As I sat in the woods, watching the autumn leaves falling gently on the trail,waiting on the racers to make their first climb up Heart Attack Hill, I couldn’t help but wish I was joining them on the climb. I took a pass on racing the last race of the year. I blew out my legs during an Adventure Race the day before (another story) and I was out of the points race anyway.
Cedar Glades Park near Hot Springs is one of the treasures of the Natural State. The trails have been groomed over years of work and riding. I can picture every turn, climb and beautiful descent in my head.
Attila the Hun Cross Country Mountain Bike Race follows pretty much the same course as the Spa City 6 Hour Marathon Series Race did last spring. The temperature felt about the same, too. Greeted by temperatures in the low to mid-thirty’s first thing in the morning, I knew that I would be shedding layers throughout the morning.
The course goes counter-clockwise starting with an open field section to help spread the racers out a little bit before they get into the singletrack. Entering the woods they drop down through a fast flowy section into some sharp turns and then head up Heart Attack Hill, a steep little climb that really gets the heart racing. Riders start to spread out a little more before hitting a short twisty piece on a section we used to call Triple Bypass for the three rolling hills that take riders across a bridge and into a short paved area and then up a rooty climb. A few twists and turns later, along with a couple of stream crossings and a muddy climb, along the edge of a pond lead to a gradual climb through the woods before hitting the switchbacks. The tight turns and constant ascent make this one of the tougher sections of the course. Once at the top racers have reached the highest elevation of the race. Then it’s time for a fast downhill along a sloping ridgeline where they really pick up speed and then suddenly they are thrust back into the woods for an uncompromising downhill switchback.
The rest of the course is tight and weaving with a couple of fast straight areas that are perfect for those inclined to pass other riders. Just before the finish the racers pass by a spectator area to the sound of cheers and cowbells before heading back into the woods for a short section where they will either head to the finish or go out for another lap. Each lap is a little over 10 miles long.
This event is always fun, the music is playing and there is good food at the finish to replenish the calories spent on the dirt. This year participants were treated to baked potatoes with a choice of toppings including chili, cheese, bacon and other goodness.
Even during the race there are moments to pause and enjoy the day. A tradition has developed for Attila over the years being the last race of the season, there is a “beer fairy” out on the course treating the racers to beer hand ups. Word has it that again this year, the beer fairy was greeting riders in a favorite spot at the top of Heart Attack Hill.
Arkansas Cycling and Fitness sponsored the Giant Women’s Bike Demo so women could try out some new wheels. The kids seemed to be having a blast on the pump track and everyone was enjoying telling stories, visiting and resting after the race.
All the fun was followed by the awards ceremony. It’s a long ceremony mainly due to the inclusion of awards for three events, the Marathon Series, The Attila race itself and The Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series. The awards wrap up to the end of the mountain bike racing season in Arkansas. Of course we still have some cyclocross races coming up and since the mountain bike riding season never ends around here I’m sure you’ll see plenty of riders if you are out on the trails. Besides, they’ve only got about four months to get ready for the return of the Marathon Mountain Biking Season.
We’ll have more on the awards and results soon. Check our Facebook Page for photos from the race.