Bicyclists will bounce mostly on single- and double-track dirt trails during the 45-mile race but also cross several roadways in New River, Cave Creek, and near Lake Pleasant. Motorists should watch out for signs in the area marking the race, county officials say, and prepare for reduced speed limits and occasional stops. The race starts at 8:30 a.m. at Lake Pleasant Regional Park and finishes in Cave Creek at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.
Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek, who represents District Three, has pushed for a trail intended to connect the 10 county parks around the Phoenix area for most of his 18 years in office. The Maricopa Trail now runs about 213 miles but will be 310 miles when it's finished next year. It runs under Interstate 17, connects city park trails, power-line roads, canal paths, desert arroyos, and existing county trails, and can be accessed at many different points. The goal is to have as little riding on asphalt or concrete as possible and have as few road crossings as possible for the trail's full length.
The county has spent at least $7 million in the past 10 years to buy up state land, acquire rights for the use of certain sections and improve the trail system, says Kunasek, a Republican.
"I really want people to use it," he says. He came up with the idea for the trail after traveling in Germany years ago and noticing the country's robust trail systems. He believes the public will embrace the Maricopa Trail in the future and that having better public recreational options — especially for kids — decreases crime and other ills.
He also pushed for the race, which has been in the works for nearly two years. More than 200 people had signed up at this writing, and the race probably will reach its goal of of 300 riders, he says.
The event features a five-mile Fun Ride, after-party, and award ceremonies in Cave Creek from 3 to 6 p.m. with Nate Nathan and the MacDaddy-o’s Band. Hickman's Egg Ranch will supply a free breakfast to riders and volunteers. District Four County Supervisor Clint Hickman owns the farm with brothers Glenn and Billy. The cost is $90 per rider, with the funds going to support the Maricopa Trail + Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps fund, develop, and maintain the Maricopa Trail.
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"Come on out and have burrito," Kunasek says. He'll be riding in the Fun Ride and talking to participants.
The bike race will be difficult, clearly. According to the website:
"The race features numerous short, steep, rocky climbs and descents…some of which will require you to dismount and hike. This is not a race for the inexperienced – finish times for most racers is estimated at 4-5 hours. Be prepared for a long day in the saddle. This is a mountain bike race. Racers who have not passed Cave Creek Regional Park by 2 pm will be asked to leave the course and return to the finish line."