The Best Mountain Bike Stage Races in 2015

Looking for a stage race to tackle this year? We have you covered! In this preview we’ve rounded up a handful of the most exotic, highest, longest, unique, and epic multi-day stage races in 2015. Whether it’s for the punishment or pleasure, fully supported or survival of the insane, the first-timer or seasoned-stager, or you’re …

Looking for a stage race to tackle this year? We have you covered! In this preview we’ve rounded up a handful of the most exotic, highest, longest, unique, and epic multi-day stage races in 2015. Whether it’s for the punishment or pleasure, fully supported or survival of the insane, the first-timer or seasoned-stager, or you’re just looking for the Carnival Cruise of mountain biking experiences, there’s something here for everyone. Each race attempts to put a unique spin on the day-to-day format and, while this is not a “Top 10” list either, I’ve managed to tease out certain qualities and themes that will resonate within your singletrack mind.

Click on the heading of each race preview for the event website and find links directly to race registration within its description.

TransPortugal: Purest & Longest

  • May 9-17, 2015
  • Stages: 8
  • Miles: 621
  • Elevation Gain: 55,774ft
Transportugal stage overview

Where aid stations are non-existent and all external support is forbidden, the 8-day in-line trek from Portugal’s northern to southernmost border rewards the self-sufficient.  This no-nonsense, 621-mile expedition also happens to be the longest overall race among events showcased here, with the shortest stage at 59 miles and the longest at 100. What the Transportugal lacks in race support it makes up for with innovation, featuring GPS-guided maps for each rider, obviating the need for unreliable and often-confusing signs, arrows, and ribbons. Don’t mistake this event for being only a survival-of-the-fittest affair, as you’ll look forward to the finest post-race meals and hotels in the region. Pack Stuff your bags and register now for TransPortugal.

Transalp: Most Climbing

  • July 19-25, 2015
  • Stages: 7
  • Miles: 387
  • Elevation Gain: 63,274ft
PC: Rainer Stropek
Photo by Rainer Stropek, via the Flickr Creative Commons

Is it really any surprise that picking your way through the Alps over seven days results in the stage race with the most overall elevation gain? Not only does the Transalp have the most lung-busting climbs, but the time spent at elevation alone might be enough to take your breath away. Two stages have climbs exceeding 5,500 feet (one of them being on the last day), the highest elevation reached along the 7-day journey is 8,200 feet, and two-thirds of stage 5 is spent over 5,200 feet topping out at 7,200. Sure there are higher elevations and longer climbs than this, but very few places in the world exist where you can string together this kind of riding day after day after day after. Get high on the Transalp by registering here.

Pisgah: Most Amenities

  • April 13-18, 2015
  • Stages: 5
  • Miles: 120
  • Elevation Gain: 25,000ft
Pisgah Stage Race, North Carolina. Photo: Blue Ridge Adventures
Photo: Blue Ridge Adventures

Pisgah National Forest is eastern root, rock, and rugged riding at its finest, but what snagged my attention most about this Blue Adventures race was the plethora of pleasantries and grassroots vibes during both race and relaxation. From coffee and pastries each morning to farm fresh locally-catered dinners every night, and from fully-stocked rest stops to nightly happy hour amidst live music, the last thing you’ll need to worry about while ripping or resting is your belly’s want for more. If you’re one who only replenishes with what you train on, the Pisgah crew will shuttle personal goodies daily to the rest stop of your choice.

Not only does Pisgah have your belly covered, but you’re not likely to fret about mechanical breakdowns, either. Sycamore Cycles will wash, repair, and deliver your rig each day before start time, and they’ll even lend you a bike if yours breaks mid-race! Other services include: laundry, pet care, massage, daily shuttles, as well as to-and-from airport shuttles. Pack your bags (or don’t) and sign up for Pisgah now.

Note: additional fees apply to some of the above-listed amenities.

Singletrack 6: Most Singletrack & Family Friendly

  • July 26-31, 2015
  • Stages: 6
  • Miles: 142
  • Elevation Gain: avg. 4,000ft per stage, or approximately 24,000ft total
Photo by Lyndsay Esson, via the Flickr Creative Commons

What race preview would be complete without one from the Northwest Rockies–British Columbia, to be precise. The Singletrack 6: Thompson Okanagan claims the highest percentage of singletrack of any stage race and stretches from Kamloops to Kelowna, BC and beyond. While statistics for exact miles on singletrack for any race are hard to come by, i’ll take their word for it. For those who have slain the ST6 before, stay tuned as a new route is added to this epic every year.

It’s tough enough managing the family during an event that’s not exactly spectator-friendly, let alone one that lasts for a week, but the good folks at ST6 understand this and list popular family-friendly activities for each venue. Including everything from water to land adventures such as rock climbing, chairlift and train rides, ropes courses, golf (disc and “normal”), the ST6 is an event in which you can include the whole fam’. The ST6 is limited to 400 racers so register now!

Breck Epic: It’s in Colorado!

  • August 9-14, 2015
  • Stages: 6
  • Miles: 240
  • Elevation Gain: 40,000ft
PC: crosby_cj
Photo by crosby_cj, via the Flickr Creative Commons

What does chiding the Swiss, The Princess Bride, and a vibe described as “mid-90’s mayhem” have in common? It’s how race organizers of the Breck Epic describe their distaste for sell outs and love for the way mountain bike racing used to be–rad! What’s more, the Breck Epic simplifies their rulebook to 3 simply and easy-to-remember requirements: don’t be a jerk, don’t be stupid, and don’t litter!

Logistically this race is perfect for those who find it hard enough to ride all day only to pack up and shuttle to a new venue for the following stage. Using a cloverleaf format, six big backcountry loops averaging about 40 miles each begin and end in Breckenridge, allowing racers to hunker down and enjoy one spot for the entire week. And, for the “epicurious,” Breck Epic offers 3-day race options of stages 1-3 or 4-6. So leave your USAC membership cards at home and register now for a mountain bike throwback.

Still undecided? Don’t worry, there’s more! Check out some other epic stage races listed below from around the world

BC Bike Race: June 27-July 4, 2015

  • Word from the website is this one is SOLD OUT!

Transylvania Epic: May 24-30, 2015

  • Seven days of fully-supported racing (including timed enduro segments) out of one base camp.

Iron Bike: July 25-August 1, 2015

  • Registration for Italy’s premiere mountain bike stage race is closed, but you can still get in if someone drops out

Cape Epic: March 15-22, 2015

  • The 2015 Cape race is in the bag and early bird entry for next year sold out in 9 seconds, but you can still enter the 2016 lottery until May 30, 2015.

Mongolia Bike Challenge: August 21-30, 2015

  • Mountain biking through Asia just sounds like something you should do.

La Ruta: November 5-7, 2015

  • Sure it’s only three days of racing, but you’ll average 58 miles per day climbing 29,000 feet. It’s also the only mountain bike race that traverses the American land mass from Pacific to Atlantic.

Crocodile Trophy: October 17-25, 2015

  • Ranked as the world’s biggest mountain bike stage race, “The Trophy” boasts the most diverse race plan.

Now it’s time for a roll call: which one do you aspire to slay? Maybe you’ve conquered one of the above and you’d like to share your experience, caution against, or further promote. And by all means, tell us more about a stage race we missed and what makes it special.

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