Self-titled “grassroots race-director,” Robert Gilcrest, is using an organic approach to grow an ultra-endurance race culture in Santa Barbara. Niche ultra-running groups have been gathering in town for years to run low-key races, but Gilcrest has been working hard for over six now years to open opportunities for more world-class endurance racing in the Santa Barbara region. In just the last two years he’s had great success with his DRTE “Dirty 100” Ultra Marathon event, attracting and challenging runners from all over the continent. As the next step of a long-term plan to cultivate the local endurance scene, this summer he’s launching his largest event-cycle yet with the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Series.
The series consists of three races, progressing in difficulty:
The races offer a variety of options for riders of many skill levels, Gilcrest says, “the goal with a three-part series is to provide opportunities for people to build up a tolerance for the climate, environment, and courses.” Courses will guarantee both incredible views of the mountains and challenging routes with some fast sections, including portions of one of our favorite rides, the Camuesa Connector. Within 3 years, Gilcrest hopes to have 400-500 participants with his ultimate goal of “raising lots of money for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition and Los Padres Forest Association and joining the National Ultra-Endurance Mountain Bike Series.”
You may have heard about the cancelation of this year’s Badwater Ultra Marathon , one of the most famous and difficult ultra races in the world, which has been put on-hold indefinitely due to park restrictions. While that sad news disappoints ultra-runners across the globe, Gilcrest has diligently acquired all the necessary permits for his events to comply with the ecological and safety regulations of the Los Padres National Forest. A board member for the Los Padres Forest Association , Gilcrest could be the missing link for Santa Barbara endurance racing as he says, “nobody’s really been able to connect the resources we have in our forests with high quality cross-country racing.” With the permit Gilcrest gains the ability to create longevity for his races to become well-established events drawing participants for years to come.
Come on out for this unique opportunity to race mountain bikes in a new event for the incredible Santa Ynez Valley. But beware, Gilcrest warns, “most people come back pretty humbled after racing in our environment.” He adds, “like our trail runs, we may average 50% drop-out rate in the longer mountain bike races, but that’s actually encouraging for us because difficulty in an ultra-endurance event is attractive.” Mourning the loss of Badwater this year? Or maybe the Leadville 100 is just too far away for your mountain biking adventures? Gilcrest’s races could be your one-stop-shop!