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Bikerumor Interview – American Mountain Classic Stage Race

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With the growing popularity of mountain bike stage races, I thought I’d look into one of our homegrown events.  At $400/person, the American Mountain Classic relative bargain in terms of stage races, so I was curious what founder Tom Spiegel had to say about the origin of the event, its inaugural year’s participation and plans for the future.


This interview started with a brief phone call, then conducted via email.

BIKERUMOR: You mentioned on the phone that the inspiration for the AMC was participating in La Ruta…what was it about that event that got your wheels turning?

TOM: After competing in the La Ruta race, I realized there was not an endurance stage race in the U.S.  I also realized how much satisfaction one gets from completing something so challenging.  That’s what got the wheels turning.

BIKERUMOR: The inaugural AMC was this past summer…how did it go?  Did it live up your expectations?  How many participants did you have?

TOM: The inaugural AMC went great, it was beyond my expectations. The response from the riders was so overwhelmingly positive.  They loved the courses, the service we provided and the reward of finishing something so challenging.  We had 160 sign up, not all of them finished of course.

BIKERUMOR: Who are some of the Pro’s that competed in this year’s event?

TOM: Jeremiah Bishop, Jeremy Horgan-Kobeleski, Ryan Trebon, Manual Prado.  The men’s race was decided by six seconds.

BIKERUMOR: Anything crazy happen during the event?

TOM: We had a guy crash, know his two front teeth out and still finished.  (Editor: I guess we know what he’s wishing for for Christmas!  Ha!)

BIKERUMOR: The Pro/Elite purse for 2008 was a little over $16,000….  What’s the purse for ’09?

TOM: The Pro Purse is completely sponsor driven, we are still working on that for ’09.

BIKERUMOR: What improvements or additions are planned for the 2009 event?

TOM: Currently, we are not planning any changes for ’09.  Actually, (next) year’s prologue will count for overall time. (This) year it did not.

BIKERUMOR: Every competitor gets a jersey, with special jerseys for the winners.  What other prizes are in the pool?

TOM: We gave away a complete Thule rack set and a Specialized Epic bike.

BIKERUMOR: The event starts at about 9,000 feet above sea level and goes up from there.  Do participants need to get there a little early to acclimate to the altitude, or was it a non-issue?

TOM: I don’t think arriving early really helps.  I really didn’t see any real issues with the altitude. 

BIKERUMOR: The ’08 event had about 14,000 feet of climbing over 170 miles.  Will there be any course changes for ’09?  How much of the course is pure singletrack?

TOM: We are not planning any course changes for ’09.  Day 2, the Virgin River Rim Trail, had 40 miles of singletrack alone.  There is close to 100 miles of pure singletrack.

BIKERUMOR: Logistically speaking, what kind of planning goes into putting on an event like this?

TOM: The toughest part of doing an event like this is marking the courses.  60% of the courses had to be marked on a bike with a Bob Trailer.  Then you have to check the courses the morning of each race.

We had to spend a week just clearing the courses of dead fallen trees.  Again, primarily on a bike with a chainsaw in the Bob Trailer.

Getting feed zones set up each day is a chore; trucks, tables, food, staff, water…you can’t screw it up.

BIKERUMOR: Is it easier to put on an event like this in a more remote area like Brian Head versus a trail that’s closer to major metro area or generally more populated?

TOM: Actually, working in areas with less people in the woods is easier.  There just are not people out there messing with course markings.

I also believe that being in an area like Brian Head is a true mountain bike experience.

BIKERUMOR: You’re also now the West Coast Events Manager for the newly formed U.S. Cup series…what other events do you work with or manage?

TOM: I manage the Southern California State XC Series, an 8-race series.  We also own a timing company, our biggst job is timing the gravity events at Sea Otter.  In 2008, we timed Crankworx in Canada.

BIKERUMOR: Lastly, when will the AMC website be updated for the 2009 event, and when does registration open?

TOM: I’m working on getting it updated.  Registration should be open by mid January.

BIKERUMOR: Thanks, Tom, and good luck!

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