Bicycling enthusiasts will have a chance to compete with junior Olympic hopefuls and adult world-class racers this weekend as part of the Sixth Annual Stage Race in Moab.
The three-stage event kicks off April Fool's Day with the traditional 46-mile race to Arches National Park and back, culminating Sunday with a criterium around Moab City Park. An awards ceremony follows.This may be the last year the stage race will include the national park, because of objections from park management over user conflicts. During the race from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday, the park is closed to vehicle traffic.
Last year, park officials said the 1989 race would be the last special event of its type allowed in the park. The decision is under review.
This is also the first year the U.S. Cycling Federation arranged with the organizers, Canyon Country Cyclists, to include a Junior World Trials Qualifications and National Prestige Classic as part of the event.
The Moab Stage Race is a federation-sanctioned event, and the first major race of the season in Utah.
Bill Groff of Rim Cyclery, business sponsor, said arrangements were made earlier this month for about 60 Olympic hopefuls ages 15-18 to join in the junior competitions. The cyclists have been training for several months in Colorado Springs and are scheduled to leave for training in the Soviet Union after the Moab races, Groff said.
"It's making everything hectic. It's a lot of work (but) it's just sort of a feather in our cap. We are now nationally noticed," he said.
As of Wednesday, 350 bicyclists had preregistered. Groff said 375 are expected by this weekend, compared to 325 participants last year.
The Arches race will be followed Saturday afternoon by 10-mile time trials on the Potash Road, U-279, just south of the park. In the final stage, men's and women's groups will be divided according to age for 40- and 80-lap races Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Groff said spectators and participants have steadily increased over the years because the Moab races are colorful and exciting.
"The best one is the criterium Sunday. It's a big mass of bicycles and it's awesome."