When Mom and Dad are avid mountain bikers and love to race on fat tires, the next great thing to do is bring the whole family along and have a fun, late day competition, where every one can enjoy the company of friends in a cool mountain environment. That’s what the Midweek Mountain Bike Race Series is all about and they have two upcoming events at Deer Valley Resort. To learn more about the series, I met with Brooke Howard, one of the race co-directors, during a Round Valley event, in Park City, Utah.
JF: How did this program get started?
Brooke Howard: Jay Burke, the original founder of the series, started it at nearby Solitude Resort. At first, it was just a very casual, small group of racers who wanted to compete. Jay was also the founder of the Park City Point 2 Point and as this program grew in popularity, it quickly captured his entire focus away from the series.
JF: So what did you do?
Brooke Howard: At that exact same time, I wanted to start a midweek type of event, maybe not necessarily in mountain biking, but our family came out to the series every Tuesday; it was a wonderful event. My husband and my kids raced and the idea of seeing the series go away was simply terrifying. I met up with Jay and we took over the series. Today, Luke Ratto is my partner and the series’ other co-director.
JF: When did you take over?
Brooke Howard: In March of 2011, so this is our fourth year.
JF: At the program’s inception, how many participants did you have in a given race?
Brooke Howard: Jay was averaging 75 racers and when we took the program over, our first race attracted close to 150 participants, including the kids. We nearly doubled the attendance and today we are averaging about 230 participants per event.
JF: Counting the kids?
Brooke Howard: Not counting the kids! We have about 40 plus children at each event and those are free to participants.
JF: How many events do you have in a season?
Brooke Howard: We organize 12 events.
JF: Where do they take place?
Brooke Howard: We have two at Corner Canyon (near the Point of the Mountain, in Draper, Utah), one in Heber, Utah, four at Solitude, two at Deer Valley Resort, two in Round Valley (Park City) and one at Snowbird.
JF: How long is a loop for the kids?
Brooke Howard: For the kids, we do a mini loop that takes about 15 minutes and depending on the location, we offer different options. For instance, at Deer Valley Resort we create a skills course for them.
JF: What’s the course for adults?
Brooke Howard: For beginners we average four miles. The sport class is about eight to ten miles and the Pros and Experts are between 12 and 16 miles.
JF: Is it the same course for everyone?
Brooke Howard: Yes, for the most part. In the majority of cases, it’s just a matter of doing loops and on other courses, we will have a break-off loop.
JF: Is it always a cross-country type race?
Brooke Howard: Yes.
JF: Why do you offer free registration for children under 12?
Brooke Howard: Mostly to give them a taste of what mountain biking is all about, get them outdoors and exercising. As a matter of fact, and with few exceptions, all the children that come out here are children of racers competing in the main event.
JF: Lucky kids!
Brooke Howard: Right! But that’s not all. Summit Bike Club coach Kristi Henne coaches the free kids race too, so you can see that children are especially cared for and receive our undivided attention.
JF: So you’ve created a program that fosters both a fun and active family outing that everyone can look forward to?
Brooke Howard: Absolutely!
JF: Did the series start with that scope in mind?
Brooke Howard: For me personally, that’s what it was from the beginning: something we did on Tuesday’s with other racers. It’s a casual, family-friendly event, filled with camaraderie and aimed at encouraging health and fitness while helping grow the sport.
JF: How do you get the word out?
Brooke Howard: Facebook is a very good friend of ours, but most importantly, it’s word of mouth.
JF: Are bike shops helping you too?
Brooke Howard: Yes, we have flyers and posters in all the Wasatch Front bike shops, from Springville all the way to Ogden, Salt Lake, Heber, and of course Park City. Bike shops are also actively involved with the series. Locally, we work with White Pine Touring; they support the races in Park City and at Deer Valley.
JF: I’ve also noticed your impressive list of sponsors.
Brooke Howard: Among the main ones, there’s Mark Miller Subaru, our title sponsor behind the funding of our series, and there’s also Backcountry.com who came in last year, as well as Scheels, our 2014 “Wrench’n Sponsor”. Sheels has “trail marshals” who are out on the course, packed with a supply of tools, tubes and the like to help those in need of a fast repair or a tire change. All of our sponsors provide raffle prizes at the end of each event and the end of the season.
JF: Are there prizes at each event?
Brooke Howard: Yes, there are prizes at every single race and our sponsors also provide a monster raffle at the end of the season. Instead of honoring the winners after each race, we accumulate their points and, at the end of season, we award the top five finishers in the expert and pro class with some money and winners in the sport class are awarded with some prizes or a pass for next year. We also give a little goody bag to all the children.
JF: What about the monster raffle?
Brooke Howard: We reserve this one for those who participate in six or more races; prizes are season passes to a ski resort, bike racks and other sporting equipment.
JF: That’s quite a comprehensive program.
Brooke Howard: Indeed! While we are on the subject of rewards, I would also like to mention that, at the end of the season, a portion of our proceeds go back to help maintain the trails and keep providing a wonderful experience to all trail users. All of our funds go back to the trail community both in terms of physical work and cash.
JF: You said earlier that you have two events scheduled for Deer Valley Resort?
Brooke Howard: That’s right. The first event is at Snow Park on June 24 and the next one is at Silver Lake on July 22.
JF: Are both events for children and adults?
Brooke Howard: Yes. Snow Park will be set up as a skills course for kids, while Silver Lake will offer the regular children’s race.
JF: I’m sure many locals will be eager to participate. Could you tell us more about these two events?
Brooke Howard: Registration always begins at 5 p.m. If you register online, the adult entry fee is just $15, or $17 if you register at the race. The free kid race always starts at 6 p.m. and the adult race begins at 6:30 p.m. The adult race is a staggered start, beginning with the pro men and continuing all the way to the beginners group.
JF: Are spectators encouraged to come and cheer the racers?
Brooke Howard: Absolutely! Spectating is free and we love to have crowds at the finish line. We would just love to see you all come out and have a great time mountain biking and cheering the competitors.