The Cactus Cup was founded as all good mountain bike races should be; sitting on the tailgate of an old truck after a sweet singletrack ride pondering how cool it would be to race mountain bikes in the desert….
Circa 1990 – Dan Basinski
The Cactus Cup began in 1991 on the Trails at Pinnacle Peak, where houses now stand. It was the industry’s season opener where fragile legs, fresh lungs, untried equipment and new hopes would pile into vans, trucks and planes and head for the warm weather all in a garden of ancient cacti.
1991 – The beginning
A group of buddies known as Team Aware produced the first Cactus Cup. This early team consisted of some of our well know Arizona locals; Scott Paulsel, Doug Roether, Andy Gelle, Jon Milliken and Dan Basinski.
The inaugural event attracted less then 100 riders who gathered at the 150 acre Pinnacle Peak Park
By 1996, the Cactus Cup was attracting thousands of participants and spectators. Specialized was the title sponsor from 1992 to 1998.
Just a few of the Pros in the life of the Cactus Cup:
The last Cactus Cup was held in 1999
HISTORY OF MCDOWELL MOUNTAIN COMPETITIVE TRACK
(SITE OF THE 1998 AND 1999 CACTUS CUP RACE)
On January 10th 1998 McDowell Park opened the 1st of 3 loops of a new competitive track at the park. Today, the track offers three loops totaling 15 miles. Each loop offers a variety of obstacles to test rider skills.
How the trails came to be offers appreciation for anyone who loves to ride them. The sweet flow of the competitive track didn’t happen with mapping tools, fancy topo analytics or even a Bobcat. These trails were hand cut by Sheriff Joe’s chain gain in the Fall 1997. Dan Basinski headed up the project alongside the Park Supervisor at the time; Bob Skaggs. By combining Dan’s understanding of good trail flow from his dirt bike experience with the old desert cattle tracks Dan and Bob walked the area placing flags where they knew riders would be able to test their skill and truly enjoy the desert ride. The convicts followed with all the necessary tools and made it happen.
*Pictured to the left: Phil Tinstman borrowing convict pants tests The Ledge as the real convicts dig it out
In 1999 the Competitive Track trail system won a National Trails Award from American Trails for Planning and Design. The track addressed concerns of user conflicts with a designation of a ‘high-speed’ trail.
You will see that sections of the Competitive Track have a names posted on wooden signs. Insight into some of the less obvious names….
COMPETITIVE TRACK TRAIL MAP
- T-Burner: the Thigh Burner – that slow incline on the sport loop that doesn’t look like much but oh it burns!
- The Ledge: the undercut drop-off on the tech loop. See photo above, right – Phil Tinstman catching air over the convicts as they cut The Ledge in 1997
- Dan’s Delight: The giggle-like-a-school-girl whoop-de-dos (Dan Basinski does giggle)
- Boss Pick Drop: Bob Skaggs didn’t want his name on anything so Dan asked “what do you call the head guy on a trail project?” = Boss Pick. So this drop was indirectly named for the park supervisor
- Red Dot Hill: by placing a red dot with his pen on the topo map to show where they were standing Bob captured the name
- Picnic Tank: There was an actual tank that held the name. Remnants can still be found
- Convict Corner: Here’s to the striped labor
“This race BECAME the season opener, drawing international attention but it STARTED as a fun-loving, good time because Mountain Biking is FUN.” That is what this rebirth of The Cactus Cup is all about.
WHO ARE WE PUTTING ON THIS LEGEND? – THE MELLEY’S
Friday – Time Trial / Short Track
For the age groupers – the e-bikers posted the fastest TT of 19:38, the next fastest time on an acoustic bike was Gabriel Payne (17 years old) posting a 20:35. Among the Jr Men 13-15 there were 4 national champions in the mix, which, arguably, outside of nationals, you would be hard pressed to find…anywhere! For the ladies, the top overall times were posted by Kristen Smith (40-49), Trish Thomas (40-49) and Sage Hummon (13-15) with less than 30 seconds separating them.
Saturday – XC
Not to be overshadowed by the big kids, the little kids were tested on the balance bike course and hosted by McDowell Mountain Cycles and their amazing staff. Later in the day we welcomed over 60 kids from Kindergarten through 8th grade completing laps among the desert flowers and tunes from our friends at Dusty Tuffet.
Sunday – Enduro
Massive thanks to all the athletes, sponsors, spectators, volunteers and staff that help make this event possible. We sincerely appreciate you racing with us. We look forward to 2024, stay tuned for registration details!
2022 REPORT (?)
It was pretty bada$$, so much so that we forgot to do a quick write up.
2021 was kicked off in grand style. With a lower capacity limit, the 5th edition of the new Specialized Cactus Cup sold out in mid-February. We had a massive pro field with 50 men and 20 women. The competition was fierce not only at the pro level but down to the juniors. Race weekend began with Ned Overend hosting a pre-ride on Friday before the Time Trial got us rolling.
Friday – Time Trial
On the men’s side Riley Amos took the lead on day 1 winning the $100 prem. He finished the day with a 3 second lead on Cole Paton in 2nd and Christopher Blevins rounding out the top 3. For the ladies Savilia Blunk took the $100 prem. winning the day with Haley Batten and Sofia Gomez-Villafante in hot pursuit within 15 seconds going into Day 2.
Saturday – XC
The slight cloud cover and overnight moisture, led to amazing racing temperatures for the XC, and fast times! Keegan Swenson was able to get the win with Riley Amos and Cole Paton and the rest of top 6 finishing within a minute. A number of men, including Christopher Blevins hit a patch of bad luck with mechanicals, setting them back in the field. Rolling into day 3, Riley was clinging on to lead by just under 2 seconds! The ladies field saw another lead change with Sofia winning the day with a minute lead on Kelsey Urban in 2nd and Erin Huck finishing in 3rd. Similar to the men, the ladies had a few mechanicals impacting a few favorites – such is racing! Late in the day on Saturday a storm rolled in, delivering rain & hail to the remaining riders on course. None of that weather dampened the spirits at the MMC kids race though. We had great participation for grades k-8 and lots of smiles from the little ones – the stoke was high!
Sunday – Enduro
Sunday’s Enduro brought clear skies and slightly tacky conditions for Arizona. With cash on the line for the pros and really tight races, Sunday was set to be pretty spectacular. In the end Keegan Swenson was able to fly thru the Enduro grabbing a a full 18 seconds on Riley for the overall win. Out of contention, but still showcasing his skills, Blevins won the Enduro by 10 seconds, the only athlete to slip under 10 minutes for all 3 segments. Haley Batten took the win on the enduro for the women. For the ladies it was Sofia taking the overall win, but not without a hard charge from Kelsey Urban. The Jr Men had a few stellar races with Bryce Adams moving from 3rd position to 1st on the final day of racing with only a ONE second margin separating 2nd (Hayden Saltonstall) and 3rd (Ivan Sippy) – I’m pretty these young gentlemen will have a lot of great racing ahead of them.
Thank you to our sponsors, volunteers, staff and most importantly – you, the athletes for supporting our event. We look forward to 2022 – be sure to register early, we fully expect that we will sell out once again, and want to see you on the start line with us. Have a great rest of your 2021 race season!
So, what happened? Every single course was well received! Success. The heat however, was not as well received. It was hot. Like, really hot. The racing was stellar. In fact we had our closest race of all time with just 1.2 seconds separating Maclayne Hahn and Bethany Hancock (they swapped positions on the final day). The Legendary Ned Overend mixed it up with the Elites and continued to threaten them at every turn. Even at 65, with a flat, he still took 6th among the Elites. Chloe Woodruff dominated the Elite Women and may have won the prize for the most laid back Time Trial start in history. The Jr Men and Women continue to showcase their skills – keep your eyes out for the likes of Gabe Harrelson, Jesus Amaya, Nathan Bigelow, Nico Stallone and Brighton Johnson (massive rear tire mechanical on the Time Trial when he threw a tail whip mid race). The future of cycling looks good. Keep riding. We look forward to March 2021 and MORE racing!