Words by Brice Minnigh
Photos by Long Nguyen
Imagine doing hot laps down some of North America's burliest bike-park runs for three hours in a row—and then multiply that by four. The leg-numbing result would be one of the 12-hour races of the Red Bull Final Descent series, which pits pro and amateur racers against each other for 12 hours of non-stop downhill runs in three of the continent's best bike parks.
As with last year's series, the events will be held in the following bike parks: the Jackson Hole Bike Park in Jackson, Wyoming; the Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park, Colorado; and the Angel Fire Bike Park in Angel Fire, New Mexico.
The format of each race is simple. Competitors choose courses of varying difficulty and do hot laps for 12 hours straight. Once the time has elapsed, the racers with the most runs under their belts win. Riders can compete solo, or in duo or larger team categories. It is possible to enter one, two or all three events in the series. Each event will have its own winners, and there will also be an overall series champion among those entering all three races.
The popularity of this format is growing rapidly, along with the rise of bike parks throughout North America. In recent years, dozens of bike parks have stepped up their efforts to improve their trails, hiring advanced trail-building companies to sculpt world-class features into their downhill runs. The results have been amazing, prompting record growth in the number of lift tickets sold each summer.
Each stop in the series offers a $5,000 cash prize purse for the pro divisions, while the amateur division winners will receive gear donated by industry partners Fox, Oakley, Troy Lee Designs and 5.10 shoes. The male and female riders who post the most laps by combined distance for all three events will win an additional $500 each.
The number of racers in each event is capped at 200—including pros and amateurs—to avoid overcrowding on the courses. All riders must assemble for a Le Mans-style start in which they must sprint uphill on foot to reach their bikes, then pedal uphill for another few-hundred feet before bombing down the course. After the first lap, racers use the lift to get back to the top.
In recent years, most of the pros put in maximum effort throughout the day, while many of the amateurs treat it more like a long day in the bike park. In last year's Angel Fire Bike Park event, many of the amateurs were wearing costumes and taking a more festive approach to the race.
The Red Bull Final Descent started as "The Burner," a 12-hour downhill mountain bike endurance race at Angel Fire Bike Park and has since grown into the increasingly popular DH series.
Registration is now open, and racers can sign up online through the respective race weekends at www.active.com, then searching for "Red Bull Final Descent."
The dates for the events are as follows:
Jackson Hole Bike Park: Saturday, August 11, 2012
Trestle Bike Park: Saturday, September 9, 2012
Angel Fire Bike Park: Saturday, September 29, 2012
For more information on the series, go to www.redbullusa.com/finaldescent.