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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
Mountain-bike racing needed some good news, and Friday it looks like it got some. VeloNews has learned that the mountain-biking version of the Jeep King of the Mountain series has gotten the thumbs up from Chrysler, and that a three-race made-for-TV series will get under way on June 29 in Wintergreen, Virginia.
“We just met with Chrysler and worked out the final details,” said Denise Lavaroni, the VP of events for Eclipse TV, the production company behind the new series.
The series will continue on July 29 at a yet-to-be-determined site in Colorado, before concluding August 23 in California. A site for the final event has not been secured, either.
As for who will be competing, Lavaroni said invitations have been sent out to gravity athletes from eight countries — France, Australia, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Canada, Italy and the United States. Originally, the format was going to be one two-person, male-female team from each country, but now it’s possible the event will follow a format similar to golf’s Ryder Cup, where the U.S. is matched against Europe.
“We realized how many good riders there were in the U.S.,” Lavaroni explained. “So now we’re trying to come up with a way to include them.”
The actual racing format for the event remains the same, with riders starting out on a dual-slalom-type course, before being funneled into one track, a la dual, for the run into the finish. Prize money for the event is slated to be $100,000, though Lavaroni said that number could increase.
The other piece of good news is the revamped schedule. Originally, all three of the Jeep race dates conflicted with other major mountain-bike races, but now only the Virginia event looks to be a problem. It overlaps with the World Cup triple in Mont-Ste-Anne, Quebec.
“Our race is on Sunday, so we’re hoping the athletes can race Saturday in Canada, then fly down to Virginia,” Lavaroni said.
But that tight turnaround (four-cross finals at the World Cup are scheduled to end at 8 p.m., and Mont-Ste-Anne is 1400 miles from Wintergreen) might make doing both too tall a task.
“I probably wouldn’t try it,” said Brian Lopes, reigning World Cup four-cross overall champ.
So would he consider skipping the World Cup for what would likely be a better pay-off at the Jeep race? “Definitely,” Lopes admitted. “I’d have to talk to my sponsors, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”