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Bikers turn out for Challenge at Mountwood

By Brett Dunlap

Special to the Times

VOLCANO — Although it ended up raining for a little bit during Sunday’s 2019 Marietta Brewing Co. Challenge at Mountwood, the weather did not dampen the spirits of the mountain bike riders who came out to challenge themselves on the course.

Around 175 mountain bikers of various skills and ages came to Mountwood Park on Sunday for the 24th annual race to take on some of the park’s 50 miles of trails, of which 26 miles are specifically geared for mountain biking. There were Expert, Sport and Beginner courses for different riders with the Expert course covering 22 miles, Sport covering 14 miles and Beginner covering 7 miles. They had riders who were kids to people in their 60s and 70s.

The race started at noon with the little bursts of rain starting around 2 p.m. Organizers said for most of the day it remained pretty dry and was still ideal for racing.

“We had a fantastic turnout for the day,” said race organizer Ryan Smith, president of the River Valley Mountain Bike Association. “The weather really did turn out nice for as rainy as it has been.

“We really lucked out with dry trails.”

Some changes were made to the course this year, including the new Sand Hill Trail built by volunteers with the RVMBA. Organizers wanted to include the new Pumphouse Trail, a flow trail, in this year’s race, but a scheduling conflict prevented it from being included.

Smith said it will be included in next year’s race.

The Challenge at Mountwood is race number 2 in the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association XC Series where participants earn points for the overall series.

Many riders of different skill sets had fun throughout the race.

Sunday was the first time Don Lahoda, of St. Albans, rode at Mountwood Park. He has been doing mountain biking for a year and competed in the Beginners class. He has always liked riding bikes, read up on the internet about mountain biking and decided to give it a go.

“I got hooked on it,” Lahoda said.

He is working his way up the skill levels and hopes to possibly compete in the Sports category next year.

“You have to start at the bottom and I have a long ways to go,” Lahoda said.

He commended the condition of the trails and the park as a whole.

“Everything was well maintained and the trails were in good shape,” Lahoda said. “I had a good time and that is what it is all about.

“I enjoyed it and I will be back.”

Felipe Cruz, of Curitiba, Brazil, and a student at Marietta College also competed in the Beginner class Sunday. He has friends at the Marietta Adventure Company who convinced him to race.

“It was really fun and very challenging,” Cruz said. “It was my first race ever.”

He used to ride a bike in Brazil. When he came to the U.S. he saw mountain biking was popular.

“I was curious about the sport and started doing it,” he said. “I got a bike and started doing the trails around Marietta.

“I got addicted to it.”

Cruz enjoyed the race so much he wants to continue with it.

“I love it so much and want to do it again,” he said.

This was the first time Tatiana Kayvulkima, of Cleveland, raced at Mountwood Park. A friend of hers competed in the Challenge at Mountwood race last year and convinced her to come and do it this year. She raced in the Sport class.

After the end of the race, she said she really enjoyed herself and the course.

“I loved it,” she said. “It was definitely an amazing space to hold the race.”

It started raining in the middle of the race which made things more difficult.

“It became slippery and challenging,” Kayvulkima said.

The trails became harder to pedal through and rocks she was riding over became more slippery.

“It was slowing everyone down I’m sure,” Kayvulkima said. “It added some excitement.”

Overall, she was glad she came.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “I definitely had a blast.”

Wyatt Rodgers, of Butler, Pa., raced in the Expert Class and had a good day.

“It was good,” he said “It was real fun and fast.

“It got a little sketchy when it started to rain, but it was a good race all and all.”

This was his second time at Mountwood, having raced before a couple of years back.

“It was a lot of fun that year so we decided to do it again,” Rodgers said.

He said the course had a lot of steep climbs.

“It was hard overall,” Rodgers said adding that is part of the challenge of mountain biking.

He was racing to get points for the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association series.

There was a kids event early in the day with young riders honing their skills riding over an assortment of obstacles in the non-competitive event.

The Marietta Brewing Company, the event’s title sponsor, provided a meal after the race for all the participants.

“They assisted in numerous ways to make this event a success,” Smith said. “We greatly appreciate their support.”

Smith commended the park as a “World-Class Venue” for the race and the work done by the River Valley Mountain Bike Association in maintaining the trails.

“The region has really grown into a mountain bike destination,” he said. “This event and its big turnout really shows how much riders enjoy coming here.”

Riders came in from many of the surrounding states and elsewhere for Sunday’s race.

“We hope everyone had a safe race and had fun,” Smith said. “It is always the luck of the draw with the weather. We are always wishing for good weather.

“(Sunday), we had the recipe for success and hopefully everyone leaves with a smile on their face.”

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