A Look at the Intermountain Cup
By Sean Zimmerman-Wall
Since the late 1980s, mountain biking has gained traction with the adventurous crowd and more people have been taking up the sport in an effort to quench their thirst for adrenaline. Imagine the scene: a long, winding, singletrack flowing through the landscape like a serpent. The wind kicks up plumes of dust and excitement permeates through the field. The competitors perform last-minute inspections of their equipment and in a moment, silence fills the venue. Bang! The race begins; for the next few hours, the athletes pump and push their way through the course on their way toward uncertainty.
Racing brings out the competitive side in human beings and raw emotions take hold. The thought of what lurks over the next rise creates an insatiable lust to strive for a better time, a better line or just a better life. However, you need not be a professional athlete to enjoy such freedom. All you need is a bike and a vision to improve yourself through the art of cycling.
The Intermountain Cup Mountain Bike Racing Series serves as the perfect forum for an athlete to conjure up ideas of what they want to become and wish to achieve. 2011 marks the 20th season of the Series, and this year’s events promise to be as exhilarating as ever. The races began in early March in St. George, and continue through the end of July, culminating with the Grand Finale at Snowbasin. In between, the Series will stop at a variety of epic venues throughout Utah, offering everything from high-elevation antics to blazing-fast straightaways.
Founded in the early ’90s, the Intermountain Cup Series was known as the Cannondale Cup and consisted of 22 events running from late spring to late summer. Over the next several years, the ownership of the Cup changed, along with the overall organization. Ed Chauner took the reins in 1991 and transformed the Series into what it is today. Calling Chauner a cycling enthusiast is an understatement, and if you ever get a chance to meet him, you will agree. His energy transcends the sport and works its way into everything he attempts. It turns out his logistical skills are as impressive as his riding ability, which is evident in how the current Series is put together.
“Sometimes it’s kind of a one-man show, but I enjoy every minute of it,” said Chauner. Prior to taking over the Series, Chauner was an event and race coordinator at Snowbird who was involved in organizing Snowbird’s annual Mountain Bout, a bike race that spanned the front side of the resort and tested the might of even the heartiest riders. This race eventually made its way into the Intermountain Cup, and its introduction gave Chauner some insight into how the Series was structured. Before long, Chauner purchased the event from the original owner and continued the tradition of mountain bike racing in Utah.
The current incarnation of the Series is not too dissimilar from the original, but is much more efficient and logistically sound. “Reducing the number of races per season was necessary because people just couldn’t do every race, every weekend,” added Chauner. The reduction from 22 races to 11 allows teams and individual competitors to better prepare for each event and simplifies the organizational aspects of the overall series. Race venues are a top priority when promoting a race like the Intermountain Cup, and the current array of exciting terrain at each event is what keeps racers coming back year after year, as well as attracting first timers.
The Series’ first event, the Red Rock Desert Rampage in St. George, is an excellent race to break free from the clutches of winter. The course is a mixed bag of desert terrain and the views are incredible. Other popular venues include the Show Down at Five-Mile Pass in Lehi. “The course is a good starting point for beginners and the rolling hills and wide trails are a great way to get accustomed to racing,” said Chauner. Perhaps the most well-received race in the past five years is the Stan Crane Memorial XC Race in Draper. It’s a classic cross-country race right in everyone’s back yard that brings out racers of all ages. According to Chauner, over 60 kids competed in last year’s event. Promoting family-oriented events like this makes the racing less intimidating and easier to undertake.
Dr. Ellen Guthrie, a long-time competitor and 2010 World Champion, shared her thoughts on the overall series, “Being a mom with two kids can be tough, but channeling my stress is as easy as getting on my bike. I really enjoy the Intermountain Cup because it is family friendly and one of the best run series, road or mountain, bar-none.” It should also be noted that Dr. Guthrie started the series in the Women 35+ category and worked her way to the Expert class in only a few years. These kinds of results serve as a testament to the foundational strengthening that the Series prides itself on.
Perhaps the most amazing part of the Intermountain Cup is how Chauner manages to put on such a successful series on a minimal budget. “There are currently no monetary sponsors for the event and the majority of expenses are covered by race entry fees. Sponsorships come in the form of product and gift certificates. We have a staff of volunteers, usually the family or spouse of a racer, since their competitor’s fee is waived. They are a tremendous help and we couldn’t run the races without them,” Chauner adds.
Additionally, the top three finishers in each of the 28 categories can win great prizes such as gift certificates to local shops. “I treat every category evenly, from the pros right on through the kids,” said Chauner. For those racers competing in the Series as a whole, opportunities exist to win the State Championships. The top three finishers in the race receive medals, and the overall Series winners in 18 of the 28 categories receive beautifully-crafted plaques commemorating their finish.
By the time this issue goes to print, the season will be nearing its midpoint. If you’re interested in competing in this year’s remaining events, check out intermountaincup.com for details regarding registration, race entrance fees, course locations and event descriptions. Remember, beginners get a $5 discount off their online registration.
As the Intermountain Cup continues on through the summer, look for Ed out at the events tirelessly working to make sure the machine runs smoothly. Competing in the races is a great way to get involved in cycling and the whole family can do it. So grab your bike, sign up and get out there!