Sweltering heat, rocky trails, thunderstorms, flat tires, and crashes. The Bear Creek trails have had a long reputation of being one of the toughest in the region, and this past weekend, the East Coast got to share its technical rocky, rooty, twisty, steep, and sometimes muddy trails with the nation at the US Cross County Mountain Bike National Championships that took place June 18 to 21 at Bear Creek Resort in Macungie, PA.
The four days of racing started out with the Cat 2 and 3 races on Thursday July 18. Jay Korff and Brad Hawk took the line for the Bike Lane in the Cat 2 race. By their late morning start time, temperatures were already in the 90’s with a heat index of over 100. Jay and Brad took off solidy in the top 10 of their respective age groups. As Jay was fighting for 5th place, he took a bad crash towards the end of his first lap. He whacked his head pretty hard, finished out the lap, but had to call it a day as the crash resulted in a throbbing headache.
Brad was racing well in 5th place, but his back wheel was losing air. After a problem with flats at a previous race, he was borrowing a wheel. Not wanting to destroy his friend’s wheel on the rocks, he stopped for air and lost 2 places. Brad finished in seventh place out of one of the largest Cat 2 fields of the day.
The Masters and the Junior races went off on Friday. Mid-way through the Master’s race it started to thunderstorm. It stormed again later than night, making for some interesting conditions for the Men’s Cat 1 race at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Slippery rocks brutalized the field and resulted in a unusually high DNF rate. The course dried out a bit by the Women’s Cat 1 10:30 start time, but there were still a number of slippery spots and the course was getting rougher through the morning. Karen Talley Mead took the start for the Women’s Cat 1 30-34. A crash in the heckle pit slowed her down on lap 2, but she still managed to finish out the lap and the race.
If you didn’t make it out to race or spectate at nationals this year, put it on your calendar for next year. Many of the pros commented that they have never seen crowds in the US like they saw at Bear Creek. And the crowds were not only there for the pro races, they were there for everyone. They were there on the top of the mountain, cheering, heckling, hula-hooping, and helping downed riders. Georgia Gould said that she wanted to ride another lap of the course, just to go by the crowd at the top one more time. Pros even came out to watch the Cat 1/2/3 races and support their friends and the community.
Having this event so close to home could be a once in a lifetime event. But to make sure that it is not, mark your calendar for next year, support your sport, and show the rest of the country that the East Cost is real mountain biking. Tell your friends and riding buddies and make 2014 an even bigger party.