nordic Center Short Track will follow at noon. The Fall Classic cross-country ride begins at 10:30 a.m. Sunday in front of Mountain Outfitters (original Classic sponsor) in Breck. Registration is $75, or $50 for juniors, and includes a T-shirt, socks, meal discounts, post-race shower and bike wash. Racers can preregister and pick up course maps at Mountain Outfitters, Great Adventure Sports, A Racer’s Edge in Breck or Mountain Sports Outlet in Silverthorne. Racers can register on site for an additional $5. Single events are $30. Also to register, or for more information, visit http://www.mavsports.com.
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