Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is hoping to resuscitate its mountain biking glory days during this fall’s inaugural Mammoth Kamikaze Bike Games. At the same time, it’s inherited the High Sierra Fall Century, which will take place during the same weekend (Sept. 4-8), and hopes to build upon last year’s 40% increase in ridership.
The ultimate goal: To emulate Monterey’s Volkswagen Sea Otter Classic, which Mammoth Mountain Senior Vice President Bill Cockroft calls “probably the largest bike festival in California and the United States.”
“The idea,” said Cockroft, “is to build a continuing event. We want Mammoth to be a mecca for cycling.”
The Sea Otter Classic, according to its website, was founded in 1991 and now hosts 9,000 athletes and 55,000 spectators for bike racing in virtually all disciplines.
According to Cockroft, the idea for an expanded bike games was borne out of a conversation between then-Mayor Matthew Lehman and MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory last fall.
MMSA held bike events annually for 18 consecutive years from 1984-2001. The ‘84 event, called the Mammoth Bicycle Challenge, was the brainchild of Sam Walker, and was put together following the exposure of the L.A. Olympic Games that summer.
In ‘85, Mammoth hosted a five-day road biking stage race, recruiting top road teams. That year, MMSA also held the first ever Mammoth Kamikaze time trial for mountain bikers off the top of Mammoth Mountain. The event drew more than 1,000 mountain bikers and 1,000 road bikers.
The mountain and road biking components eventually diverged, with the Eastside Velo Cycling Club and Sierra Cycling Foundation taking over the High Sierra Fall Century in the mid-’90s.
Meanwhile, the mountain bike event went away after 2001. Cockroft cited construction of the Village and Village gondola, which sidelined the event for 2002. Once a year was skipped, the momentum faded, and while MMSA has hosted a few national mountain bike events since then, it no longer produces an annual one.
Ironically, it’s the Village which will serve as the epicenter for the biking revival. According to Eastside Velo’s Randy Fendon, who helped the Century rebound from a low of 500 riders in 2011 with aggressive marketing and a new website, this year’s Mammoth High Sierra Fall Century and Gran Fondo will start on Canyon Boulevard in the Village and roll right down Main Street in a “festival of rolling color” before heading north up U.S. 395. The race will then wind along its traditional loop, skirting Mono Lake and passing through Benton before rolling up 395 and right back up Main Street to a Village at Mammoth finish. Total distance: 102.6 miles, with 6,800 feet of climbing.
Those cycling the shorter distance races will still stage out at Whitmore Park.
Fendon said the course will feature six set stops, each with a musical theme and a special dish, and a post-race Bike Games Expo in the Village with additional food and entertainment.
That night, the gondola will be running to Canyon Lodge, where the finals of the mountain bike dual slalom event will take place.
Fendon said the cost of the High Century and Gran Fondo will be just $85, significantly below other events of its kind.
If you would like to know more about the event, visit www.fallcentury.org. Editor’s Note: Cool website.
On the mountain biking side, a highlight will be the Kamikaze and Legends of Kamikaze event on Friday, Sept. 6. Cockroft said to look for return visits by legends John Tomac, Miles Rockwell, Brian Lopes and “Insane” Wayne Croasdale, who will make the trek all the way from Bishop.
According to Fendon, the net proceeds from the inaugural event will go to benefit the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation. The broad vision of Sam Mudie, who has handed off the High Century race, if not the Sierra cycling Foundation, to MMCF, is to establish a local youth cycling program to promote the sport from the ground up.
According to MMCF Executive Director Stacy Corless, Sierra Cycling and MMCF will donate $5,000 each to youth cycling as part of the Bike Games.
(Photo: Steve Schmunk)