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.
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.
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.
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.
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.