The eyes of mountain bikers from around the state will be focused on Payson during a pair of upcoming competitions.
The first, slated for April 2, is the Mountain Bike Association-sponsored "Payson Powder" cross-country race. It is the sixth in a series of eight MBAA state championship events.
Next up in the Rim country will be the inaugural Payson Stampede 24-hour mountain bike race to be held June 18 and 19.
Longtime Rim country mountain bike guru Dan Basinski anticipates more than 400 riders, including about 10 Payson racers, will enter the MBAA event.
Because the Payson Stampede is a first-ever competition, he's not sure how many racers it will draw.
"It has good sponsors (Mazatzal Casino and Tucson Racing), so it should do well," he said. "Plans are for it to be a total festival with a post-race party, pasta feed and other events."
The race begins at noon June 18 at the Payson Event Center and wraps up 24 hours later at the original starting line in the PEC.
According to Basinski, the 10-mile loop course begins on the Event Center Trail and traverses through Peach Orchard Springs, Golden Wonder Mine, along Main Street and McLane.
The object of the race, Basinski said, is to determine which riders can cover the most loops in the 24-hour period.
Tucson Racing officials are billing the event as "a test of physical and mental endurance" and "a carnival, festival, a wild time."
Competitors have the option of camping out at the PEC where sites will be set up. Riders also may enter as a solo competitor or as part of a two- to five-person team.
The MBAA ride
The MBAA Payson Powder eight-mile course is located on Walnut Flat near Shoo Fly ruins, close to where firefighters set up camp during the Dude Fire.
A portion of the loop course is over the old Payson Mayor's Cup route, northwest of Star Valley.
According to Basinski, the route is challenging, "It's very rocky and will beat the heck out of the riders," he said. "It tests the riders and the bikes."
During the race, Basinski will serve as site director and as a National Off-Road Bike Association competition official.
He is hoping the race doesn't suffer the same fate it did last spring when it had to be canceled due to inclement weather conditions.
"With all the rain, we were concerned about rider safety and damaging the environment," Basinski said.
Among the Rim riders expected to participate are Wayne Gorry, Cypress Gorry, Brian Goble and Ken Shepherd.
The foursome will enter the Payson event buoyed by the experience of having participated in the MBAA McDowell Mountain Meltdown held Jan. 15 near Fountain Hills. The race was the first in the MBAA state championship series.
Wayne Gorry, a teacher at Julia Randall Elementary School and veteran cyclist, peddled his way to a first-place finish in the 50-54 years of age Men's Expert division. His time of 1:53:05 also earned him an 18th-place finish overall.
Gorry also is a two-time Payson Mayor's Cup champion and a Mountain Bike Association of Arizona state champion in 1991 (Sport Class) and 1997 (Expert Class).
Also at the McDowell Meltdown, Goble claimed first in the 50-54-years Men's Sport division covering a shorter course in 1:34.09.
In the 40-45-years Men's Sport class, Shepherd was sixth, in 1:43.45.
Cypress Gorry, a fifth-grade student in his father's class at JRE, was fifth in the 12-years-and-under Junior Boy's division.
The youngster, who is in his first year of mountain bike racing, toured the high desert course in 1:00.19.
Following the Payson Powder, the MBAA series moves April 23 to Prescott and wraps up May 21 in Flagstaff.