The American Mountain Classic will bring the popular international tradition of cross country stage racing to the US. The inaugural event will come to Brian Head, Utah on August 21-24 and will feature 170 miles over four days and 14,000 feet of climbing. Organizers adopted a four day format with moderate distances in order to appeal to elite racers as well as serious racers who may not have the vacation time travel for a longer event or one in a more exotic location.
"We're trying to fit in between the Cape Epics and La Rutas. We want the elite racers to think they can fit it into their schedule and not burn themselves out for the rest of the year," said Ty Kady of Sho-Air to Cyclingnews. "We're also appealing to the working person who can't take off for 12 days and wants a realistic chance for finishing."
"I said I think you need to shorten the race a bit and not make it a survival test. I thought we needed a more cross country oriented race. If you look at La Ruta for example, it's too hard," said Kady, who races as a semi-pro and also manages the 15-person Sho-Air Team, which is sponsored by an international airfreight forwarder specializing in tradeshows and logistics.
The race is the result of a partnership between Sho-Air International, Team Big Bear and Blue Wolf. "The race was Tom Spiegel's idea," said Ty Kady of Sho-Air of the man behind Team Big Bear. "He put a NORBA national [NMBS series event - ed.] on there in 2006, and he'd done the Brian Head Epic 100. It'd been in his mind for awhile. He came to us about putting on a stage race." Team Big Bear and Blue Wolf have been behind many National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) events over the years.
The race's debut will happen in Brian Head thanks to Spiegel. Unlike some multi-day races which require daily transfers, this event will be based entirely out of Brian Head. "You can book a hotel in Brian Head and not move every night. One stage you'll have to drive 20 minutes to the start. We wanted to make the logistics easy on people," said Kady.
Although racers won't have to contend with complicated logistics, they will still face the challenge of racing day after day at an altitude of 9,500 feet. "The altitude is going to be a big factor and will add difficulty," said Kady. "Even though the stages are short, one day we're at the base of Brian Peak at 11,000 feet."
Looking to the future, the organizers are considering moving the event around to visit other venues. "We're already talking about taking it to Durango - we might move it around in other years. This year will be a test event. We do know we won't draw the top people due to the Olympics," said Kady, who said they are talking to some big name riders, but couldn't yet confirm any individual participants.
American Mountain Classic 2008
August 21: Prologue, 6 miles on the town trail in Brian Head.
August 22: The Rim, 55 miles with 5,000 + feet of climbing and with 30 miles on the Virgin River Rim Trail along Utah's world famous pink cliffs and in view of Zion National Park.
August 23: The Peak, 55 miles with the first five miles taking racers to 11,000 feet, just below the Brian Head Peak. This loop takes racers out to Lowder Pond, Red Desert, Tippets Valley and offers riders views of Cedar Breaks National Monument.
August 24: Dark Hallow, 27 miles on the 2006 National Mountain Bike Series cross country course with nearly 3,000+ feet of climbing per lap.
For more information, visit www.AmericanMountainClassic.com.