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Legendary Cactus Cup returns

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The desert in bloom at one of the former sites of the Cactus Cup in Fountain Hills, Arizona

The desert in bloom at one of the former sites of the Cactus Cup in Fountain Hills, Arizona (Image credit: Dave McElwaine/trailwatch.net)
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Racing in the desert

Racing in the desert (Image credit: Dave McElwaine/trailwatch.net)

By Sue George

Remember the Cactus Cup? Well, it's back, but this time at a new venue at Mountain's Edge in Las Vegas, Nevada, and to a new time on the calendar from September 19 to 21, just prior to the Interbike Trade Show.

The famous event, which began in 1991 as an early season tune-up race in the Arizona desert, grew to be one of world's biggest mountain bike race festivals and traveled to Australia, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Brazil, and across the United States as the sport of mountain biking swelled in the 1990s.

Ravi Rajcoomar and his partner in their Swagger company are promoting the revitalized Cactus Cup, and in fact, it was Rajcoomar who directed the original event when his then-employer Specialized sponsored the event. "Specialized got out of it in the mid-90s. They wanted to be in production, not event promotion," said Rajcoomar to Cyclingnews.

As for the "new" Cactus Cup, Rajcoomar said, "We will have a stage race with a time trial Friday, and cross country, Super D and fat boy crit throughout the rest of the weekend. Anyone can compete in just one stage or the entire race. We'll also have a marathon, too, as a stand-alone event." The date for the marathon is still being finalized, but will likely occur one week after the stage race. The courses for the various events will be altered to suit the competition and experience level of racers in different categories.

Rajcoomar said he's gotten a good response from many of the legends of the sport who were Cactus Cup regulars, and we may well see some of them back for the race. Past participants and champions of the event include Ned Overend, John Tomac, Steve Tilford, Bart Brentjens, Tinker Juarez, Thomas Frischknecht, Travis Brown, Greg Herbold, Dave Weins, Andreas Hester, Seamus McGrath, Alison Sydor, Juliana Furtado, Paola Pezzo, Gunn Rita-Dahle, Alison Dunlap, Marla Streb, Susan DeMattei, and Tara Llanes.

Former multiple-time Cactus Cup Champion and fat tire criterium specialist Tilford said that he is "extremely excited and looking forward to racing in the epic terrain in Las Vegas".

Swagger is also responsible for promoting the USA Crits series, which will host its finals in Las Vegas in conjunction with Interbike. Swagger is bringing the Cactus Cup to a master planned community called Mountain's Edge, about 15 minutes to the west of downtown Las Vegas.

Rajcoomar said the Cactus Cup is part of his company's effort to give support to mountain biking, which has seen a recent rise in popularity across the US and locally in the Las Vegas Valley. The events will be conducted on Mountain's Edge as well as on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) trails at Cottonwood.

The last two editions of the Cactus Cup were held in Fountain Hills, Arizona, a regular site visited by the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS). "In fact, the trail used by the NMBS was built for the former Cactus Cup race. It was the result of a public / private venture and remains a legacy from the event," said Rajcoomar.

Commenting on the new venue, he added, "Las Vegas has some of the best mountain biking terrain and trail systems in the country for riding and I am excited that the event can help showcase it."

For more information, visit www.cactuscuplasvegas.com.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.