The Mountain Sports Festival has a biking event for everyone who wants to be involved in its Ski Country Sports Cycling Weekend, from casual riders to hill-climbing maniacs and interested observers. And they do mean everyone: This year, you don’t have to be a NORBA (National Off-Road Biking Association) member to compete.
“Last year, we were part of a statewide series,” reports A.J. Nidek, director of operations for MAK Promotions, which is organizing the biking events. “But we decided not to [do] that this time. because there is a big event in Alabama that weekend that takes away a lot of professional riders.
“We’re still fully insured,” he notes, “but this way we open the events to more people.
“Cycling has always been big in Asheville, and the community’s always been supportive of it,” Nidek adds. “I’ve been getting calls and e-mails like crazy — if that’s any indication, we should max out for all of the biking events.”
[A downtown obstacle course (presented by Cane Creek Cycling Components, Specialized Bicycles, Park Ridge Home Health, Dirt Rag and Pro Bikes), noon on Saturday, June 7 at the festival center at City/County Plaza in downtown Asheville.]
Pro Bikes owner Fred Schuldt designed the street course for the Urban Sprawl, a free-ride, X-Games-style obstacle course for riders.
“Last year, we only had 20 [competitors in the free ride] because we placed a bunch of restrictions on entry — it was more of an exhibition event,” he reports.
This year, Schuldt is hoping for 75 people to take part. “But we’d be happy to get 50 competitors,” he says.
Those who recall last year’s 20-step stair set may — or may not — be disappointed that it’s not in this year’s course, which Schuldt describes as “slightly toned down” to suit the needs of nonprofessional competitors. Still, the course will have “lots of obstacles and ramps scattered around,” he promises. “There will be jumps as a centerpiece, with other stuff set up around them: elevated bridges and manmade wall rides.”
The first section of Saturday’s two-part Urban Sprawl is a street competition for mountain-bike riders — though there’s also a 20-inch (BMX bike) category.
“This portion of the event will be judged on creativity, flow, style, magnitude [how high the riders can go], and ‘bag of tricks,'” says Schuldt.
“There are very talented people out there who can throw all kinds of tricks,” he declares.
Riders, he reports, “get 1.5 minutes plus 30 seconds” to ride.
“They take a look at the course and pick the parts they want to do,” he explains, noting that different riders will concentrate on different portions. “Some will do the edges and try to be real creative — they won’t want to do exactly what the guy before them did.”
Although the riders will compete one at a time in the first section (which starts at noon and is expected to take about three hours to complete), they’ll go head-to-head in the speed-trials portion of the course.
“Each rider will be competing with someone who is similar in skill level,” Schuldt explains.
Bio Wheels will conduct a riding clinic 3-4 p.m. at the same location. Topics will include bike safety, riding etiquette, and packing and carrying gear safely.
Part two of the Urban Sprawl will start around 4 p.m.
This section, says Schuldt, will include “all the elements of the street course placed in a row.”
Riding two-by-two, competitors will encounter such obstacles as a car to be jumped, a teeter-totter, stairs and more, Schuldt reveals. And this time around, the riders can’t pick and choose — they must complete the entire course, with participants who fall or miss something required to repeat that part.
Although time is important, finesse still plays a big role in this second event.
“Riders can get time bonuses for style rather than just brute speed,” notes Schuldt, adding that the same judges will work both parts of the Sprawl.
“You could conceivably win if you rode well but didn’t finish first,” he reveals.
Given the type of riding required, Urban Sprawl participants are required to wear safety gear.
“Helmets, elbow and knee pads, and gloves will be mandatory,” says Schuldt. “We’re working over pavement, and it doesn’t make sense to go out there and hurt ourselves.”
So how do you know if you’ve got what it takes to compete in the Urban Sprawl? Well, if you can’t tell a sub-box from a spine and you have no idea what a drop-to-grass tranny is, you should probably just sit this one out. And that’s perfectly OK with the organizers.
“We’ve geared [the Sprawl] towards the spectators, because it was such a hit from [their] standpoint last year,” says Schuldt.
Begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 7 at the festival center. Qualifiers from the first event will race the dual at 4 p.m. Entry fee: $25.
$1,000 cash to the top-three finishers.
Who to watch
Aaron Chase, Joe Haley (last year’s champ) and several other Southeast street rats.
Best viewing spots
Festival center, City/County Plaza.
The Town Mountain Cycling Hill Climb
[Race to the topside of town (presented by A2 Coaching and Hearns Cycling & Fitness), 6 p.m. on Friday, June 6 at the Allen Center.]
For some people, nothing beats jumping on a bike and cranking up a mountain. The Town Mountain Hill Climb was designed just for those folks.
This popular race is now in its 21st year, notes Nidek. Last year, about 90 people competed in the five-mile, uphill time trial; this year, organizers are expecting to draw their maximum 75 riders.
At the same time, Nidek stresses that the event isn’t for everyone.
So who should take part?
“It needs to be somebody who is on their bike two or three times a week,” Nidek observes. “It’s a five-mile [vertical] climb, so if you haven’t been on a bike since last year, don’t do it.”
Andy Applegate, president of A2 Coaching, competed in last year’s Climb and plans to ride again this year. The first mile is pretty gnarly, he notes, but the last four miles become less steep, averaging about a 5-percent grade.
“You have to be able to go as hard as you can for half an hour,” Applegate says.
“Anybody can compete — there’s nothing technical or confusing about it,” he maintains. “You’re racing against the clock.”
The first rider will be Michael McGauhey, a local cyclist known for his dedication to building trails and supporting the biking community.
And this year, local cyclists will have a chance to give something back to McGauhey, who’s battling cancer: He’ll receive a percentage of the proceeds from all Mountain Sports Festival biking events.
The starting area for the Town Mountain Cycling Hill Climb is located two blocks east of City/County Plaza, at the intersection of College Street and Town Mountain Road (Hwy. 694).
Race-day registration begins at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 6 at the starting area located at the intersection of College Street and Town Mountain Road (Hwy. 694).
3 deep in all categories.
Who to watch
Michael McGauhey (first rider) and Andy Applegate.
Best viewing spots
Along Town Mountain Road north of the I-240 bridge crossing.
Second Chance Time Trial
[A three-mile loop trail at the Alexander Mountain Bike Facility (presented by Liberty Bicycles), 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 7.]
The Alexander Mountain Bike Facility is the setting for the Second Chance Time Trial.
The mountain-bike event covers three miles of trail. Riders will do the loop, break for 20 minutes and then have another opportunity to try the loop again, says Nidek. The Second Chance Time Trial is a new event for this year’s Mountain Sports Festival, and Nidek expects 100 entrants, the maximum number for the race.
“Anybody could come off the couch and do [this race],” Nidek maintains. “And you don’t have to do it twice.”
From Asheville, take Hwy. 19/23 North to the UNCA exit. Turn left onto Riverside Drive/Hwy. 251 and travel about 6.5 miles. At the stop sign by the prison, continue straight (it’s a T-intersection, so bear left gently). Continue about five miles. Parking is on the left.
Saturday, June 7, 8 a.m.-noon at Alexander Mountain Bike Facility ($15).
3 deep in all categories.
For more info, visit http://webpages.charter.net/bikerace/index.html.
Bio Wheels Riding Clinic
3-4 p.m. on Saturday, June 7 at City/County Plaza.
5 p.m. on Friday, June 6 at City/County Plaza.