XTERRA Oak Mountain is primed and ready for a 4-day festival of off-road racing as the XTERRA World Cup, the Americas Trail Run Champs, XTERRA Short Track racing, group rides and fun runs all collide on the pristine trails of Alabama, USA.
There is no overstating how sweet the trail system is at Oak Mountain State Park, and for an XTERRA community bound together by their love for riding and running on trails, there is nowhere else they’d rather be this week.
Shelby County, Alabama is truly a trail enthusiast's paradise. “It’s the gold standard for off-road racing, something that rewards the full skill set on the mountain bike, which is what XTERRA is all about,” says Sam Osborne, a mountain bike purist from Rotorua, New Zealand.
You can see the Parthenon in Athens if you’re at XTERRA Greece, go on safari after XTERRA South Africa, or swim with sharks in Moorea on your adventure to XTERRA Tahiti, but “Bama” is all about the trails, like Disneyland on dirt.
“It’s true mountain biking specific terrain, a beautiful lake, and an almost exclusively single-track run. It’s what we all long for with course design,” adds Eric Lagerstrom, of That Triathlon Life.
And to take full advantage of the magic on offer, the XTERRA crew, with the help of the park, county, and local mountain bike club, created a four-day trail festival like no other.
Come one, Come y’all to “Mountain Bike Is Life” night, an ode to knobby tire culture and the local community.
Just before the intensity of XTERRA World Cup racing kicks in, Ales & Trails invites visiting riders and locals alike to this laid-back, ”run what you brung”, “give her a go” get together. The event is free, but a couple bucks donation to the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers (BUMP) crew who build and maintain the trails at Oak Mountain goes a long way.
“I think the highlight of this one is that riders can take a free shuttle lift to the top, because let’s face it, sometimes it’s fun to skip the pedal up and just rip it down,” exclaims Kirk Ermels, XTERRA Americas Technical Director.
Racers can time trial on the XTERRA Short Track course, the same route the Pros will race on Sunday. There are contests, games and skills clinics along with beginner rides. Watch Kudzu’s jam session right by the Taco truck and free beer stand. Stick around for the grand finale with electrifying head-to-head battles on the Short Track course!
Everyone starts somewhere, and for those who are interested in off-road triathlon, here is the starting point.
The XTERRA Super Sprint consists of a 200-meter swim at Double Oak Lake's warm waters, a 7K mountain bike ride, and a 2K trail run.
Second thoughts on swimming? Not a problem because there's a swim assist category where you can wear an inflatable tethered safety buoy. Also, there are plenty of lifeguards and you’re never far from shore.
Hesitant on a mountain bike? Keep in mind that the course routes through the family trail - a non-intimidating section of smooth singletrack. Entrants can even get tips at Thursday’s bike night, and at the XTERRA University clinic on Friday before the race.
Trepidatious with a lack of trail run experience? Then walk it! You can DO this, so give it a TRI!
Saturday is go-time for elites chasing cash and points in the XTERRA World Cup and amateurs looking to qualify for the XTERRA World Championship in Trentino, Italy on September 23.
The start list is full of the best of the best off-roaders from around the world and the hype is real.
“It’s the biggest, deepest, strongest women's elite field ever to race in the continental US. The fastest women in the XTERRA World Cup are here, so it's sure to be an exciting day,” exclaims Suzie Snyder, reigning XTERRA US Elite Women’s Champion.
“It’s the most competitive international field we have ever seen for this race,” added 15x XTERRA US Champ, Josiah Middaugh, who raced the ITU Cross Tri World Championship on this course in 2012.
The challenge holds true for the age groupers. There's a swarm of Southern blue chips, an army of West Coast all-stars, and a legion of mountain legends.
The challenge they face combines a 1.5K swim in Double Oak Lake with an epic 34K mountain bike and sweet singletrack 10K trail run. Note: There is also a shorter distance Sprint race with a 750-meter swim, 17K mountain bike and 5K trail run. Athletes are welcome to create two or three-person relay teams to tackle the Sprint or Full distance together.
“Oak Mountain has a beautiful swim, and fun single track trails on both the bike and run. I love this course because it's hard and technical and a great test of fitness and skill,” says Emma Briggs.
Once the racing is over, the party starts with local musician Brendan Young in concert live at the park. Enjoy a wide variety of food and drink options while playing yard games the whole family can enjoy.
Cap it all off with a free kids bike race and a look at all the action from the day with the highlight video on the big screen.
On day four, it’s the runners' turn to take to the trails at the XTERRA Americas Trail Run Championship half and full marathons. There are 5K and 10Ks too, and even a free fun run for the kids.
“With the help of a few local trail running legends, we've designed a brand new course that provides the ultimate running tour of these world-class trails, filled with beautiful scenery and epic views,” proclaims technical director Ermels. “It has a mix of terrain that will offer something for every type of runner, and I believe participants are really going to love the adventure in store for them.”
The picturesque park is one of the few venues in America that can accommodate an epic, single loop, mostly single track full-marathon trail race and it is beyond spectacular.
Sunday afternoon, starting at 3pm, “It’s Showtime!” The first-ever XTERRA Short Track off-road triathlon in the U.S. pits World Cup stars from 12 nations against each other in an action-packed race against the clock for prize money and precious points in the series standings.
The unique character about this Short Track isn’t the man-made obstacles; it’s the beauty of nature’s path with switchbacks that twist through the fluctuating topography of Oak Mountain’s hills and valleys.
“It has all the makings to be a banger of a Short Track course,” says elite racer Sam Osborne.
The race will be streamed live online and hosted by triathlon Hall of Famers, Bob Babbitt and Jamie Whitmore.
“I'm thrilled to go to this American classic,” said Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen from Denmark, the top ranked elite in the men’s World Cup standings. “People who like a rigid mountain bike course have hyped it, so I have big expectations. I hope to have a lot of small punchy hills, with some twisty singletracks, and I can't wait to race Short Track again. I love these double race weekends, and the atmosphere at the Short Track is so intense in between the tape. I hope a lot of people come out to watch it, or watch it online.”
Watch it online or get to the side of the track and experience the best of XTERRA racing and the off-road community at one of the XTERRA Americas Tour's biggest events this year.
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