Persisting snow in the Carson Range to the west of Carson City has forced race promoter Epic Rides to implement backup plans to use a completely new course. The old course climbed out of Carson City and traversed the legendary Tahoe Rim Trail which is now impassable. In fact, the total snowpack in the area is greater than the previous four years combined.
The new course will utilize existing trails just outside of Carson City. Pro racers will ride three eighteen-mile loops with 2,200 feet of climbing per lap which will change the race dynamics significantly.
Epic Rides President Todd Sadow told Cyclingnews, "When we identified the 3rd weekend in June as the date of the Carson City Off-Road, we knew there was an outside chance we'd need a plan B and in the worst case of a really late winter, a plan C. We did not expect to need plan C in year two of the event. But, thankfully with support from Carson City Open Space we are prepared."
Sadow continued, "The Plan C Carson City Off-Road course is a 3-lap format and offers riders slightly more climbing than the Plan A course. The biggest difference is the climbs are shorter and the reward is significantly more singletrack at roughly 75% of each lap…I expect a very rowdy pro race with many lead changes and a rambunctious crowd throughout the course and at the finish line downtown."
$40,000 on the line this weekend
Famous for its Wild West heritage, Carson City will host the final showdown for a large contingent of North American mountain biking pros and amateurs this coming weekend. The second-year event caps off a three-race series that began with the Whiskey Off-Road, and was followed by the Grand Junction Off-Road.
Pro riders compete for $30,000 in prize money at each of the three events, while the top three men and women at the end of this coming weekend will also split an additional $10,000. The Carson City Race was also voted "Domestic Mountain Bike Race of the Year" by Interbike in its inaugural year.
Veteran racer Geoff Kabush (Scott-Maxxis-Shimano) swept the weekend in Carson City last year and hopes to do so again. He commented on the upcoming event, "The new Carson City course doesn't have the amazing long steady climb up to the Tahoe Rim but I think physically it is an even more challenging course this year. With all the switchbacks on the Ash to Kings trail there will be a lot more accelerations and with hardly any shade it could be a punishing day in the heat. It will definitely make for a more interesting dynamic with multiple loops and great that the spectators will get to see the racers a few more times.
Kabush added, "It was a great event for me last year and I'll definitely be hoping my legs show up again this weekend."
Standing in the way of Kabush is likely to be Howard Grotts (Specialized). He beat Kabush be three minutes at the Grand Junction race, and is coming off a big win at the GoPro Games last weekend. In addition, he leads the series with a 12:55 advantage over Kabush.
While the old course with its massive climb to the top of the Tahoe Rim Trail may have suited Grott's climbing skills better, the new course still has climb nearly ten miles in length that reach an altitude of over 6,900 ft. In fact, according to the published course profile, virtually none of the 54-mile course is flat.
Todd Wells (SRAM-Troy Lee), last year's overall winner, has had a tough series due to tire issues. However, the former Olympian and National Champion showed that he has good form with a second-place finish in the GoPro Games last weekend.
Wells weighed in on the upcoming race, "I think the new course is going be harder since we have more climbing but will be easier to preview, feed, etc. The (Epic Ride) events are always awesome so I'm sure it's going to be great regardless."
Ben Sonntag, who currently sits in third place in the series, will not be racing due to an injury sustained in a crash.
Keegan Swenson (Cannondale)who won last week at the Pro-XCT in Montana, USA Marathon Champion Payson McElveen (Orange Seal), Russell Finsterwald (SRAM), Spencer Paxson (Kona), and Stephen Ettinger (Focus-Shimano) will also be in the hunt for podium spots and cash prizes.
Katerina Nash (Clif Pro Team) leads the Epic Rides Series by a whopping 14:26 minutes over Amy Beisel (Liv-Ridebiker), and by 17:37 minutes over Evelyn Dong (Cannondale). All three will be in attendance this weekend. While it would take a major mishap for either of them to beat Nash in the race or the series, anything can happen in backcountry racing of this kind. Beisel finished second last weekend at the Vail GoPro Games and has looked strong all season.
Nash told Cyclingnews, "I'm very excited to race in Carson City again! The course will be different but the event will be just as great as last year. There is still way too much snow up high and I'm glad that Carson City trail network has enough terrain to replace the snowed-in trails… I have been doing lot of racing in the area and looking forward to Epic Rides returning to Carson."
USA Marathon Champion Rose Grant (Stans NoTubes-Pivot) has had a remarkable year. It has been so not only due to some impressive results she has posted, but also due to a season full of injuries and comebacks. She suffered a second shoulder separation during the criterium in Grand Junction which prevented her from racing in the cross-country event.
However, Grant put an exclamation point on her latest comeback by winning last weekend's Pro-XCT race in Missoula, Montana. Her teammate, Olympian Chloe Woodruff, will miss the Carson City race due to surgery she had this past week on her thumb. When the two of them have raced together, they have been formidable.
Grant commented on her latest return to racing, "I'm feeling quite blessed to be heading to the Carson City Off-Road after some scary crashes and two shoulder dislocations within the last couple months. Despite the shoulder injuries, I have been able to continue putting in the work. Winning the Missoula Pro XCT last weekend was the perfect confidence builder going into this weekend in Carson City, where I am excited to race a modified course from last year with a group of very fast ladies."
Nash will have her young teammate Maghalie Rochette at her side this weekend. The two of them have also worked well together, particularly in the Grand Junction criterium. Rochette is a good bet for the podium as is much-improved Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing).
Carson City, named after frontiersman Kit Carson, is rolling out the red carpet for the riders and spectators by closing several streets to host three days of free live music, an industry expo, and the spectator-friendly Fat Tire Criterium on Friday evening that passes by the steps of both the Governor's Mansion and the historic Nevada State Capitol building.
In addition to the professional racing on Friday and Sunday, hundreds of amateurs will be racing three distances up to 50-miles on Saturday.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for results, race reports, and photos from Carson City this weekend.