PRESCOTT, ARIZ. - With one of the largest one-day cash purses in mountain biking history, the 9th annual Whiskey Off-Road is starting attract attention. This year over 100 pro racers signed up to compete for a $30,000 cash purse, split equally between men and women.
Big money means big talent and that certainly seemed to be the case at this year's event, with a number of big names in pro racing present. Many of the names of the registration list could also be found racing at the Sea Otter Classic two weeks ago. Also present were a few notable non-mountain bikers from other disciplines, including four-time Xterra champ Conrad Stoltz and Canadian cyclocross champion Wendy Simms.
The women's field more than doubled this year, thanks to an effort by Epic Rides to attract more female racers by handing out 10 free registration spots. Also helping out the cause was the additional $10,000 of prize money being handed out from last year.
Fresh off of a win at Sea Otter Classic, Geoff Kabush of Scott 3Rox Racing won the men's 50-mile race on Sunday with a sub-three-hour time of 2:54:59.
"From the start Jeremy [Horgan-Kobelski] set a really hard tempo. He put a twenty second gap on me, but on the first major downhill I was able to bridge that gap," he said.
At the Skull Valley turnaround a large group of racers formed at the front of the pack, but was eventually cut down to six by the sixteen-mile, 3,000ft climb to the Sierra Preita Overlook on fire road.
"It was a bit of a race of attrition. Conrad [Stoltz] laid down some heat and whittled it down," Kabush said. "I was riding a full suspension and it really paid off on the downhill,"
Monique "Pua" Mata of Team Sho-Air won the women's 50-mile race on Sunday for the second year in row with a time of 3:21:34. Mata won the race on the final descent back into town on the pavement section of the course. In the end, Georgia Gould had put a solid four-minute lead on Mata, but Gould flatted right before hitting hitting the pavement on a rocky section of singletrack. Gould was forced to ride the rest of the way into town on her rim as Mata gained the lead.
"I'm still pretty shocked," Mata said. "It was kind of the same deal as last year."
The race also featured a criterium in downtown Prescott, held just as the nine-to-five crowd was getting off work. It was Geoff Kabush that won the men's category, earning him a spot at the front of the pack for the cross-country start on Sunday. Georgia Gould won the women's crit.
For complete results check out the Epic Rides Results Page.
Look for a second race report on the amateur competition tomorrow.
Photos by Brian Leddy Photography