A large-scale mountain bike race in Colorado Springs slated for 2020 has a set of proposed courses designed to entice resident aficionados and unaware visitors alike.
While awaiting approval from the U.S. Forest Service and other land managers, the Pikes Peak Apex’s executive director, Micah Rice, has unveiled concepts for the four-day event set for Sept 24-27.
The expectation is to kick off the event that Thursday with a short prologue at Palmer Park — among what Rice calls the Springs’ “greatest hits.”
Another, he knows, is North Cheyenne Cañon. That’s where the epic, long-distance vision of the Apex could launch.
Rice has plotted a loop that would start from downtown, tour Bear Creek Regional Park toward Gold Camp and Old Stage roads, meeting a trail to Frosty’s Park and onward to popular, downhill singletrack known as Pipeline and Cap’n Jacks. Cyclists would rack up about 40 miles and 5,500 feet of elevation.
Another proposed loop would collect closer to 50 miles and 6,000 feet but require lesser technical capability. Racers would head up Rampart Range Road, possibly from Garden of the Gods, and continue west toward Rainbow Gulch. That spills out at a trail encircling Rampart Reservoir. From there, the route could incorporate the Schubarth jeep trail north of the water and a Colorado Springs Utilities road accessing Northfield Reservoir.
Presenting the proposals to dozens of enthusiasts Monday night at a local taproom, Rice was asked if any roads and trails would be closed during the race, which is aiming to draw between 300 and 350 competitors.
“For the majority of this, the answer is no,” Rice said, adding some caveats, including barring uphill travel on downhill portions. He said he was working with motorists who cherish the recreation areas to help as race day volunteers. Another day is planned to be centered on the Air Force Academy and its surrounding foothills, home to the beloved, 13-mile Falcon Trail. Rice’s idea is to start from downtown and follow the Santa Fe Trail to the base.
“But it’s also possible, just to alleviate the other recreation users, that we might just roll out on Mark Dabling (Boulevard) and just get out there,” Rice said in an interview. “That could be an option as well. We’re still having conversations with everybody on that.”
Conversations continue regarding other logistics, including safety and traffic control — nothing Rice is unfamiliar with, having spent a decade organizing national championships for USA Cycling.
His dream for the Apex got liftoff earlier this fall with an $85,000 pledge from the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax committee. That represented a level of city support no other mountain bike race here has ever received.
The Apex also cleared a financial hurdle by gaining a sponsor in RockShox, the Springs-based, leading manufacturer of bike suspensions. Another global brand, cycling apparel specialist Assos, recently came aboard, as did regional Circa Real Estate Group. The Colorado Tourism office has pitched in $25,000 for marketing, Rice said.
The Apex hopes to stand out for its high purse — $50,000 to be split among top 25 men and women. Onlookers deem elite talent as crucial to the long-term success of the race, but commitments so far are few at a time when professionals are still plotting their schedules. “You gotta remember, these top pros are making a run at the Olympics, and so their plans are much more focused on what they’re going to be doing before Tokyo 2020 rather than after,” Rice said.