Summit Bike Club seeks to bring world’s best to Soldier Hollow
August 6, 2018
Summit Bike Club is hoping to bring the highest level of cross-country mountain bikers to Soldier Hollow next spring through the Soldier Hollow Bike Festival.
For the past two years the organization has held a PRO XCT race and ratcheted up its ranking in the mountain biking world each year, starting with the Category 3 rank and progressing to Category 1. The club is now seeking an Stage Hors Catégori designation, which is French for "beyond category" and is the highest competitive category for a race from the sport's governing body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). At the same time, the club is trying to build the event into a true festival in hopes of drawing recreational and elite competitors to the area for several days.
There will be a series of events for recreational and junior riders, including a road race around a circuit in Midway, a timed gravel ride in the Wasatch National Forest, and a bike biathlon around Soldier Hollow.
"There are a lot of different aspects to it for all ages and abilities," said MJ Turner, race director.
But the headliner, especially if the race is granted the SHC status organizers seek, will be its elite races.
"As the event level increases there's more attraction for other athletes to come," Turner said. "It's also going to be an Olympic qualifier year, so these pros will be trying to get as many points as possible."
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And an SHC designation, with UCI points extending through the first 40 finishers instead of the first 15 with the Category 1 classification it currently holds, will provide the kind of points that international teams look for.
Even a single point can help a racer get a toehold in subsequent competitions by providing a racer a seeded position through a "call-up" instead of being placed in an unseeded group behind the starters.
"Our hopes is that it attracts world champion athletes and athletes that are typically racing in World Cups," Turner said.
If approved, the elite competition would start with a time trial, in which racers are spaced out through the course to allow them to compete for the fastest solo ride. The time trial will cover a similar course as the race's main event, the cross-country race, in which racers will compete from a mass start to cover several laps around a 3-mile course over an hour and 20 minutes.
On the third and final day of competition, contestants will race for a half hour around a half-mile short-track, which Turner said should be an exciting way to tend the race series.
"People will be trying to make up times and make some breakaways," he said.
Turner said the event will be just as appealing to younger riders, who not only will get to see some of the very top athletes in their sport, but will compete against some of the best in their age groups.
Though only elite racers will compete in the stage race format, the 16-17 year-old age bracket will have a separate UCI-sanctioned race, providing competitors an opportunity to increase their international rankings.
Turner said the races have already been approved by USA Cycling, and the club will hear back from UCI in November about whether the plans have been approved.
Turner is optimistic.
He said usually the UCI won't give an HC designation to races during their inaugural year, but this the festival's third year, and it has increased its ranking each time.
"I feel like we've done everything," Turner said in regard to UCI requirements. "I don't foresee any issues."
The progression of the Soldier Hollow Bike Festival leads to the club's goal of hosting a World Cup event at Soldier Hollow in 2022. But for now, it will settle for the title of most point-rich race in America.
If approved, it would be the only UCI-sanctioned cross country mountain bike stage race in America with the SHC status.
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