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SCHOOL CLOSINGS

Mountain bike national championships return to Bear Creek this weekend

The slopes at Bear Creek Mountain Resort are usually deserted this time of year.

Not so this weekend.

For the second straight year the ski area outside of Macungie in Longswamp Township will host the USA Cycling Cross-Country Mountain Bike National Championships beginning Thursday and running through Sunday afternoon.

More than 60 championships in cross-country, short track cross-country and the Super D will be determined, along with automatic World Championship team nominations for men's and women's 17-18 juniors, U-23 and elite winners.

Around 1,500 competitors of all ages took on the mountain over the four-day event last summer in the first cross country nationals held in the East since 2008. Organizers are expecting a similar turnout this weekend. There is no admission charge.

Competition is broken down by age groups ranging from 10 years old to 70 and over, and including all skill levels of riders including the pros who will compete on Saturday and Sunday.

The pro women and men will cap Saturday's action with their respective cross-country races at 2 and 4 p.m., respectively.

The men's and women's Super D, a timed downhill event, kicks off Sunday's schedule at 9 a.m., and the pro short track female and male races cap the weekend at 3 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Sunday, respectively.

Amateurs in all age levels take on the cross country course throughout Thursday and Friday, and most of the day Saturday.

Four courses — amateur cross-country, pro cross-country, Super D and short track — have been laid out over the mountain. The pro cross country trail follows switchback roads up the mountain that date back to the site's beginnings as the Rittenhouse Gap mines in the mid-1800s, with rocky technical sections that require power, skill and technique on the ascents as well as the descents.

The pro course also features the mountain's signature, a rock drop, plus a triple-log crossing and a rock jump just before the finish.

The amateur course runs just short of seven miles and includes many of the same features.

Lea Davison of Jericho, Vt., a 2012 Olympian, dominated the pro women last year by winning both the cross country and short track. Teal Stetson-Lee of Reno, Nev., captured the Super D downhill title.

For the men, Olympian Todd Wells of Durango, Colo. (short track); Seamus Powell of Round Top, N.Y., (Super D), and Stephen Ettinger of Bozeman, Mont. (cross country), took home the gold.

The weekend also includes other events kicking off with the Strider Cross and Kids World Championships at 7 p.m. Thursday in the base area. The event is free to all kids with no age limit and prizes will be awarded to all racers.

The weekend also includes a Bike Expo each day, a trivia contest from 8-to-10 p.m. Thursday, live music from the James Supra Blues Band on Saturday beginning at 7:30 p.m. followed by fireworks at 10 p.m.

The complete racing schedule can be found at https://www.usacycling.org/myusac/include/cms/schedule/index.php?mode=view&permit=2014-10.

For more information, call the resort at 610-682-7100.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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