…the 24th Annual Northwest Arkansas Mountain Bike Championships.
When people visit Devil’s Den State Park, most think of three eras of history, the geologic history that created such a unique place with boulders the size of houses scattered around, the early American history with tales of outlaw hideouts in the caves in the area or the park history of the Civilian Conservation Corps building beautiful cabins, bridges and trails throughout the park. A more recent history of the park includes it as the birthplace of mountain bike festivals in Arkansas. Devil’s Den State Park has a long history of mountain biking, a subject which will one day get its own story here on Arkansas Outside.
The first cross country race at this year’s event was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. Many riders arrived in the early evening hours Friday to pre-ride the course and set up campsites but it rained Friday night. It a was rain a drought ravaged Northwest Arkansas needed but it would make for a lot of muddy laundry on Saturday night. It rained on and off throughout the night and into the morning. The trail was as ready as it could be for the rain, the clean trails allowing most of the rain to run off. Much work has been done on the trails during the last twelve months and they were in as good a shape as I have seen them.
The course traditionally takes the Fossil Flats trail clockwise starting at the northern tip of camping area A. Eventually racers cross Lee Creek and then head up Racer’s Hill for the reward of going down the other side and back onto Fossil Flats taking on the Gravity Cavity. The Gravity Cavity is a dirt half-pipe that can be a bit unnerving to anyone who hasn’t ridden it before but is easily traversed if the rider maintains momentum going in. Soon, racers cross Lee Creek again and head back into the campground and the finish line or another lap depending on the requirements for each category race.
CAT 3 Race
Category Three racers along with kids and Clydesdales started at 9 am by age group in this 6th race of the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series. The men would be doing two laps for about 11 miles, while women and junior classes would do one lap.
The geologic history of this area makes for both rolling hills and some very rocky terrain. It was the roots that were the most treacherous on mud covered tires. The driest part of the course was the creek bed.
CAT 2 and Singlespeed Race
At 11 am the Category Two men and Singlespeed racers took off for three laps of the 5.6 mile course. Category Two women did two laps. Parts of the course are on old road beds, reminiscent of the roads that brought stagecoaches through the area in the 1800′s. Legend has it that along with the travelers came robbers who found the caves in the area useful for hiding away.
CAT 1 and pro race
The Category One and Pro riders took off for four laps at 1 pm. One of the tougher parts of the race is the trail that rides above Lee Creek just before the Gravity Cavity. Because of the rain it was muddy and slippery with a lot of roots and a banked drop to the rocky creek bed, I heard of several mishaps along this area but no serious injuries. The racers fought it out throughout the afternoon with the front group staying very tight through the first three laps. At the finish it was Cooper Drummond pulling out the win.
Of course it’s fun to watch the kids come across the finish.
And about that Civilian Conservation Corps history? Well, the Trials riders competing throughout the rest of the afternoon were able to make good use of some of the cool rock work throughout the park.
The next race in the series is the Spring Hill Classic on October 7th near Fort Smith, Arkansas.
More photos available on SmugMug.