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.


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:

Ned Overend

John Tomac

Dave Wiens

Travis Brown

Tinker Juarez

Juli Furtado

Alison Sydor

Susan DiMattei

Ruthie Matthes

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.

cc-chain-gang-2How 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….


  1. cc-chain-gangT-Burner: the Thigh Burner – that slow incline on the sport loop that doesn’t look like much but oh it burns!
  2. The Ledge: the undercut drop-off on the tech loop. See photo to the right – Phil Tinstman catching air over the convicts as they cut The Ledge in 1997
  3. Dan’s Delight: The giggle-like-a-school-girl whoop-de-dos (Dan does giggle)
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Picnic Tank: There was an actual tank that held the name. Remnants can still be found
  7. 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.



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.



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!