Monday, June 6, 2011

Stumbling across the Bluff Riders Charge

While out biking yesterday afternoon, I came across an odd scene on the Red Jacket Trail.

Now, I've ridden on that trail enough times where I kind of know what to expect. I can usually count on seeing crowd of dog walkers, a few runners, the occasional rollerblader and a steady stream of recreational cyclists. The nicer the day (and yesterday was beautiful), the higher the trail traffic.

But the traffic yesterday was even higher than normal. There was an inordinate number of mountain bikers decked out in racing gear, sporting bib numbers and riding on the trail with a "warming up for a race" look on their faces.

As it turns out, there was a good reason for this. Yesterday was the annual Bluff Riders Charge mountain bike race at Mount Kato, and close to 300 riders were on hand to test their mettle on the considerable trail system the ski resort has to offer.

I'm going to be brutally honest: I had no idea the race was going on and barely even knew that it even existed.

While I am a HUGE advocate of cycling and spend more time out on the trails than I'd care to admit, I haven't really gotten into mountain biking. This is mostly due to the fact that I don't own a mountain bike. If I tried to ride my road bike through the trails of Seven Mile Creek, it would probably fall apart faster than Vanilla Ice's music career.

But that shouldn't suggest that I don't have an appreciation for mountain biking. Far from it.
I think it's a wonderful activity that takes the exploration aspects of cycling to a whole new level. As a matter of fact, the first non-training wheels bike I ever owned was a 15-speed Schwinn mountain bike, and it lasted all the way through high school for me.

So with some time to kill before work, I decided to cut my ride short and watch some of the race. As luck would have it, I got there right as the elite racers were lining up at the starting line. After asking around, I found out that the elite riders would be doing five loops of the trails (trail map here) for a grand total of 23 miles. Most other races were four loops.

Once the race began, I followed a few spectators on some trails to find a good viewing spot for the race and came across a BRUTAL drop-off point in the race course. I remember asking the people around me "Wait, do they actually BIKE down that?!" as I contemplated whether or not I would be able to hike up it without mountain climbing gear.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera on me to help illustrate to capture the moment (photos on this post are actually from previous years racing), but I will say this about the particular spot I was viewing: It was a doozy. Even the elite riders were struggling with the drop-off, as a couple of them took a tumble down it and more than a few opted to simply walk their bike down the hill rather than risk it.

I wish I could've stayed long enough to see the finish of the race (the athleticism required to navigate those trails is truly a sight to see), but I had to get back to my apartment and get ready for work. Since I'm a big believer in giving my readers as much content to chew on as possible, here's a Bluff Riders Charge-related links to browse at your leisure:

I might have to start scouring the Internet for a mountain bike I can call my own. It looked like a lot of fun.

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