The eyes of the cycling nation will focus next spring on the Payson Stampede 24-Hour Mountain Bike Challenge.
The event's clout and exposure was turned up a notch Jan. 16 when the race was added to the 2007 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Calendar.
"Being on the calendar puts the Payson Stampede on the national radar," said Carol McCauley of the Town of Payson Main Street and Green Valley Redevelopment Area.
As a national event, ultra-athletes who enter in the Payson Stampede will be eligible to compete for an overall title at five other calendar events spread over six states, McCauley said.
The USA Mountain Bike National Calendar features over $200,000 in prize money at its sanctioned events.
Rim Country mountain biking guru, Dan Basinski, is touting the event's newfound national status as a boon to the local racing scene.
"It could up the participation by as much as 30 percent," he said. "We'll now get those (riders) who are chasing (championship) points -- the ones who go only to big events and others who (compete) just because that's what they do.
"Also, this is the only race on the calendar that will be held in the West."
McCauley said, the new status of the Payson Stampede will also be another step in earning Payson the unofficial "Festival Capital of Arizona" title the community once held.
"Individuals, organizations and the Town of Payson have been working diligently to bring that title back home," McCauley said.
Basinski on board again
For the 2007 challenge, which will be held May 5 and 6, Basinski will again serve as the course designer, course director and NORBA official.
In setting up the national course, Basinski will institute a few changes over the route used the past two years.
"We will probably take out the Top of the World (section)," he said.
That part of the rugged course was encountered after riders pedaled miles of Forest Service roads uphill before descending onto a paved route that led past the Payson Golf Course and to the Payson Event Center.
Payson Mountain Bike of Association state champion Wayne Gorry, who helped host the Payson Stampede, said that rocky part of the course took its toll on some riders.
Last year, the 24-hour event attracted four-person teams from around the state eager to challenge some of the most rugged ATV, Jeep and Forest Service trails in Arizona.
Of the teams entered in the Veteran Division, the Payson Posse rode its way to the championship. The foursome -- comprised of Ken Shepherd, Nick Payne, Eric Kush and Gorry -- completed 25 10-mile laps during endurance event.
The victory marked the second successive year the Payson Posse won the Stampede's Veteran Division title.
In the 24-hour solo male 19-29 years age group, Payson cyclist Eric Molitor finished third. He was 13th overall among the solo cyclists.
Basinski said, he was unsure which of the Payson riders will return to defend their titles or try to improve their past showings.
In addition to the 24-hour events, six- and 12-hour competitions will be held, following the same course. The 12-hour run finishes at midnight. The six-hour competition wraps up at 6 p.m.
Winners will be determined by the number of laps completed during the race.
For more information about the Payson Stampede, visit www.tucsonracing.com.