This year we were able to cover and/or participate in all four races in the Arkansas Marathon Mountain Bike Series. First we had the Spa City 6 Hour race at Cedar Glades. Mountain bike racing legend Tinker Juarez won that one. Then we had the Ouachita Challenge out on the Womble and Ouachita trails. That was followed up by the Slobberknocker, which is only in it’s second year and a great event.
This weekend was the final and possibly the toughest of the four races, Syllamo’s Revenge. This race is coupled with the National Series Race, Syllamo’s Revenge 125K, part of the National Ultra Endurance Race Series which moves across the country. The race is about 75 miles long and started an hour before the 50 mile (part of the Arkansas Marathon Series). It was pretty cool to watch our local riders mingling in with many of the pros. As always, mountain bikers are a pretty friendly bunch and I enjoyed listening to stories from the course.
I also saw some old friends from Competitive Cyclist which recently moved headquarters from North Little Rock to Park City, Utah. The thin air must be working for them since they did well in the 50 mile race.
The race is held on the IMBA “Epic” trails at Syllamo just north of Mountain View, AR. This is a USDA Forest Service area in the Ozark Mountains. It’s rugged and rocky. The temperature at the bank in town said it was 72 degrees when I drove though town Saturday morning. By the time I left at 5 pm it was over 90.
Conditions on the course were dry and brushy. A new record was set for the 50 mile and it seems the fast pace took it’s toll on riders both from a technical riding standpoint and the heat of the day. I noticed a lot of DNF’s (Did Not Finish) from both races.
The race starts at the Blanchard Springs Campground and almost immediately goes up before getting onto the trails and heading counter-clockwise. A neutral start was employed until the racers were out of the campground. The first part of the course is very rocky, this is where the technical riders can excel. It’s also where most of the over-the-handlebar (endo) moments occur.
I waited for the riders on the White River Bluff trail about 14 miles into the 50 mile race. I was also able to get a lot of shots of the 125K riders here. The stories of blown tires didn’t rival those of the Ouachita Challenge and no one came through riding the rim but riders were already starting to look tired.
I stayed in this spot until most of the riders had come through. As I came out to the aid station I noticed a lot of racers resting and hiding in the shade. It was not even noon and already hot.
Back at the finish line (also in the campground) I met the race director Steve Parker. He had a crew there getting food ready and making sure everyone handling timing, awards and clean up were ready for the riders. One of the favored riders for the 125K, Christian Tanguy of Team CF, was being seen by medical personnel for a bad cut above his knee sustained early in the race.
I also found out that they had no photographer for the race so I decided to stick around and take photos at the finish and chat up a few of the serious cyclists. I saw some hardcore riders come in. Tired, dirty, sweaty and sometimes bloody. Within minutes most were smiling and telling “war” stories about the race. In all it looked like a tough race although there are several sections of the trail I’d like to ride. I haven’t been on the trail in a few years, I need to go back.
That series is over now and I’ll get the results up as soon as they are posted. Now it’s time to start the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series. First up will be the Battle for Townsend Ridge at Hobbs State Park – Natural Area near Rogers, AR. The plan is for your’s truly to race Cat 3 in that one. The insanity continues.
We have a ton of photos from both races on our Flickr Site. Feel free to download, print, share. You might even find a new profile photo for your Facebook page.