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Hundreds of riders, fans expected at national mountain bike championship

A rider goes airborne on a jump on Big Baby, one of the seven downhill runs at Ride Rock Creek.

GREEN RIVER — When they designed and built Ride Rock Creek last year, partners Dave LaMond and Neko Mulally knew they had a good thing going. Just how good they would not have predicted at the time.

The upstart attraction, which just opened for riders in December, scored a coup in its first six months of existence, landing the USA Cycling Gravity Mountain Bike National Championship this year and in 2024.

“Neko was able to build a facility that in one year caught the attention of the whole country and the sanctioning body for hosting an event here,” said Clay Harper, the lead organizer of the mountain bike event coming to the Green River venue next month.

The race is sanctioned by USA Cycling, the Olympic affiliate committee for mountain biking.

“So the person that wins the downhill race at Rock Creek this July is the national champion for the year,” Harper said. “It’s a very distinguished title and it’s a pretty big deal. It’s probably the most important race that happens in the U.S. that’s not an international event.”

Made up of seven downhill runs, Ride Rock Creek will host an expected turnout of a thousand competitors in three championship categories — Dual Slalom, a head-to-head race on a gated course; Enduro, a longer ride that covers the whole property; and the Downhill, which features spectacular jumps by the amateur and professional riders.

“That’s the big show, that’s the one where they race from the top of the mountain to the bottom in front of the crowd,” Harper said.

Trail names reflect the sometimes whimsical and often gnarly character of mountain biking — Green River, Bark Buster, Strange Beast, Tumbleweed, Big Baby, Dark Hollow and Stampede.

Lamond, a physician, fitness specialist and lifelong mountain bike enthusiast, partnered with Mulally to design and build Rock Creek, a 300-acre park that backs up to DuPont State Forest. A professional rider who races internationally, Mulally promised in an interview this week that the national championship at Rock Creek will be a fan-friendly event, featuring easy access to the aerial action.

“More than any other downhill race I’ve been to it’ll be spectator friendly,” he said. “There’ll be tons of opportunity for people to spectate and see some action.” If fans want to see riders go airborne, they’ll need only to make the five-minute walk from the parking area, which is 12 acres of pasture land, for a closeup view of the downhill race’s final jump. “Right there at the finish line there’s a really big one,” said Mulally, who lives in Brevard.


Economic impact

In a Zoom call along with other organizers and Henderson County Tourism Development Authority officials in April, Harper predicted a large turnout of riders and a significant economic impact. Green River, he noted, is easier to get to than the site of the 2022 championship in Colorado, which attracted 950 riders.

“The economic impact studies on that have ranged between about a million to $1.4 million positive economic impact over the three-day period of the event,” he said. “The sport is exploding right now. And it’s really interesting because where it’s exploding is in the U-18 (under-18) categories, which means families. So we’re seeing a huge uptick in the number of families we have coming to these events. From an economic standpoint, that’s like more hotel rooms, more car rentals, more restaurant food, more everything.”

During the call, Harper made a pitch for discounted or free lodging for the sizable race staff, plus food and volunteers.

“In exchange for our ask for some help with discounted and comped rooms is the opportunity for us to market your business directly to the thousand participants, their families and the fans that are coming in for it as well,” he said.


‘An army of volunteers’

Volunteers are critical to managing the event.

“We require an army of event volunteers to help with course management,” he said. “The big thing is course marshaling. And if you’re not familiar with that role, it’s pretty cool because you actually get a spot right in the action. You’re out on the course and really what you’re helping with is spectator safety and rider safety. … It’s the best seat in the house and it really makes you a part of the action.”

In a meeting June 6 of the county’s Technical Review Committee, which under the county’s zoning code must sign off on special events attracting more than 500 people, race organizers said the championship event would be run by trained crowd managers. In all, race leaders said 30 paid staff and 100 volunteers would serve.

USA Cycling has hired an emergency squad to be stationed on site throughout the weekend and is working with Green River Fire & Rescue to staff the event as well. The bike park’s own EMS-certified bike patrol — many of whom work ski patrol in the winter — will also be on hand to assist injured riders as needed.

Organizers have recruited food vendors, who will pay $500 to $1,500 for the privilege.

“I think we’ll have at least five food trucks each day and the new Trailside Brewery will be on site,” Mulally said.

Trailside owner David Schnitzer, who has known LaMond and Mulally for many years, plans to tow his beer trailer, a modified shipping container, to Ride Rock Creek for the four-day championship. It’ll have eight taps.

The national event will generate traffic, to be sure, as competitors and fans travel to and from the venue. But Harper pointed out that none of that added traffic will be on two wheels.

“It’s entirely on Rock Creek property,” he said, “and it’s all offroad, all mountain biking on dirt.”

Mulally has been sidelined from competition since he broke his pelvis during a competition.

“I just got cleared to start riding,” he said. “I would love to be able to race if I wasn’t injured but it’s just not in the cards this year.”

Mulally, who is race director, predicted the event will attract as many as 4,000 people — riders and fans — during its four-day run.

Organizers say they have had positive conversations with surrounding homeowners.

“We’re pretty close to the neighbors,” he said. “The campground is really open to it. Everybody in the immediate area around Rock Creek is very supportive and I’ve not heard anything negative.”

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Ride Rock Creek, on West Rock Creek Road off Green River Road, is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. To get a pass to ride in advance visit The USA Cycling Gravity Mountain Bike National Championship July 12-16 is free for spectators. For more information visit For information on volunteering email nationalchamps@riderockcreek.