Wild Rockies—the Boise-based company that has coordinated more than 200 bike, motorsport and triathlon races since 1988—has always been wild. With the sale of the company earlier this year, local mountain bikers worried that things might also get a little rocky. Instead, things are getting better, and they're about to get a little wilder.
Ron Dillon, Wild Rockies owner and race organizer, decided he was ready to retire from mountain bike racing and pass the torch—and the company—to Darren Lightfield, a local professional mountain biker sponsored by Tamarack Resort. And 36-year-old Lightfield has a few ideas up his sleeve to make the popular race organization even better.
For starters, Lightfield is ramping up the energy around the races. "More enthusiasm has been a key [addition] to the venue of Wild Rockies events, and most participants have commented [about wanting that]," says Lightfield.
For a long time, the Wild Rockies races were primarily known as "outlaw" racesÑmeaning they were unpublicized and on private and Bureau of Land Management land. Over the years, mountain biking, and similar sports, have become more mainstream.
Consequently, Wild Rockies races have grown more fashionable. So, instead of keeping a fringe following, Lightfield is embracing the sport's draw and trying to attract more racers by improving the program and adding extra value. "People need to know where to go and what to expect. I am still working on the perfect formula to get the word out, but I am making that one of my goals," he says. "And people want more bang for the buck. So far I have extended a few extras—like custom embroidered Wild Rockies athletic shirts."
Lightfield, who has been racing since 1992, is also upping the technological features. He's started to use a computer-based digital timing system. "A lot of the road racing and triathlon people use that system, and it is just now finding itself into the mountain bike arena," he says. "And the last event, Lava Rama (in Lava Hot Springs on May 12-13), and the downhill, specifically called the Devil's Staircase, was the first time we used the digital timing on the downhill—it might be one of the first events in the Northwest. Or even the nation!"
Feedback on the new timing system is positive. "It has been awesome, and the racers seem to like having their results automatically after the finish. We have been able to post the results on the World Wide Web that night, and if we had a wireless signal, we could put them up for people to see right then," he says. "This is something that even national-caliber events are not able to do. So the racer can expect immediate results, and be able to show friends and sponsors how they did the evening after the race."
Not everything is different in the new Wild Rockies plan. Racers and spectators should expect much of the same community atmosphere of Wild Rockies past, but they also can look forward to different elements at every event, including free food and beer at some races. "I'm trying to bring something new to each event to keep it interesting," Lightfield says.
The Off-Road Triathlon and the XTERRA Wild Ride Triathlon in McCall were added to the schedule last year, and Wild Rockies has lined up the race for Aug. 26. But Lightfield crossed off all the out-of-state venues—Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Montana—because of the drive time and gas prices. "This is a regional grassroots program, and I want to keep that same feeling in years to come," he says. "I'm putting the word out that I want people to carpool to the events; with the price of fuel and the amount of pollution we are facing, there is no need for people to drive individually. Also, I'm encouraging people to stay put [at race sites] for the weekend and camp out and explore the surrounding areas by foot or bike."
Lightfield is a supporter of positive environmental impact, and the future goings-on of the company are going to reflect that support. All the trash at the events will be recycled, per a suggestion from Lightfield's wife, and T-shirts for the upcoming race in Salmon are made in the U.S. from organic cotton. This is more money out of Lightfield's pocket, but he's committed to supporting local the economy and being eco-friendly.
At the race in Salmon, the second annual Janna Brimmer Memorial, Wild Rockies is giving away more than just organic T-shirts; the race yields a $3,000 cash prize to the top trail runner. "I am really looking forward to the event in Salmon," Lightfield says. "We also are planning lunch and a kids' rodeo, where we'll give helmets to kids without one."
With all of these races to organize all over the state, it would be reasonable to expect the man to abandon the professional mountain bike career that he had previously entertained, but not Lightfield. In fact, he even spends time as a bicycle guide and clinic leader in what free time he has. "I truly feel obligated to continue racing. Although my fitness will be not as good, I'm going to keep a good attitude. It's really about the passion, being surrounded by thoughtful people and a lifestyle of being health-wise," he says about keeping in the professional circle. "Wild Rockies is a real outlet where I can give back to the community and make a little income at the same time."
In true bike-loving form, Lightfield is also looking forward to the cyclocross season in the fall, when the Wild Rockies season is over. He tried cyclocross for the first time last year and finished in second-place in the Pro 1-2 category for a 10-race Southern Idaho series.
For now, he's enjoying being the boss. "I'm really excited to be at the helm at this exciting opportunity for people to participate in a healthy opportunity," he says. "It's a really good outlet for the community, and there's a lot of role models to come out of mountain biking."
For more information, visit www.wildrockies.com.