Team Big Bear Racing Returned to Temecula, California, This Past Weekend

Aaron Gwin and Tinker Juarez brought the star power to Vail Lake Resort

Brian McCulloch leads Tinker Juarez in the Pro Mens’s XC race. (Photo by Gavin Burke)

It was almost exactly a year ago when MBA headed out to Vail Lake Resort in Temecula, California, to photograph a major UCI cross-country race on a Sunday. When we got there, we learned that the race had been canceled the night before due to a COVID-19 shutdown of the event. The racers were sent home instead of being allowed to race last year.

Almost a year later, Tom Spiegel and his Team Big Bear Bear staff came back to Vail Lake this past weekend to hold their first  big event of 2021 in the same location.

For last year’s event, racers had come from as far away as Australia and Eastern Canada to earn the UCI points they needed to help them earn places on their nations’ Olympic teams. Sadly, all the racers were sent home last year without being able to race in the event, after the event was shut down on Saturday night.

Would the same thing happen in 2021?

Fortunately not.

The race took place this year.

Gavin Burke of Team Big Bear shared his report and photos of what happened this year:

“The weekend was a huge success: almost 500 Enduro racers, 300 Junior Racing League and around 450 regular cross-country riders attended, almost a year since our cancelled event. Aaron Gwynn took Enduro. It was a surprise to see him there. Maybe he was available and was itching to race? Also surprising (to me) was seeing Brian Lopes racing and winning the e-bike Enduro. He rode a Yamaha powered bike.

“Tom [Spiegel] related to me Brian McCulloch trying to drop Tinker during the race after getting a draft from a Cat 1 XC rider going up the long dirt road climb and putting 30 seconds into him, but almost instantly Tinker reeled him in and was sitting on his wheel again. I watched at multiple track locations for several laps and it looked like Tinker was marking him, as is his usual strategy. They were both putting in very fast laps, but at the finish it was Brian McCulloch by about 30 seconds and Tinker came in with fresh blood and dust on his arm evident of a spill. So close.

“Junior riders and families were impressed with the event and glad to be there. Their races were exciting for all.”

Tinker was able to pull ahead of McCulloch for a while, but he couldn’t hold him off long enough. Tinker would turn 60 years old four days later. (Photo by Gavin Burke)

The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Tinker (left) on the podium after he finished in second place in the pro class, in honor of his upcoming 60th birthday, which would happen four days later,  on March 4th. Brian McCulloch scored the win and Stuart Gonzalez took third place, but Tinker probably got the most attention. (Photo by Gavin Burke)

It was good to see the women racing, too.  (Photo by Gavin Burke)


Here’s Aaron Gwin’s share on his Facebook page after the  Pro Men’s Enduro race. That’s Gwin on the top step, with Trek’s Aiden Chapin taking second and Cole Picchiottino third.

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