I don’t know which is more fun, cyclocross racing or mountain bike racing. It’s a toss-up for a late bloomer like me, but it doesn’t matter because they take place during different seasons. Spring is mountain bike racing, so break out whatever size or style of bike you have and come out every Wednesday evening through June and July.
We’re already halfway through the Wednesday Mountain Bike Race series Eric Ewing hosts at Riverside State Park (they continue until the end of June), but there’s still plenty of racing left. A different local bike shop sponsors each race, which can mean free food and/or drink for riders, paid race fees for juniors and prizes. There’s a mid-season party after the races on June 3 and an end-of-season party after the last race on June 24.
Race categories are divided by age. The junior divisions consist of 15-17 and 14 and under. Adults under 40 are scored separately from those over 40, quite likely to minimize the embarrassment for the younger ones. (Yes, I’m 40-plus.) Racers also have the option of doing one or two laps. I highly recommend you get your money’s worth and do two. The routes are different each week and the laps run anywhere from 6-10 miles. You get to have some fun, flush out some of that work stress and learn some of the trails in a jewel of a park that’s barely 20 minutes from downtown Spokane.
Registration starts at 5 p.m. and the racing starts at 6:30. It’s $20 per race for adults and $10 for 17 and under. You must have a Discover Pass for your vehicle ($30 per year or $10 a day) since this is a state park. The terrain is moderate with a combination of double and singletrack trails that beginners and the more experienced will enjoy. This is the tenth year of the series, and Ewing says this will be the first year that he enters a race and lets someone else keep score. Go Eric!
When the Wednesday Night Mountain Bike Race series finishes up at the end of June, the Five in July series at Farragut State Park between Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint begins. Bicycle Sales and Service of Coeur d’Alene and Two Wheeler Dealer in Hayden sponsor the races, which they use to raise money for the North Idaho men’s soccer team. The soccer players help at registration, and they flip burgers and serve them up after each race. The entry fee, which includes the after-race meal, and all donations go to the soccer program. There are players on the team from Spokane, Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene. (The team made it to the NWAC finals last year.)
The Five in July races are held every Wednesday in July at Farragut State Park by the tall water tower across from the Park Headquarters. (Follow the signs.) The course is approximately 8 miles long and about 90 percent singletrack. Again, you have the option of one or two laps. There’s a voice in your head saying, “Do two laps. Do two laps.” Listen to that voice. It’s the voice that wants you to have the most fun.
The cost is $20 a night or you can enter all five for $80 on the first night. You also need an Idaho State Park pass, which is $40 for the year or $5 each day. (You can buy one at registration.) The two-lap race begins at 6:30 p.m. and the single-lap racers start 10 minutes later. A few minutes after that, there’s a free race for kids ages 12 and under. Their race is about two miles long. The terrain at Farragut is very moderate and perfect for beginners and experts alike. The courses are much more winding singletrack than Riverside, and they vary every week.
Five in July has five-member team divisions along with single racers, and the women have the most competitive teams. The first three score by their position, and then the other two try to finish ahead of their competitors. The scoring is like cross-country running where the low score wins.
At the end of the races, the kids get some swag from the bike shops each week, and the adult category winners get a little something as well. Awards and mealtime are wrapped up by 8:30 p.m. This is a family-oriented event that offers everybody in the car an opportunity to have a race story to tell on the way home. It looks like your next nine Wednesdays are booked up, right? See you at the races. //