Welcome to The Dirt, the weekly news round-up on what is happening in the worlds of gravel, mountain biking, and all things rough and dirty.

Marathon nationals head to Texas in 2019 and 2020

Two weeks ago, many American mountain bikers found themselves with a difficult decision to make. USA Cycling announced the date for its 2019 marathon mountain bike national championships, April 27, which would be the same weekend as the Whiskey Off-Road. Top pro riders would have to choose between Whiskey’s $30,000 prize purse and a chance to win the Stars and Stripes jersey.

Fortunately, a week later, USA Cycling changed the date for the championship event to be held in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas to avoid any conflict with the Epic Rides Series opener, which attracts more than 2,000 riders. Now, marathon nationals will be held May 11.

The North Texas venue, near Amarillo, will also host marathon nationals in 2020.

“USA Cycling is excited to head to Palo Duro Canyon for the 2019 and 2020 USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals,” said Tara McCarthy, senior national events manager for USA Cycling, “The course will be fun, non-stop action in a beautiful setting. We’re excited to work with Karie and Keevin with Team ANB who have a wealth of experience running mountain bike races in the Canyon and we are looking forward to an amazing two years.”

Payson McElveen (Orange Seal) is the reigning two-time marathon national champion. When news first surfaced about the date conflict, he was one of several riders that would face a tough choice between Whiskey and nationals. Now, the Texan (who currently lives in Durango, Colorado) will have a chance to race for a three-peat in his home state.

Sea Otter Classic heads to Canada

Sea Otter Classic
Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com

Sea Otter Classic, the massive cycling festival and expo first held in Monterey, California will host a spin-off event at Blue Mountain, Ontario, July 4-7 2019.

Like the American event, Sea Otter Canada will host a broad range of races and rides: mountain bike racing (dual slalom, downhill, enduro, XC short track, and pump track); road cycling events (criterium, gran fondo, gravel, hill climb, and stage race). The event will also have a product expo and other activities.

“Blue Mountain is a great place to come to ride — there’s every kind of riding you can possibly imagine,” said Trek Canada rider Peter Glassford. “There’s lift access at Blue Mountain for downhill, we have endless rocky singletrack, old-school raw mountain biking trails, and endless roads up the Niagara Escarpment, whether you’re looking for smooth pavement or gnarly gravel rides.”

There is also a Sea Otter event in Europe near Girona, May 31-June 2. The second edition of that event, 2018, saw 50,000 attendees, according to organizers. The 29th edition of the original Sea Otter Classic will be held at Laguna Seca Raceway, near Monterey, April 11-14, 2019.

Four new bikepacking routes in Idaho

Bikepacking is still a small niche in the world of bikes but it is growing, and west-central Idaho is hoping to encourage riders to come explore its gravel roads and trails with four new bikepacking routes.

The routes all start from Cascade, Idaho, and range from 60 to 180 miles in distance. Idaho local Jay Petervary helped design the routes. Petervary has extensive experience as a bikepacker — he just won the 1,721km Silk Road Mountain Race in Central Asia.

“Not everyone can really do the big epics like 1,000-milers and 500-milers,” Petervary said. “The adventure-cycling community needs more smaller, 50- to 250-milers. The concept of multiple loops from a central location with a lot of amenities like Cascade is totally cool. A lot of communities have talked about doing something like this, but very few have actually put any effort into it.”

And a bikepacking race across the UK

The inaugural Pan-Celtic race will kick off July 7, 2019, crossing Scotland, Ireland, and Wales on a 1,440-mile journey including two ferry rides. Too long for your taste? Don’t worry, the bikepacking race offers a “short” course, merely 824 miles. Entries are now open.

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