By Phyl Newbeck
July 25th, 2013
The best mountain bikers in the world are coming to Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston. On Aug. 3 and 4, the center will host the Specialized Catamount Classic Pro XCT, featuring Olympic athletes from at least four continents, as well as a crew of amateur racers looking to test their skills.
The pro race on Aug. 3 is the culmination of a summer-long series and will cover a 4-mile loop, taking between 90 and 135 minutes. To add to the excitement, Olympian and Jericho native Lea Davison just took over the lead in the series and will be battling for the title. Her teammate Todd Wells is currently leading the men’s division.
The weekend marks the first time this event has taken place in northern Vermont. At least 70 pros and 400 amateur racers are expected to take part. The course, which is on the field side of Catamount, was custom-built for the race. There is no charge to come down to Governor Chittenden Road and watch the elite racers pedal the specially designed course.
On Sunday, the amateurs, some of whom are coming from as far as Colorado, will have the opportunity to ride the pro course, although race organizers emphasized they don’t have to take the same lines as the pros. Then there will be a spectator-friendly short-track race which most of the pros will take part in, consisting of 20 minutes of racing, followed by three extra laps.
“After that race, the pros are really accessible,” said Sabra Davison, a two-time member of the U.S. Mountain Bike World Championship team and director of the Little Bellas mountain bike program for girls. “You can talk to them and get autographs. It’s a lot of fun.”
Davison and Catamount Outdoor Family Center Executive Director Eric Bowker collaborated to bring the event to Catamount. Bowker said the national race has been taking place for roughly two decades under several different names and sponsorships. He believes this is the first time the nationals have been held at a nonprofit facility. All the proceeds will be used for Catamount’s youth programs.
The race is also breaking barriers for female mountain bikers.
In previous years, prizes for women were 60 percent less than those for men, something Davison vowed to change. She was able to get a company called G-form to ensure that, for the first time, female winners will receive more prize money than male winners. In addition, prizes will now be awarded to the top 15 women, the same number as the men, compared to nine from previous competitions.
“It’s pretty cool that Catamount is setting that precedent,” Davison said.
Racers and spectators can also fuel up at a variety of local food vendors.
“We’re trying to make this an event that showcases what Vermont is,” Davison said. The Vermont Mountain Bike Association will be on location to provide information on riding throughout the state.
Bowker said he is thrilled to have the international event at Catamount. He noted that as soon as they scheduled the race, other mountain bike venues made sure there were no conflicting events—so the regional mountain bike focus will be on Williston for the entire weekend.
“It’s a way to either put us or keep us on the map as far as mountain biking is concerned,” he said. “It will bring attention to our trails and the quality of events and our youth programming. On the pro level there will be plenty of people who have never been here or even heard of us, so this is our opportunity to shine.”