Bumps fail to slow mountain bike race

CorrespondentFebruary 26, 2014 

  • A rising sport

    Mountain biking is flourishing in North Carolina in large part because of the generous climate and the mix of terrain. The number of riders has grown and bike manufacturers have responded with better technology, but because it takes place in the woods or remote areas, the sport is barely visible to most people.

    Trails are scattered throughout North Carolina and are found as far east as Wilmington. In the Triangle, there are trails for beginners at Lake Crabtree County Park and Harris Lake. With about 6 miles of trails, Legend Park in Clayton includes wooden structures to challenge riders.

    For those who want more, Beaver Dam State Recreation Area has 15 miles of trails. The New Light trail area contains some surprisingly rocky terrain for this area and is considered the most challenging. The community of mountain bikers is a welcoming one. In the Triangle, group rides are easy to find, and experienced riders always are helpful when it comes to questions on technique or equipment. By using local websites, visitors to the Triangle often find area riders to guide them on area trails.

    Trails usually are constructed by local volunteers and groups such as the Triangle Off-Road Cyclists club. TORC is a volunteer organization dedicated to ensuring the future of mountain biking in the Triangle area through the promotion of responsible riding, establishment and maintenance of mountain biking trails, and preservation of North Carolina’s natural resources.

    For those interested in group rides, races or volunteer opportunities related to off-road biking in the Triangle area, TORC’s website can be found at www.torc-nc.org.

The Beaver Dam/New Light mountain bike race had a rugged mix of trails but stayed on track throughout.

Managed by N.C. State Parks, the Beaver Dams trails are fast flowing with gorgeous views of the lake. With plenty of rocks and downed trees, the New Light trails are more rugged; one of its rock outcroppings, known as “The Gauntlet,” is a challenge to all riders. The New Light trail area is managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

The Beaver Dam/New Light race is part of a series of four races that serve as fundraisers, and virtually all of the money collected goes into developing and maintaining local trails.

David Housekeeper, vice president of Triangle Off-Road Cyclists and one of the racers, was pleased with how smoothly the Feb. 9 race was run.

“Trina Cook, Sarwat Khattak, Steve Rogers and many others did a great job organizing and overseeing this race,” he said. He also praised the Falls Lake Recreation Area staff, who were supportive and cheered on tired and cold racers.

The course was marked the day before. To help riders unfamiliar with the trails, volunteers drew arrows on the ground with flour, which dissipates quickly.

“We like to leave no trace,” Housekeeper said. On race day, marshals and volunteers headed out to significant junctions to guide or help riders. Seventy-five racers started on that cold morning.

Luke Vrouwenvelder was the first male to finish and completed the course in 2 hours, 37 minutes. Vrouwenvelder, a 2013 graduate of East Chapel Hill High, races as a professional and has accumulated an impressive list of finishes.

Despite never having ridden the New Light trail, Zdenka Worsham won the women’s division in 3:28. Worsham even found the time and energy to carry on conversations with other riders. And when she races, she always is kind to the volunteers.

“I like to say ‘thank you’ every time I pass them,” she said.

Housekeeper was pleased there were no injuries and few mechanical issues for the riders, saying, “We are always concerned with safety, and we even required the riders to use blinking red lights for the portion of road between the two trails.”

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