The mere mention of the Cactus Cup brings smiles to thousands of mountain bikers who remember the grand-daddy of stage races back in the 1990s. At its peak, it drew 10,000 racers and 75,000 spectators to Arizona's Pinnacle Peak Park, and later to McDowell State Park. Races were also held at other venues in the United States, and in foreign countries as far away as Japan.
The Mountain's Edge Cactus Cup is set to premier this weekend within 20 minutes of "The Strip" in Las Vegas, Nevada, with over US$25,000 in prize money. It is timed to piggyback onto the hugely successful Interbike trade show which draws in excess of 50,000 bicycle industry retailers and sponsored racers to Las Vegas. The event will feature four stages over three days; The Exploration Peak Time Trial, Super D, Fat Tire Criterium, and Cross Country race sponsored by Titus Bicycles.
Many legends in the sport of mountain biking raced in the Cactus Cup when it was the largest mountain bike race in the world. John Tomac, Ned Overend, Tinker Jaurez, Shawn Palmer, Thomas Frischknecht, Cadel Evans, Missy Giove, Juli Furtado, and Alison Dunlap are among those who battled in the Arizona desert every spring.
Tinker Juarez (Mona Vie / Cannondale), 47 years-old, is still actively racing and will compete in the cross country race on Sunday. Juarez, a former US National Champion, Pan Am Games Gold medalist, member of the US Olympic team to Atlanta (1996), member of the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame and 2007 24-Hour Solo Mountain Bike Champion has fond memories of the race.
"The best thing about the Cactus Cup is that it was a well organized and big event. It started the path to develop bigger and better events and happened before the Norba Nationals...they did a great job bringing in a lot of international riders and everybody in the US that wanted to get good recognition. It is definitely one of those races no one wanted to miss."
He added "If the (new) Cactus Cup can do what it did in the past, which is to bring in the international racers…it will bring back international recognition to the American mountain bike racing scene. It would be great if we could bring in the racers, media, international attention, and sponsors back onto US soil. There are several road races now that are doing this and I'd like to see it happen for mountain bike racing, too."
It appears that Juarez will have his wish, as World Champion Christopher Sauser has been confirmed for the race. Sauser, a Swiss national, won the World Cup race at Vallnord, Andorra this season, then went on to win the World Championship at Val di Sol, Italy. He finished second overall in the World Cup standings after last weekend's race in Schladming, Austria.
It is a game-changer whenever Sauser is in the race, as the Swisspower duo of Florian Vogel and Nino Schurter found out at the Fort William World Cup earlier in the year. Sauser dragged them around the course for two hours, nearly but not quite breaking the elastic many times. Vogel won a sprint finish but was quick to praise his countryman, "Nino and I were pretty much on the limit on the climbs; Sauser was so fast on the climbs but he could not quite drop us."
Read the complete preview on Cyclingnews.