Cyclists rise to challenge at Mountwood

VOLCANO – Cyclists in the 18th annual Simonton Windows Challenge at Mountwood were greeted Sunday with good weather and a challenging course that many said made the race enjoyable.

Around 250 participants rode the trails at Mountwood Park during the annual mountain bike race taking advantage of the park’s 50 miles of trails, around 26 miles of which are geared for mountain biking.

“It has been awesome,” said Duane Jones, race director with the River City Mountain Bike Association for the Challenge at Mountwood. “It is better than last year. We could not have asked for better weather. That is three years in a row we have had outstanding weather.”

Initial weather reports had called for rain, on and off throughout the weekend, but it held off making for perfect conditions out on the trail.

“These trails drain so well,” Jones said. “If it had quit raining Friday or Saturday, we still would have had good trails today.”

The race included different classes. Expert riders raced 20 miles, Sport riders raced 14 miles and Novice riders raced 8 miles.

With suggestions from riders last year, some of the courses were tightened up with new sections of trails included, Jones said. With the good conditions Sunday, racers were able to complete the course in good time, he said.

“They are riding some different trails so it is whole different course for them this year,” he said.

Riders came from Indiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and Tennessee. In addition to Simonton, other sponsors included Parkersburg Bicycle and the Marietta Adventure Co.

Sunday’s event was the opening race for the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association Points Series and the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series.

“We have Ohio riders and West Virginia riders competing against each other, but they are still getting their classification points in each series,” Jones said.

Riders had a good time Sunday.

“They loved the trails,” Jones said. “We have been told by the riders, even some of the expert riders, that these are the best trails they have riden in the state. They are fast and smooth. They have some technical spots, nice fast downhills, some nice climbs and there is a good overall of everything. They really like that.”

Dave Brown of Wayne, W.Va., got to share his enjoyment with his son, Chance.

“The course was great,” Dave Brown said. “It was a beautiful day to be out. I brought my kid out for his first bicycle race today. I wanted to pass it on and get the younger generation into it.”

Chance Brown, 12, who participated in the Beginners class, said the course was “good and easy.”

“The course was really dry and awesome,” he said, adding mud or a lot of dust can impact a ride negatively.

Chance Brown said he is planning to continue with mountain bike racing, doing other races and coming back to the Challenge At Mountwood in the future.

“It is awesome,” he said. “I am going to stick with it.”

Dave Brown had participated in the Challenge at Mountwood two other times.

“It was a lot faster today,” he said. “The dirt was perfect today.”

Tim Bonifant of Massillon, Ohio, also had a great time Sunday.

“Would you accept the word ‘awesome,”‘ he asked with a laugh. “Everything could not have been better. It was an awesome course, an awesome day and an awesome group of people.”

The trail conditions were great for him as well.

“You could go as fast as you could go,” Bonifant said.

Bonifant credited the volunteers with making the race a success being out on the trails keeping track of riders’ progress and making sure things went smoothly.

“They did a great job,” he said. “They made this happen. They were out there all over the place doing their thing. They make it more fun.”

This was the first time Jason Suppan of Orrville, Ohio, participated in the Challenge At Mountwood.

It was a tough race for him and he hoped he would have done better.

“It is early in the season and I had some tightness in the back,” Suppan said. “It was not my best race, but I had a lot of fun. This is a great course and they put on a fantastic race. It was definitely worth coming down for. West Virginia really knows how to put on a race.”

Brette Swarr of Walker is a regular mountain biker, but rode with the Beginner’s Class with her nephew.

“He finished,” she proudly said. “He didn’t complain once.”

Swarr thought the trails were excellent.

“The trails were amazing,” she said. “They were perfect. This year the weather was absolutely perfect and the trail conditions were perfect. They were fast and fun.”

Swarr was glad to see a wide age range participating from older riders to young kids.

“We are seeing a lot more families and kids participating,” she said.

Jones was happy with the turnout.

“It is good to see the young riders out,” he said. “It is good to see so many people who want to do this and stay active. Everyone seems to like the race. We hope to keep it going.”