We love Vernal and all the outdoor recreation opportunities it offers.
When the 2019 mountain bike race schedule was released, Vernal was a venue that everyone on the SLCSE MTB team was looking forward to. And not just because of the racing. Nearby Red Fleet Reservoir offers excellent camping and water activities. This was the team’s home base for the weekend’s events.
The racing venue was a short distance from the center of town and it offered a 5.9 mile course with 465 feet of elevation gain. We raced the course back in 2016 and many improvements were made to allow for more passing opportunities, technical features, and fun descents on elevated berms.
Vernal, Utah is most famous for its dinosaurs. So when representatives from the local high school, Uintah, greeted visiting teams’ – they presented each head coach with a plush pink brontosaurus.
This was the last race of the season our junior-devo (development) riders could attend. In the NICA League, kids in grades 7-8 can practice and race through the 3rd event. Students in grades 9-12 are eligible to practice and race all five events on the schedule. The coaches and parents were happy to ride with our 7th graders Zach Burke and and Tyge Thompson this season. Zach improved his endurance and technical skills tremendously compared to last year. Tyge’s mechanical abilities at this race allowed him to assist a fellow rider who dropped a chain and had trouble getting it back in working order.
Following the mass start, faster racers were rewarded with continuous, unobstructed single track for well over a mile before the next passing lanes presented themselves. At this race, a large slow-down occurred due to some riders not being able to crest a small hill when the dirt road narrowed down to single track.
Once up on the mesa, the course allowed riders to get up to speed and get a reprieve from climbing. This course resembled an oblong oval with smaller climbs near the finish.
Red Fleet Reservoir’s landscape is dominated by sandstone formations similar to southern Utah. Across the campground from the reservoir a large sandstone shelf gradually elevates from the water to a height of well over 20 ft. This feature is perfect for cliff jumping and all the SLCSE students were keen to jump in and cool off.
When out of town races are on the schedule, it allows for the team to spend time together. It’s not always about the bikes. One of the highlights of the trip was a pot luck dinner where families brought food to share and sit around the camp fires. It’s opportunities like this that make being part of the team more valuable that just showing up for your race.