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Asheville's Mountain Sports Festival has grown into one of the city's most popular festivals. Last year, more than 15,000 people attended the multi-day happening, and organizers hope the action-packed weekend of outdoor sports-oriented events will be even more popular this year. With nearly a month's worth of activities packed into one party-like, music-filled weekend of fun, it's easy to be overwhelmed. Be sure to check out these exciting events:

Ballsy: MSF features some seriously hard-hitting but friendly competition for dodge-ball enthusiasts. Photo courtesy city of Asheville

Black Dome's Rock 2 Rock Trail Run

Trail running is quickly gaining attention as one of the most exciting and enjoyable ways to spend time out in the woods soaking up the sights and sounds of nature all while getting an incredible cardiovascular workout. The Rock 2 Rock Trail Run, sponsored by Black Dome, provides participants with a challenging course in a beautiful setting. The camaraderie and support of running with fellow trail runners should provide ample motivation to make the steep climbs and continue cruising through the lush forests and scenic wilderness of Camp Rockmont near Black Mountain.

Merrell Iron Kids Competition

Kids love to run, climb and have a good time. The Merrell Iron Kids Competition provides all of that and more for eager youngsters looking to test themselves during this multisport adventure race. The event is open to young athletes of all ages and will feature a sprint, a chin-up contest, a basketball shootout, and a scramble up a climbing wall. The event is spectator-friendly and offers a great opportunity to see future athletes in action.

Track Cycling Race at the Mellowdrome

One of the latest niche sports to storm the Asheville cycling scene is Night Racing on the Mellowdrome at Carrier Park. The old speedway that formerly featured fossil-fuel-burning race cars is now home to a horde of pedal-powered speed demons who like to incorporate a little competition into their cycling workouts. Normally held under the lights on Wednesday nights, race organizers opted to move the event to Friday night so that attendees to the Mountain Sports Festival could cheer the participants on with a bit of Asheville-style fervor.

Richmond Hill Urban Mountain Bike Race

New for 2010, the Richmond Hill Urban Mountain Bike Race will combine a grueling sprint down the greenway, a challenging climb up the pavement to Richmond Hill Park, and a couple of laps through the woods at Richmond Hill Park on some of Asheville's most technical single-track trails before ripping it back to the Festival Village for what is sure to be an exciting finish. 

Wheel Ride for Food Century Ride

Participants of this event help fight hunger by cranking out either a century ride (100 miles), metric century ride (in this race, 65 miles) or half metric century ride (about 32 miles) on some of Asheville's most scenic roadways. In the last two years, the Wheel Ride for Life Century Ride raised more than $30,000 to help feed those in need in Asheville through the Meals on Wheels program. 

Disc golf clinics and competitions

By merging Frisbee tossing, friendly competition, and a bit of strenuous hiking through a beautiful forest setting, disc golf has become one of Asheville's most popular pastimes. This year, multiple clinics and events will be held at Festival Park aimed at helping disc golfers hone their skills and compete against one another. On Friday night, Festival Park will host a putting competition. Saturday's competition at nearby Richmond Hill Park will allow participants to battle it out on the course for cash prizes. On Sunday, four professionals will be chosen to participate in a game of Urban Skins a competition that takes the disc golfers on a tour of downtown Asheville that will transform the urban environment into a challenging 18-hole course. Be on the lookout for the huge crowd of spectators following this event on Sunday. 

Climbing clinics, demos, and a competition

The Festival Village will feature a free climbing tower with climbing clinics, shoe demos, and more provided by Fox Mountain Guides throughout the weekend. On Saturday, ClimbMax Climbing Center will host BoulderMax, an indoor bouldering competition that will pit participants against a variety of freshly set routes for a chance to win cash prizes. 

Fly fishing clinics

Trout Unlimited will present fly-fishing clinics throughout the weekend at Festival Village. A series of clinics by experienced anglers will provide helpful tips on casting techniques, water reading and fish finding, as well as an ongoing fly-tying demonstration at the Trout Unlimited tent.

Adventure Triathlon

For years, the Riverlink Triathlon was a popular event that drew athletes from all over the country to test themselves on and near the French Broad River.  This year, the contest returns to Asheville with a slightly different format. The event will kick off at the Festival Village at 5 p.m. when these multisport athletes sprint a half mile to the river, paddle 2.5 miles to Jean Webb Park, bike an 11-mile loop down Riverside Drive, and then break into a 2.9-mile run back to Festival Village. 

Diamond Brand Outdoors Attainment Race on the French Broad

Paddlers are encouraged to come out and participate in this river race that challenges boaters and tests their river skills as they attempt to paddle upstream through the rocky waters of the Ledges Whitewater Park on the French Broad. Paddlers will compete in two categories for a variety of prizes in the Diamond Brand-sponsored event at noon on Saturday. Spectators can cheer on the participants as they push themselves to go against the flow.

All races and events offer pre-registration. Demonstrations and clinics, however, are first-come, first-serve, so plan on arriving early. For more information visit: www.mountainsportsfestival.com.

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