UPDATE: Register for the 2014 Dawg Dayz Race. Online is easier than standing in line on Saturday morning.
Years ago, the 3 Legged Dawg Mountain Bike Race was held at Burns Park in North Little Rock as part of a weekend festival which included an XTERRA race and other fun on the trails. Once the new mountain bike trails at Iron Mountain were opened, Fred Phillips of DLT Multisport moved the event to the new venue just outside Arkadelphia. The Iron Mountain trails have become ranked among some of the best in the state and being next to DeGray Lake, a perfect place for outdoor events.
The trails were the host location for two Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series events last year and both were well received but over this past fall and winter, new trails have been built that allowed Phillips to change the 3 Legged Dawg yet again. After riding them myself and listening to comments of other cyclists at the event this past Sunday, DLT Multisport has a winner of a cross country mountain bike course.
Ground zero for the event was farther away from the Lake this year, just a few hundred feet from the Caddo River bridge below the dam on Channel Road. A couple of large fields were used for parking and race festivities with the race start on the road and the finish alongside the festival area.
The course followed Channel Road, north for about a third of a mile before cutting into the woods on the left. This was a good way to separate racers before the singletrack as the road has substantial elevation gain before using the temporary trail to enter the woods. Once in the woods, cyclists were greeted with the real climb. This section of trail for the next mile and a half is designed for downhill racing and the climbs can be brutal on a humid day.
Once at the top, the course hits familiar trail as the middle of the course uses the same section that was used for this race last year. Racers try to find their legs again as they traverse a very rocky, flat section before crossing Skyline Drive. The next section is fast and flowy but the trail can be a little loose, finding a good line through the turns is key to maintaining speed. The trail eventually crosses Corps Road before climbing back up toward Skyline Drive. After a short fast bit of the older trail, riders are then dropped onto a new section again. This section is fast with well bermed turns but also a few technical surprises as the trail makes its way through several rock gardens.
At the bottom of the hill music could be heard from a live band entertaining racers and guests with a range of acoustic melodies and once around the final turn the crowd would scream for riders coming in. The smell of grilled burgers and hotdogs filled the air.
I saw all kinds of mileage reading on the course, most between 9 and 10 miles. Heavy foliage and cloud cover left many of our GPS units wanting. This was the end of the line for the CAT 3 racers. Others did two laps with CAT 1 men doing three. Those who continued on were able to re-enter the woods just past the finish line and take the trail back up to the top of the hill without getting back on the road. Those racers were also greeted with a little welcome rain during their race.
The race had a festive atmosphere with the folks from Phat Tire Bikes setting up a mini repair area and leading cyclists in some morning yoga before the race. If you get a chance to do this race next year, do it, but before then, get out and ride these trails. Word is that another new section will be added in the near future and that this area will be used for marathon races in the coming years. Thanks to DLT Multisport for putting on an excellent event. Results are available on the AMBCS website.