The Rad Dirt Fest in Trinidad, Colorado was confirmed today as the seventh and final off-road event for the 2023 Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda. Organizers selected ‘traditional’ gravel over mountain bike grit for the wildcard race in this year’s expanded series, noting that this could set a precedent for an adjustable entry on the future calendar.
A gravel race created by Life Time in 2021, the third edition of Rad Dirt Fest will be held September 30 in a slot between the Chequamegon MTB Festival in Wisconsin two weeks before and the grand finale on October 21 at Big Sugar Gravel in Arkansas. All six founding off-road events return this season, beginning at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California on April 9 with an extended cross-country mountain bike race, Fuego XL 100K.
“In picking the seventh race, what we didn’t want to do was try to tailor the field to necessarily fit the race. We took a lot of feedback from athletes over this last year, and really took it to heart. And it was interesting that this last year, a lot of the mountain bikers really kind of dominated,” Kimo Seymour, president of Life Time Events, told cycling news about the determination for the wildcard event in 2023.
“The decision came down to whether it was going to be another mountain bike race or it’s going to be a gravel race. The team decided, because we’re calling it a wildcard, we might change it out each year. We could change out any of the events, I guess, but the wildcard this year is going to be ‘The Rad’ in Trinidad, Colorado.”
A complete invitation-only field of the 35 pro men and 35 pro women are not required to take the start at the Rad Dirt Fest as Grand Prix rules require that participants start five of the seven events and only Big Sugar Gravel is a prerequisite for eligibility toward the $250,000 overall prize purse. Taking home the top cash prizes of $25,000 last fall were Haley Smith for the pro women and Keegan Swenson for the pro men.
Both reigning champions rose to fame in mountain biking, as did the majority of the top 10 in each category. Seven pros from the pro women’s top 10 return in 2023, with five of them having raced professionally in mountain biking. A full complement of the pro men from the top 10 will return, the riders with pro mountain bike backgrounds dominating three of the top four placings last year.
“There were some really strong people that came from mountain biking that did really well in a series that had three mountain bike races and three gravel races. So we thought with the growth of gravel, the direction of competitive cycling in North America really moving towards gravel, it was important we should tilt a little bit more towards gravel.”
Organizers expanded the field by five riders in each pro field, now 35 pro women and 35 pro men. Among the new competitors are riders who dominated cyclocross races across North America, including France’s Caroline Mani, Pan-Am champion Raylyn Nuss and Crystal Anthony for the pro women, and former US elite men’s champion Eric Brunner and current US men’s single-speed champion Kerry Werner for the pro men.
Trinidad sits off the beaten path in southern Colorado, 15 miles from the New Mexico border. The elevation at the start line is 6,000 feet and a new 110-mile course, nicknamed “Stubborn Delores,” is expected to return with 10,000 feet of elevation gain in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range and the towering Spanish Peaks. The 2022 edition of the long course was 165 miles with more than 11,000 feet of elevation gain and 90% maintained gravel roads.
Registration for the long course, as well as 70-mile and 40-mile shorter routes, will open to the public on February 1, following Life Time member-only early registration on January 25. As an extra incentive for Life Time Grand Prix competitors , the entry fees to Rad Dirt Fest and any series events will be part of the benefits provided by Life Time.
“The distances are still being fine tuned, but it looks as though the Pro, or the longer distance one, is going to be about 110 miles, plus or minus. We are still figuring out the best route to get in and out of town,” Seymour added.
All seven events in the Grand Prix are owned and operated by Life Time, which has a stable of 13 off-road events across the US.
Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda 2023 series schedule:
- April 22 – Fuego XL 100K cross-country MTB, Life Time Sea Otter Classic presented by Continental in Monterey, California
- June 3 – 200-mile Garmin Unbound Gravel presented by Craft Sportswear in Emporia, Kansas
- July 8 – 69-mile Life Time Crusher in the Tushar presented by The Creamery in Beaver, Utah
- August 12 – 104-mile Stages Cycling Leadville Trail 100 MTB in Leadville, Colorado
- September 16 – 40-mile Life Time Chequamegon MTB presented by Trek in Cable, Wisconsin
- September 30 – 110-mile Rad Dirt Fest in Trinidad, Colorado
- October 21 – 100-mile Life Time Big Sugar Gravel presented by Mazda in Bentonville, Arkansas