In a boost to the busy Fourth of July holiday, thousands of visitors are streaming into Ketchum this week, pumped and primed to test their mettle against mountain biking's best.
About 1,100 riders participated in last year's USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country National Championships. With them came more than 4,000 others, entertained by the concurrent Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival.
"Our follow-up survey indicated everyone was coming back, they were going to bring their friends and they were going to stay longer," said Greg Randolph, the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance's director of public relations and social media. "You get this five-day weekend. The town fills up, and there's all this cool stuff that people can get into."
Those who come will be treated to fast-paced action on trails and in town.
The area's 400-plus miles of single-track trails and proximity of those trails to town are unique in mountain resort towns, Randolph said.
"We have this incredible network and it's really accessible to all levels of ability," he said.
The banner event is the USA Cycling nationals, three championships over the course of the long weekend, July 5-8: cross-country, short track and super downhill, or super D.
An amateur race also is scheduled, challenging participants to lap Bald Mountain in a Cold Springs-Warm Springs-River Run route.
But non-racing mountain bikers and the mountain-biking curious will have options to get out on the trails, too.
"There's the competition and then there are things that are non-competitive that get people on their bikes," Randolph said.
The Local Stoker sessions unite visitors with resident biking enthusiasts for challenging mountain biking excursions.
The guided tours mean first-timers don't have to wonder where to go, while providing one-on-one time between hosts and visitors.
"We'll have a great crew out there every day," Randolph said.
Linked to the criterium is the Ketchum Farmers' Market.
"Thanks to [organizer] Kaz Thea and her passion, we put the Farmers' Market on East Avenue that night," Randolph said. "There'll be a super-fun vibe downtown that evening."
The Sun Valley Shakedown at Festival Meadows extends the good vibrations to Saturday, July 7. Then on Sunday, July 8, mountain bikers hit the trails again for the Super Duper D, ending at the Warm Springs base of Bald Mountain.
Post-race revelry includes a 1970s party and skateboard slalom competition on Picabo Street.
In 2013 and 2014, the Wood River Valley will host USA Cycling's Mountain Bike Marathon National Championships. Organizers expect many of the same racers to come back to participate in that event.
"We've managed to capitalize on it because we have a great mountain bike product," Randolph said. "The best in the country, if not the world."
Rebecca Meany: email@example.com
- The Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival takes place through July 8. For details about the races and festival events, including kids' races, clinics and concerts, visit www.ridesunvalley.com.
- Download a race schedule at www.usacycling.org/forms/natchamps/2012/2012-MTBXCNatzSked.pdf.
- Poke around the expo: Top cycling vendors will show their wares at the expo at the Lower River Run parking area, open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 5-8.
- Get stoked: Join a free Local Stoker ride, pairing up with area mountain bikers on various trails for a challenging single-track experience. Rides leave from the Sun Valley Visitor Center on Sun Valley Road. The rides will leave at 8:30 a.m. Monday, July 2, through Wednesday, July 4, and at 9:00 a.m. Thursday, July 5, and Friday, July 6.