The Ugly Gnome Kicks off the Cross Country Season

Creek Crossing on the North Loop, deep in the Arkansas woods.

Creek Crossing on the North Loop, deep in the Arkansas woods.

The beginning of the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series, Cross Country season, was a little extra special this year. A new race with a new venue added some excitement and a personal connection made the event even more special. The Ugly Gnome Mountain Bike Race took place on the Enders Fault Trail at Woolly Hollow State Park near Greenbrier, Arkansas on Sunday. The weather was perfect, hovering in the upper 50’s just before race start, sunny skies with following highs in the 70’s.

Waiting to start.

Waiting to start.

The trail had been designed by myself and Darin Mitchell with Arkansas State Parks, grant money was available for the build and an outside contractor was hired to do most of the building. Mountain bike advocates from the local Central Arkansas Off-Road Group (COG) had been working on the trails for the past couple of years improving some turns, adding berms and planning a race. There work was extraordinary and by race day they had a beautiful venue for the first race of the season.

...and they're off!

…and they’re off!

The park staff had graciously allowed the building of some temporary trails and use of a portion of the Huckleberry hiking trail to make the loop work for a large event. This was a team effort and it paid off.

Gotta clear the pavement before hitting the woods.

Gotta clear the pavement before hitting the woods.

Of course, the event is about people, seeing old cycling friends in the familiar venue of a mountain bike race is one of the best ways to spend a beautiful day like this. Over 200 of our friends plus their families and other supporters showed up to participate. This trip was about the racing and the after party for Arkansas Outside so the photos presented here are screen grabs from the two video cameras I had on the bike. On a personal note, I blew myself up in the opening salvos of the race but regrouped and caught several in my age group during the second half of the race before experiencing a flat, leaving me with nursing the bike to the finish.

Jamming on the North Loop.

Jamming on the North Loop.

Despite my poor finish, this may have been the best day of racing I’ve experienced. For the first time I got to race on a trail that I was responsible for designing and building, I was impressed with the work that others had done to improve the trail and I was able to experience the joy of others using the trail. Also, that feeling of enjoying a beer while catching up with friends at the feed zone, the pavilion and the parking lot was priceless.

Results!

A dry creek crossing on the North Loop.

A dry creek crossing on the North Loop.

Trying to put some distance behind me.

Trying to put some distance behind me.

Coming off the North Loop.

Coming off the North Loop.

Creek Crossing to the South Loop.

Creek Crossing to the South Loop.

Climbing the South Loop, just before the fun starts.

Climbing the South Loop, just before the fun starts.

Rolling on the South Loop.

Rolling on the South Loop.

More rolling on the South Loop.

More rolling on the South Loop.

Even the Arkansas State Parks rolling patrol was there to lend a hand.

Even the Arkansas State Parks rolling patrol was there to lend a hand.

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Comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    The Ugly Gnome was a great event! Many thanks to all the groups who worked hard to make this a fun family event. Looking forward to coming back and enjoying these trails again.

  2. Steve Wilson says:

    Speaking for Woolly Hollow it was a great event and we hope they return next year.

    Park Supt. Steve Wilson

  3. Jeffry Heath says:

    I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised with the organization and punctuality of the event. I expected chaos. The race promoters did a fantastic job. I wish I could tell every single one face to face. Much kudos!!

  4. Susann Szmania says:

    The Ugly Gnome was a very well organized and fun event. Great to see so many parks employees out there–the park is beautiful and the trail was gorgeous and so well maintained. Thanks to all who made this race happen!

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