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Details coming together for Brian Head’s epic

Competitors in this summer's four-day endurance mountain bike race in Brian Head, Utah, will tackle 170 miles of racing and 14,000 feet of climbing. Riders at the American Mountain Challenge, August 21-24, will compete as individuals, much like Costa Rica's La Ruta de los Conquistadores race. The race is being organized by Tom Spiegel and Jeff Frost, who promoted the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS).

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Promoters: The four-day American Mountain Classic will be challenging, not punishing

By Fred Dreier

Riders race through downtown Brian Head when the resort hosted a stop on the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) in 2006

Riders race through downtown Brian Head when the resort hosted a stop on the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) in 2006

Photo: Fred Dreier

Competitors in this summer’s four-day endurance mountain bike race in Brian Head, Utah, will tackle 170 miles of racing and 14,000 feet of climbing.

Riders at the American Mountain Challenge, August 21-24, will compete as individuals, much like Costa Rica’s La Ruta de los Conquistadores race.

The race is being organized by Tom Spiegel and Jeff Frost, who promoted the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS).

The route is downsized from the race’s original route announced on February 14. Spiegel said the shorter route is aimed at attracting a broader range of riders.

“This race is a little different from the TransRockies or La Ruta. It’s not a test of survival,” said Spiegel, who completed La Ruta in 2002. “We want to allow the guy or girl who races just a couple of times a year a real chance at finishing. That’s our concept. We’re not trying to punish people into submission.”

The event kicks off with a six-mile “prologue” through downtown Brian Head that will determine starting position for the second day’s 55-mile stage, titled “The Rim.” That stage includes 5,000 feet of climbing, taking riders along the Virgin River Rim trail for 30 miles and skirting Zion National Park.

The third stage, called “The Peak,” sends riders on another 55-mile loop, which skirts Brian Head peak and Cedar Breaks National Monument and includes 4,000 feet of vertical.

The final stage, dubbed “Dark Hallow,” is the same 13.5-mile loop used in the 2006 NMBS cross-country race held in Brian Head. Riders do two laps before finishing in downtown Brian Head.

Southern California shipping company Sho Air has jumped on board as primary sponsor, putting up more than $20,000 in prize money. Riders will compete in either men’s, women’s or elite master’s (40+) categories.

Brian Head is 200 miles northeast of Las Vegas in the heart of Utah’s canyon country, with Zion, Cedar Breaks and Bryce Canyons all within sight from atop the mountain.

The ski area opened in 1965, and the town currently boasts a year-round population of just 120. The area hosted a stop on the NMBS in 2005 and 2006, but not last year due to construction at the ski area’s base. Spiegel’s Team Big Bear has hosted two mountain bike races — the Epic 100 and Silver 50 — at Brian Head since 2003.

Spiegel said he and Frost have been attempting to organize the event for four years.

“The original concept was to go from Cedar City all the way to Moab, but we weren’t able to get some of those really remote areas out there,” Spiegel said. “We have a good relationship with Brian Head and the area — it will be a lot of work to get the race going but they’re ready to start working.”

For more information visit www.americanmountainclassic.com.