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 with a cold Lowenbrau, a lil of the good stuff and some 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 cactus.
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
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 ride. The convicts followed with all the necessary tools and made it happen.
In 1999 the Competitive Track trail system won a National Trails Award from American Trails for Planning and Design. The track addressed concerns from user conflicts with a designation of a ‘high-speed’ trail.
Most locals know that sections of the Competitive Track have a name. This helps with post-ride stories of where you caught the best whoop. Insight into some of the less obvious names….
“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
We are a family of mountain bikers! Sage, Mike, Breck and Bailey. We love riding and racing bikes, going on big adventures and spending time together. We also know that this lifestyle can make it difficult to balance family and sport. The Cactus Cup is designed as an answer. We created an opportunity for competition to happen as well as spend time together as a family. This one-stop weekend provides world class bike racing for the professional and amateur athlete as well as fostering family and our great mountain bike community with a big expo, beer garden, kids racing and activities. Whether your family be your high school mountain bike team, local bike shop group, a couple of great friends or you and your kids, The Cactus Cup is where we all enjoy family, competition and tradition.
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!
Rain in March forced us to reschedule to April. Then Covid hit (actually the weekend we would have hosted) and we shuffled to October. By October, after a last minute change in permit requirements, we were finally able to host the 2020 edition of the Specialized Cactus Cup. Due to CV19, we had made significant changes to the format of the event. We changed the Short Track to a Time Trial, with 1 minute intervals, and changed the course to utilize Sport->Tech. For the XC we used waves of 10 riders at 3 minute intervals. For the Enduro we assigned start times with 30″ gaps. Unfortunately we had to pull the band, the Huss Brewing beer garden, and were not able to host our kid events. We had lots of social distancing, including our portos. We had limited capacity too. We had numerous people defer to 2021 and just as many (and then some) signed up. Despite all these challenges, we sold out! The support of the riders and sponsors was, in a word, amazing.
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!
A big growth year for the event with 25% more riders. The courses from 2019 to 2020 changed very little, but we added in some additional categories including the self designated Jr. Mountain Bike Stage Race World Championships for those 13-15 and 16-18 that opted to race the full Specialized Cactus Cup. We also bumped up the prize purse from $3500 to $5000 and saw an Elite field full of pros with a deep history in mountain biking – including Christoper Blevins, Todd Wells, Erin Huck, Rose Grant and Fernando Riveros Paez. Friday’s Short Track event saw Blevins take the men’s field by storm, opening up a 12 second gap in the first lap alone, eventually winning by 48 seconds. Blevins had some bad luck with a flat on Saturday and ultimately Fernando took the XC 40 mile with a sprint to the finish edging out Henry Nadell and Todd Wells. On the women’s side Huck dominated the field with a 9 min+ win in the XC 40, extending the 17 sec lead she got on Friday. Going into Sunday Fernando and Todd had a 5 second gap separating them. Wells took to the Enduro as the first athlete to ride the course and Fernando arrived later in the am. Ultimately Fernando took the overall win by 37 seconds over Wells with Finsty only 22 seconds back. Huck gained another minute in the Enduro, taking the win for the ladies with Alexis Skarda and Rose Grant rounding out the top 3. Grant was only 22 seconds back from Skarda. Beyond the Elites, there was massively competitive Jr and Age group racing that ended up with some super tight times. Stay tuned as we refine our plans for 2020!
Bigger, badder, bermier. Over 1000 athletes descended on the desert, with a revised short track course (shorter, flowier) with a new berm we added to the park with help from GROAZ. The Elites raced at night, and the finish could not have been any closer for the men – literally down to the line. Huss Brewing stepped up and provided some high quality craft beer to add to the party. The XC race added Shallmo trail for the 40 milers and again, did not disappoint. Fast, flowy classic desert single track brought with it sprint finishes and outstanding racing. On Sunday the brand new Enduro course was in near perfect condition with a light drizzle of rain giving way to hero dirt. In the end Christopher Blevins repeated as the champ beating out local talent Fernando Riveros by a mere 19 seconds. For the ladies, Erin Huck threw down and won by less than 3 minutes. We were stoked to have Ned Overend, Dan Basinski, Todd Wells, Rose Grant and many many other talented stars visit and race with us and could not be more stoked for 2019.
The rebirth of The Specialized Cactus Cup! Over 700 athletes raced in the event featuring a Short Track on Friday, XC (Fat Tire 40) event on Saturday and a Super D event on Sunday. Live music from Elvis Before Noon graced the masses and cold beer from Sierra Nevada keep the party flowin’. Todd Wells was narrowly beat out by the young and talented Christopher Blevins by only 29 seconds to take the top spot on the podium for the men; while Rose Grant, fresh off a leg injury took the women’s field by 1 min and 25 seconds, ahead of Kate Courtney. It was an epic battle and a helluva good time. You won’t want to miss out on 2018!