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1st Subaru Nova Desert Classic - NE

Phoenix, Arizona, March 21-23, 2003

Stage List    Preview

The Stages

  • Stage 1 - March 21: Fountain Hills ITT, 13.7 km
  • Stage 2 - March 22: Dirt Criterium/Short Track Race
  • Stage 3 - March 23: Cross Country Race


By Stephen W. Medcroft

The inaugural Subaru Nova Desert Classic mountain bike stage race will be held this coming weekend, March 21-23, in Fountain Hills, Arizona. An updated reincarnation of the popular 1990’s professional season opener, the Cactus Cup, the Subaru Nova Desert Classic has been awarded American Mountain Bike Challenge (AMBC) status by USA Cycling. Event promoters hope to bring the same season-opening buzz to the sport that the Cactus Cup used to create.

So far, the buzz seems to be infecting the professional mountain bike world. Good responses from the major teams and encouraging attention from the industry, media, and fans, have race promoters excited about the upcoming weekend of world-class racing. Professional teams committed to sending racers to the event include Subaru Gary Fisher, Trek Volkswagon, the Luna Chix racing team, Team RLX Polo-Sport, Specialized Mountain Bike Team, and Rocky Mountain. Included in the battlefield for Roland Green, Alison Dunlap, Ryder Hesjedal, and their professional colleagues is an individual Time Trial (March 21), a dirt criterium/short track race (March 22), and a cross-country race (March 23).

Jerry Sieve, founder of the Nova Youth Cycling Foundation (NYCF), event promoter and co-title sponsor, says the goal for the event is "to make it something different than what has become the standard."

So, besides the pro events, the amateur stage race competition allows Beginner, Sport, and Expert racers to see how they match up against the performances of the pros. In unique twists on your typical mountain bike weekend, the event will also feature a team time trial, a team stage race, as well as kiddie events which might possibly be led by volunteer top-name professionals.

Since NYCF is an organization promoting the sport to youth racers, there will also be a unique opportunity for 18 and under, expert-level juniors. "The Nova Junior Expert Challenge is a special stage race for junior experts where they can (like their over-18 pro, semi-pro, and expert counterparts) win cash," says Sieve. "Over the years, I've found that junior experts have all the parts they want so winning a handlebar doesn't help them much. They need cash to go to other big races so they can develop and hopefully get to the world championships."

Plans also include a busy exposition and food service area with demo equipment and displays from top manufacturers such as Specialized, K2, Titus, Motobecane, Cliff, Pace Sportswear, Alison Dunlap Camps, and others.

Profits from the event will benefit the Foundation. NYCF has been active in the mountain bike community since its inception in September, 2000. A national, not-for-profit foundation, NYCF's mission is to provide support in beginning a systematic search for world-class mountain bikers at the junior level. To that end, NYCF has teams in Arizona, Texas, and Southern California, and supports more than 70 active riders at any one point in the season, some as far away as New Hampshire. "We do this (promote and support junior racers) because I feel mountain biking is such a really great sport for young people," says Sieve. He adds that mountain biking rewards those who put in the effort to succeed, providing valuable lessons to its participants.

This Subaru Nova Desert Classic will certainly bring attention to the foundation and is timed to become a popular early-season test for racers. As many as 1,000 participants will light up the Phoenix suburban singletrack. "We've had a lot of registrations from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, New York; all these snow-belt places that have just about had it with winter."