In September, Bend, Oregon will host the 2011 Mountain Bike Marathon National Championships. Marathons, typically around 100 km, are taking mountain bike racing back to its roots: where riders had to tough out long loops, point-to-points comprised of hard climbs and technical singeltrack in real mountain settings. Not only is this a growing genre of racing for recreational and amateurs, but Pros looking for something beyond the short Olympic style cross country courses designed around television. USA Cycling began offering a National Championship in Marathon in the mid 2000s in response to the growing interest.
With Marathon World Championships done and gone since June, and Pua Mata being the only American female (finishing 8th), there is little sense of how the race will play out. While most World Championship races happen after National Championships, Marathon is different, and with many racers upholding full cross country schedules, and a few racing full marathon schedules, this late season race could offer some surprises.
An unfortunate and rather huge scheduling conflict with the Marathon Nationals is Interbike, the cycling industry’s largest trade show. Interbike is scheduled from 14-16 September, making it difficult for vendors, athletes, teams and others to participate. Coupled with Interbike, the Cyclocross season opener, CrossVegas is being held on 14 September– insuring that there will be no crossover from cyclocross and marathon. While there are typically not a great deal of riders who compete regularly in marathon and cyclocross, it is also the teams, the manufacturers and spectators who also have to make the choice.
So far only Subaru/Trek’s heather Irmiger is registered for the Elite women. Heather and her husband Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski are the 2009 and 2010 Marathon National Champions, making 2011 the quest for the trifecta.
But Marathon is growing in popularity among Pros, with growing numbers of Pros new and old taking to the long haul. There is little doubt Moot’s Cycles Kelly Boniface will make another go at the title in 2011, after great showings at the Whiskey Off Road and cross country Nationals. Expect a large, stacked and highly prepared field for the women, including Pua Mata, Sonya Looney, Amanda Carey, Gretchen Reeves and perhaps the Stan’s No Tubes Elite Team.
The course looks to be around 55 miles with about 4,000 feet of climbing. With little other information coming our way, we hear it is fast, but hard.
Stay tuned for more information about the course and competition.
Nationals racing categories are by age group, starting at 19 years. Pros race in a separate category. There is also a singlespeed category. For more information visit USA Cycling. Great lodging can be found at VRBO.com.