Rider in Big Bear Grizzly 100 gets encouragement from a fan (Big Bear Gran Fondo/Facebook/Pink Shorts Photography)
For those with big lungs, tree-trunk quads and a desire to spend hours on a mountain bike -- or folks who enjoy watching them -- the mountains all across the country are an endurance racer’s heaven.
Here’s a look at some of the top races in 2016 that will test even the most experienced riders around:
Telluride 100 on July 23 tracks two loops in opposite directions from Mountain Village. First loop rises 7,800 feet over 41 miles with plenty of 8+ percent grades up and over Silver Dollar Pass. Second loop summits both Black Bear and Ophir passes for total ascents of 8.400 feet over 55 miles with more modest grades.
Big Bear Grizzly 100 puts up 100 kilometers and 10,000 feet of climbs on July 30 at SoCal’s Big Bear Lake, including single-track time on Bear Mountain and Snow Summit trails.
Leadville 100 is the granddaddy of high-altitude racing. On Aug. 13, mountain bikers hit the out-and-back track that rises from 9,000 in town to 12,400 at Columbine Mine. Course covers Colorado’s forest trails and old mining roads.
Mountains’ Revenge, a 24-hour endurance race so brutal that its course is named Unfinishable. Covers 201 miles and 33,442 feet of elevation above Colorado’s Summit County. Riders begin at Keystone Resort and can choose any, some or all of eight loops.
On Sept. 3, Park City Point to Point’s 75-mile course winds over the Utah town’s three ski mountains, topping out at 9,000 with average 6 percent grade that accumulates some 10,000 feet in ascents. A prime Labor Day race.
CircumBurke in Northeast Kingdom of Vermont on Oct. 22 has one- and two-lap races around 26-mile course on old logging roads and single-track trails, with 3,000 feet of climbing and descending.