As Freddie Mercury said, “Bicycle races are coming your way, so forget all your duties.”
Well, at least for one day.
More than 600 riders from all over the United States and Canada gathered at Greenbrier State Park on Sunday to race in the 10th annual Greenbrier Challenge.
The event was sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and organized by Potomac Velo Club.
According to the Potomac Velo Club website (www.potomacvelo.com), the course is 5.7 miles long, with various terrain that appeals to many mountain bikers.
“The terrain is real hard-based, real rocky, stable trails. It makes for a bumpy but natural race,” said Jim Carlson of Potomac Velo Club, the race’s promoter. “There’s some smooth runs as well. It’s a good combination. It’s picturesque. The racers love it.”
The Greenbrier Challenge is separated into four races, with Marathoners starting first, followed by Beginners and Juniors, Sport racers and Experts. The event has many different implications for all levels of competition.
“The Greenbrier Challenge is a nationally known points race to qualify for the USA Cycling Cross-Country Mountain Bike National Championships,” said Carlson. “It’s the first of four races in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship and it’s also the Maryland Championship race.
“For the Junior Series, they can get invites to camps that USA Cycling puts on. There are representatives from USA Cycling here today.”
While the chance for championship gold is a possibility, Sunday’s running theme was simple — the love of the sport.
“The terrain, the mountains, that’s something that we don’t have in South Jersey,” said Allen Vanneman of Pittsgrove, N.J., a rider for Mojo Bicycle Shop. “I’ve been doing this for about 15 years and I’ve hit all the races in the Mid-Atlantic, and I’m not stopping. It’s fun and it’s a great workout.”
“My husband Michael came out to support his team,” said Shawna Keller of Lancaster, Pa. “He does this quite a bit. He does it for the love of riding and he’s just out there to have fun. He likes the sport and he’s supporting his team.”
Racers who finished the Challenge came back dirty, sweaty and beaten up, but they couldn’t stop gushing about the course.
“It was a little more technical than I though it was going to be, but it was still fun,” said Callen Riggins, a rider for UMBC. “There’s everything — stream crossing, rocks, mud patches, people to pass you — it was great.”
“I winded myself on the first lap and I thought I was going to die, but I was alright on the second,” said Nick Greissner, Riggins’ teammate. “It was really rocky. The whole last downhill section was great, but the climbs were really hard.”
Some riders faced unexpected challenges.
“I lost my front brake,” said Steven Kim, another rider for UMBC. “I crashed on one rocky section, I reached for my front brake and nothing happened. It was really rough on my rigid, but it was still fun.”
Results of the Greenbrier Challenge will be posted on the Potomac Velo Club website within the next week.
Editor's note: This story was edited April 24, 2013, to add the event's sponsors in the fourth paragraph.