By Sue George
Adding to the growing trend of multi-day endurance mountain bike races is a new event in Baja, Mexico, slated for November 5-8, 2008. The Baja Epic, covering 300 miles and 24,000 feet of climbing, will visit varied terrain including beaches, deserts, forests and mountains and be put on by Too Much Fun productions, a company which was started by Mexican Armando Carrasco and American Rob Quinn in the 1980s.
"Armando and I were partners in the 80s and 90s," said the 48 year-old Quinn to Cyclingnews. "We created an event called the Montaña Grande [which ran from 1986 to 2003 - ed.] back in the day when lots of people were racing [Olympic distance, single day] cross country events. At a certain point, I moved to Colorado for a business opportunity and because I love to ski." Quinn has been a Vice President / General Manager for a number of Spanish Speaking radio stations and now is president of Spectrum marketing.
"Armando kept Too Much Fun going, but he gravitated toward motocross events because he's a motocross [and BMX] champion and in part because people in southern California have no place to ride their motocross bikes." A factor in the demise Montaña Grande was dwindling mountain bike cross country attendance.
Since Quinn moved back to Colorado, he found himself back into mountain bike racing - balancing it with business and family responsibilities. He did well in the state series as a master and Clydesdale racer and stepped up to racing at La Ruta de los Conquistadores in Costa Rica in 2003, where he finished 11th in the 40+ men's category.
The experience inspired him to talk to Carrasco about the idea of a mountain bike stage race in Baja. "At that point, I came back to Armando and said, 'This is where it's going,'" referring to the emerging trend toward multi-day mountain bike racing.
When asked to comment on the seemingly insatiable demand for endurance racing, Quinn said, "I just think of myself. I'm not a pro. After 20 years of training and riding, it's not worth it for me to drive four hours to race for 1.5 hours. Stage races work best. And now everyone is so fit and the equipment is so good and people are better riders. As total citizen schmo, it's cool to line up with Andreas Hestler or Tinker Juarez. It's neat to be in same area even if it's only for two minutes at the start. You get to ride the same course as those guys. It gives a good sense of accomplishment for business people and those with families."
This November, Quinn was back at La Ruta, this time handing out information about the new race. "I introduced the idea of the race to people and the reception was overwhelming."
"Unlike US where everything is touchy with regard to zoning, forests, etc. [for promoting a race], Mexico is more like Costa Rica. With tourism department's blessing you can run a race."
"You would never do this ride this by yourself. You're in a foreign country. You wouldn't get off plane in Guatemala City and just go ride around in the mountains you saw," Quinn was alluding to issues regarding both personal security and lack of local knowledge.
"I was lucky to get to go down there and see the country like many never get to do," said Quinn of his years working and living in Mexico. "I was always surrounded by Mexican nationals so I got to see more. I want to turn other people on to what I saw. The Pacific Coast is so ragged with cliffs and it's gorgeous. Inland, the mountains are pretty."
The Baja Epic is set to be a very different experience than La Ruta. "At La Ruta, I woke up, stared at my front wheel for eight hours, then went to sleep. Our goal is to have everyone off bikes by 1:00 or 2:00 pm with a little juice left so they can also experience the cities. Sure there will be a few sand washes, but you won't have to get off your bike much."
"I can think of nothing better than giving it a few hard hours on the bike and knocking around coastal cities after. It will be about 50-70% wattage of what La Ruta takes - La Ruta is still king. I'll be back there in 2010 when I'm 50. I think there's a nice balance between a good four to five hour push and going out and having some margaritas and being a tourist."
November is the most temperate month in Baja typically brings 70 degree (Fahrenheit) weather and sunshine, but snow is possible at higher elevations like at Mike's Sky Ranch. "We thought [the dates] would fit well into the calendar. Everything worked well weather-wise for spring and fall, but we wanted to have enough time to plan," said Quinn.
Signed up so far is long-time pro Tinker Juarez, and Quinn said the Trek and Luna teams had also expressed some interest. Legend Hans Rey will be a celebrity starter.
Baja Epic for 2008: November 5-8
Stage 1: Rosarito Beach to Tecate, 60 mi (6000ft)
Stage 2: Tecate to Ensenada, 80 mi (6000 ft)
Stage 3: Valle de la Trinidad to Mike's Sky Ranch, 60 mi (8000 ft)
Stage 4: Ensenada to Rosarito, 60 mi (4000 ft)
For more info on the Baja Epic, visit www.bajaepic.com