Mountain
Photo: Brenda Ernst (File)

2019 Whiskey Off-Road route has less Skull Valley, more singletrack

The 16th edition of the Epic Rides Off-Road series kick-off is expected to attract 2,100 riders to Arizona, and they'll be riding more singletrack this year.

The Whiskey Off-Road, the biggest event in the Epic Rides Off-Road mountain bike series, will be skipping part of its iconic Skull Valley climb in favor of more singletrack for 2019.

Organizers confirmed that the 48-mile “50-Proof” route will cut out four miles of the out-and-back fire road that traditionally would take the race into the valley west of Prescott, Arizona, where the race starts and finishes.

To make up for the lost mileage, Epic Rides organizers added new singletrack in the Spence Basin network, on the north side of the course. This rolling terrain will come after the infamous “Cramp Hill,” which is back in the 2019 course after it was bypassed in last year’s race.

“After omitting Cramp Hill from the event last year, feedback was clear — riders love the descent to the bottom of Cramp Hill so much that they’re willing to deal with the inevitable leg cramps that overcome even the fastest and fittest professional racers,” said John Shumaker, Whiskey Off-Road course designer and Prescott resident.

About 2,100 mountain bikers are expected to descend on Prescott for the first weekend in the four-race series of Epic Rides marathon mountain bike events. The race will be held April 26-28 this year.

In 2018, Keegan Swenson (Stan’s-Pivot) won the pro men’s backcountry race in a close sprint with Howard Grotts (Specialized). Denmark’s Annika Langvad (Specialized) was the women’s champion.

Along with the pro races, amateur mountain bikers will have a chance to race the same course on Saturday, April 27. They can also choose between three course length options: a 19-mile “15 Proof” fun ride, the 32-mile “30 Proof,” and the full-length 50 Proof” route.

The race weekend kicks off with a pro-only fat tire crit Friday, which always attracts a crowd of fans.