Midtown: Community

Mountain bikers conquer the Bushwhack race

Matt McGrain shivered under five layers of clothing as he waited for the 9:30 a.m. start of the Bushwhack Mountain Bike Adventure at Lake Crabtree on Feb. 12. The sun, filtering through bare tree branches, was warm, but the air temperature hovered in the 20s.

Despite the cold, McGrain, 33 was excited about kicking off the racing season on the 32-mile course around Lake Crabtree and Umstead Park.

He lives near downtown Raleigh and rides his mountain bike two or three times a week, even in winter. His focus on this day was not on speed; instead, he aimed to stay warm and have fun.

“My goal is to get in a good long ride in the cold and have a good time,” McGrain said. “This is a good way to start the season and brave the elements.”

Patrick Downie, 39, of Cary, represented Bushwhack Adventure Racing, the event sponsor. As he logged in the bikers and issued their racing bibs from the bed of a pick up truck, he shook his head. “In the middle of this mild winter, we would have to run this race on the one cold day of the year,” he said.

He was glad the winter chill was not cold enough to discourage 91 racers.

“The field sold out two weeks before the race, and that never happens,” said race director David Parsons, 28, of North Raleigh.

The race was limited to 100 cyclists with 20 relegated to a waiting list. According to the results page posted on the event’s website, only 11 racers were female.

“We need more women in biking. We represent fewer than 10 percent of bikers, Lori McDaniel complained as she pinned her racing bib onto her jacket.

McDaniel, 43, lives in downtown Raleigh and has different bicycles for different types of riding. For downtown cruising, she loves her simple bike with wheel fenders, handlebar basket and pedal brakes. She also has a road bike and a mountain bike.

McDaniel said she spends most of her two-wheeling excursions in the woods. She started road biking about 20 years ago, and a friend convinced her to hit the trails on a mountain bike.

“I resisted for a while, but a friend talked me into biking in the woods and it was exhilarating,” she said. “It is a great way to get away from the traffic and the crowds.”

The Bushwhack race took the bikers on three loops, starting and ending on the trails around Lake Crabtree, with a third loop through Umstead Park sandwiched in between.

When McDaniel registered, she thought the race was 22 miles, but when she arrived at the starting line, someone told her it was 32 miles.

“I have no idea how long it will take,” she said and laughed. “I don’t even know the actual distance.”

According to the posted results, she finished in just under four hours.

“It was fun,” she said. “I rode with a friend who was a first-time racer, and we took it slow and easy.”

Before starting, McGrain predicted he would finish in about 2-1/2 hours.

That prediction was right on target. He crossed the finish line in 2:20, still wearing all five layers of clothes.

A few hours later, at the party after the race, he was already sore.

“I tore it up out there, and left nothing on the trail,” he said.

For race organizers and spectators, the event ended in an exciting, nail-biting, photo finish.

Sam Barger of Carrboro, Adam Engell of Raleigh and Alex Hawkins of Chapel Hill recorded 2:07 finish times, and all three crossed the line within seconds of each other. Engell beat Hawkins by one second and Barger by two seconds.

Most of Bushwhack’s outings are adventure-style races involving mountain biking, trekking, paddling, swimming and navigation. The group’s next event is the Gleneagles Challenge on April 28 in New Hill, near Holly Springs.

For Parsons, the race director who lives near Umstead Park in Raleigh, biking is spiritual.

“When I’m on a bike, all I am focusing on is what I am doing at that very moment. It is one of the only sports I can think of when you are totally in the moment,” he said. “Biking is a beautiful thing for your soul.”

Notebook

Seated volleyball to be showcased: “Volleyball for All” is the theme for the Mid Atlantic Power League tournament March 10-11 at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Sponsored by the Triangle Volleyball Club, the MAPL Raleigh tournament will host 108 elite girls’ volleyball teams from New York to Georgia on 22 courts. The event will expose more than 3,000 student athletes, parents and spectators to sitting volleyball and other adaptive sports suitable for those with physical limitations.

The Triangle Volleyball Club has partnered with Bridge II Sports, a paralympic sports club based in Durham, to help promote sitting volleyball in the Triangle. Bridge II Sports will hold an adaptive sport expo at MAPL Raleigh offering hands-on demonstrations of adaptive sports including basketball, fencing, goal ball, hand cycling, kayaking and tennis.

The USA and Netherlands Women’s Paralympic Volleyball teams will be competing in four exhibition matches on MAPL Raleigh’s sitting volleyball center court throughout the tournament weekend. Both teams will compete at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London this summer. Following competition, members of Team USA and Team Netherlands will sign autographs. Exhibition matches are open to the public.

Hu finishes in top 12 at U.S. Skating Nationals: Jessica Hu, 16, of Raleigh took 11th place in the Junior Ladies Division of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, Calif. Jan. 22-29 according to the event website. Hu started her journey by finishing first in the Eastern Regional Championships in Aston, Penn., in October.

She went on to place third in the sectionals in Jamestown, N.Y., in November, which qualified her for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

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