What: Annual mountain bike event with top competitors and a prize purse of $20,000

When: Today starting with the women’s race at 5:30 p.m.; men at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Wanoga Sno-park to Tetherow Golf Club

Unseasonably low temperatures and rain are expected this evening for the seventh annual Blitz pro invitational mountain bike race.

But the chilly weather will not stop some 50 riders — including many of the country’s best male and female mountain bikers — from speeding down 18 miles of singletrack west of Bend on their way to the spectator-filled finish area at Tetherow Golf Club.

“That’s OK, we’ve done this in a storm before and it was one of our best ones ever,” says Blitz organizer and promoter Erik Eastland.

Bend’s Adam Craig and Carl Decker figure to lead the charge from the start at Wanoga Sno-park, though they will likely be challenged by Todd Wells, of Durango, Colorado.

Craig is the defending champion and three-time Blitz winner. Wells finished second last year and Decker, a two-time champion, was third.

Top women racers include Kelli Emmett, of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Emily Kachorek, of Sacramento, California; and Caroline Dezendorf, of San Rafael, California.

The women start at 5:30 p.m. and are expected to finish at about 6:40, according to Eastland. The men start at 6:30 and should finish at about 7:40. Spectators can watch for free all along the course, and no admission will be charged for the post-race festivities at Tetherow.

This year’s field includes 23 men and 23 women, and several of the riders are from Bend. The race will award four cash prizes (primes) of $1,000 each along the route from Wanoga to Tetherow. The primes include winning the hole shot, big air, fastest on pavement, and arm wrestling (after the race).

Winners in the men’s and women’s divisions each earn $3,000. The total prize purse of $20,000 is one of the most lucrative in the country among mountain bike races, according to Eastland.

The route starts at Wanoga, about 11 miles west of Tetherow along Century Drive, and takes cyclists down the Funner and C.O.D. trails and into the Lair jump park near Tetherow.

From there, they will race to the big-air jump near the golf club’s patio and then up the cart path on hole No. 18. Next, riders will race across a “cyclocross” section through some grass and into the finish line, where they must down a pint of craft beer to officially complete the race. The finish line party includes beer, food, bike demos and other vendors.

One change to the course this year involves a section where racers will ride about a mile along a dirt road near where the C.O.D. singletrack trail is closed during the week due to an ongoing U.S. Forest Service logging project.

“That will be an amazing passing zone,” Eastland says. “Because when they’re coming down Funner and C.O.D. and Storm King, it’s singletrack. But the second they hit that dirt road, it just opens up. It’ll be insane when they hit that road.”

Among other changes are a new big-air jump and a slightly relocated finish area. Tetherow recently redesigned the hill near its driving range, which was where the big-air jump had been located in previous races.

“So we’ve had to come up with our own X Games-style jump that’s all up top now,” Eastland says. “So right below the patio but on the main level where you tee off on the driving range is a full 90-foot-long jump set up, with a roll-in and a takeoff and a landing.”

Eastland explains that the field for the Blitz is set by invitation to riders who have raced in the event before. Most years, he adds a few other riders who learn of the race by word-of-mouth.

“I’ll talk to Adam (Craig) or whoever and they’ll recommend some people,” Eastland says. “Every year more pros hear about it and want to do it. It’s kind of something you put on your bucket list as a pro rider.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,