by Andrew Yee

The brand new Hawaii Pro-Am three-day mountain bike stage race is making a serious bid for the attention of cyclocrossers and late-season mountain bikers. Scheduled smack dab in the middle of ‘cross season on October 28-November 1st (the same weekend as the NACT Boulder weekend), the new race is boasting the “largest cash purse in mountain bike history,” with the top pro woman and man able to take home almost $20,000 in prize money. While the scheduled dates are late in the year for mountain biking, it could be a nice paid vacation for all those who also race fat tires even if it’s during cyclocross season.

With a time trial, marathon-distance race and a short-track event, there will be three days of racing action at the Kualoa Ranch on Oahu, the site of the Mountain Bike World Cup finals in 2006 and scene for movies such as Jurassic Park. Amateurs are welcomed and compete for large payouts as well, with over $8,000 possible for the top man and woman. Can you say Sandbagger World Championships?

Where’s the money coming from? Currently no sponsors have been named, but as with many races, the prizes will come likely come from the entry fees. As a destination race, the entry fee is nearly $3,000 but includes lodging, ground transportation, some meals, and “a massively festive luau awards dinner and party.”

It’s clearly an effort to help boost tourism and fill empty hotel rooms in this slow economy, but will enough racers sign up in these tight times to cover the costs? Budget-minded racers hoping to camp and save money are out of luck, as race-only entry fees at this point is not an option unless you are a kama’aina (local). Better brush up your pidgin, brah!

To put that entry fee in perspective? You’d have to finish fifth or better as a pro or third or better as an amateur to make back your entry fee.

But with the growing popularity of destination-event vacations for athletes, even without winning a single penny, you’d experience spectacular scenery, almost guaranteed mud, and a ton of of “aloha spirit.” I’ve raced there in high school and it’s truly an awesome setting. Where else can you finish a race, cross the street, and jump in the ocean and not get hypothermia?

Now if they will only add some barriers to the short-track, we might have to take a “work” trip.

(Promoter Christopher Parmelee was unavailable to comment for this report.)

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