In early Spring, the rugged trails of McDowell Mountain Regional Park come alive with the adrenaline-pumping excitement of The Cactus Cup Mountain Bike Festival. This annual event has become a staple for mountain biking enthusiasts, drawing riders from across the country to revel in a weekend of fierce competition, camaraderie, and the sheer joy of tackling the desert terrain. The Cactus Cup is Arizona’s Original Mountain Bike Stage race; its history dates back to 1991. This is three days of racing to crack open the season featuring Time Trial (age groupers) / Short Track (Pros), XC, and Enduro events. To chase the Cactus Cup and capture the overall title, all three days of the stage race must be completed. Registration is available for single events as well. So you can join for 1, 2 or 3 days! Strambecco rates the Cactus Cup among the Southwest's Best Mountain Bike Events.
New to this year's event schedule is a historic collaboration between the Cactus Cup and the Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) Arizona to create "Duel in the Desert," a mixed MTB and Gravel competition taking place on consecutive Saturdays, March 2 and March 9, 2024. This combination event of mountain biking and gravel racing promises an unparalleled celebration of cycling prowess, camaraderie, and the breathtaking Arizona landscape in and around the magnificent McDowell Mountain Regional Park. This unique challenge combines the Belgian Wafer Ride's 72-mile unroad gravel race with the technical mountain biking excellence of the Cactus Cup's 40-mile XC race. Cyclists daring to conquer both events stand a chance to earn the prestigious Queen and King of the Desert Awards.
What Makes The Cactus Cup So Unique and Popular: The Cactus Cup stands out for its unique blend of competitive races, a vibrant expo, and a celebration of the mountain biking culture. What makes it truly special is its incorporation of various race disciplines, from cross-country to enduro, ensuring there's something for every rider, regardless of skill level. The festival's festive atmosphere, with live music, food vendors, and a bustling expo, creates an unforgettable experience for both participants and spectators.
Event and Race Options: Participants can choose from a variety of race options, including cross-country races that test endurance and technical skills, as well as the thrilling enduro race that demands a combination of speed and agility. The Cactus Cup provides a platform for seasoned professionals and amateur riders to showcase their skills and love for mountain biking.
Winning the Cactus Cup: Winning the Cactus Cup is a prestigious achievement, and participants earn points based on their performance in various races. The competitor with the highest cumulative points across all events is crowned the Cactus Cup champion, a title that signifies not only skill but also versatility across different mountain biking disciplines.
Host Location: McDowell Regional Park: Nestled in the Sonoran Desert, McDowell Mountain Regional Park serves as the perfect backdrop for the Cactus Cup. The park boasts a network of scenic trails with varying degrees of difficulty, providing an exhilarating experience for riders. The stunning desert landscape, dotted with iconic saguaro cacti, creates a picturesque setting for the festival.
Accommodations in the Area: For those planning to immerse themselves in the full Cactus Cup experience, accommodation options range from camping within the park to nearby hotels and resorts. Camping under the desert stars offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature while nearby accommodations provide comfort and convenience.
Other Things to Do in the Area: Beyond the excitement of the Cactus Cup, McDowell Regional Park and its surrounding areas offer a plethora of outdoor activities. Hiking enthusiasts can explore the park's diverse trails, while rock climbers can challenge themselves on the McDowell Mountains' rocky formations. For those seeking relaxation, nearby resorts provide spas and golf courses, ensuring there's something for everyone in this outdoor paradise.
The Second Annual Belgian Waffle Ride Arizona is a unique desert and mountain gravel experience known as the Hell of the North Desert. In addition to the collaboration with the Cactus Cup, the BWR Arizona event is the kick-off to the largest gravel series in the world, the Belgian Waffle Ride Series, as well as the Tripel Crown of Gravel. Belgian Waffle Ride Arizona takes place in Cave Creek, Arizona, on the fringes of the Valley of the Sun. BWR events are unique because they are classic, long bicycle races that feature various off-road sectors emulating the pave or cobblestones of Europe, making the varied terrain a challenge for riders’ technical skills, equipment, endurance, luck, and versatility. While none of the events intentionally feature mountains, they utilize a never-ending collection of punchy climbs that challenge riders physically and mentally. These are not races set up for the faint of heart and are designed to challenge riders of all stripes and sizes. The current roster of BWR events in 2024 includes BWR AZ (March 1-2), BWR UT (April 5-6), BWR CA (27-28), and BWR NC (June 21-22). Monuments are also close to finalized details on several new events for 2024, including two special events in Mexico.