Here in the south of France the last vestiges of what has been a long and wet winter are beginning to subside, the birds are busying themselves with nest building and the mimosa is starting to flower and as we move into spring time our thoughts are channelled to those extreme sports more often assocaited with the summer. And so we bring news of what could be a great challenge for all you mountain bikers – particularly if you are based near the Catskill Mountains in New York State.
A group of mountain bike enthusiasts want to create a four-day race in the Catskill Mountains this summer, making use of some of the most challenging rides in the region. The 150-mile stage race would be called the Wildcat Epic.
Routes would include Minnewaska State Park, Mohonk Preserve and the Hunter Mountain and Cortina ski areas. One day of riding would ascend 2,900 feet to the top of Overlook Mountain near Woodstock.
Organizers are also planning a one-day race for adults and kids who aren’t up to a four-day epic ride.
“It’s going to be one of the biggest mountain biking events of the Northeast,” said Gunter Stilhaus, one of the co-organizers. Owner of a local outdoor Web site called Adventure Junction, Stilhaus, a South Africa native who now lives in Ulster County, is a professional race organizer. He’s joined forces with a company from Connecticut called Genesis Adventures, which produces triathlons and other endurances races.
A local doctor, who took part in a stage race in British Columbia last summer, knows that the difficulty of such races are not to be underestimated. Jessica Fleishman, an ophthalmologist who practices at Lasik Plus in Albany, started training for the BC Bike Race seven months early. Before the race in late June, she rode up to 15 hours a week.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said.
The seven-day race involves 500 kilometers of riding, climbing thousands of feet every day. Fleishman and her partner rode for eight hours a day. The race leaders rode for half that time. “That race improved my riding 500 percent,” she said. “It was like mountain biking boot camp.”
Such races are rare in the East, where large patches of wild space that allow mountain biking are hard to find.
But the Catskills is beginning to earn a name for itself for cycling events. The region is also home to the East Coast National Mountain Bike Race, held at Windham Mountain ski area in July, and the Tour of the Catskills Pro/Am Bike Race, a road race held in September.
“It’s all something we welcome with open arms,” said Daniela Marino, director of tourism for Greene County Tourism.
The Wildcat race would begin June 18. Entry costs start at $600, and would include some meals and transportation. All riders must have partners, who must stay together during the race. The race will also be videotaped. Competitors can watch race highlights at dinner each night.Officials are estimating from 200 to 600 racers will attend.
Race organizers expect the event will also help promote Ulster and Greene counties.
“They’ll have small towns begging to be included, just like the Tour de France,” said Pete Zimmer, a local mountain biker who is working with the organizers.
Zimmer is a member of the mountain bike club Fats in the Cats. Club members have built dozens of miles of mountain bike singletrack in the past few years. Some of their work will be featured in the race.
“We’ve got some world-class resources here,” Zimmer said.
Upcoming events planned for the Catskills this season:
- Race: Wildcat Epic. Bike: mountain. Venue: numerous trails in the Catskills. Dates: June 18-21
- Race: East Coast Nationals. Bike: mountain. Venue: Windham Mountain Resort. Date: mid-July
- Race: Tour of the Catskills Pro/Am. Bike: road. Venue: roads around the Catskills. Dates: Sept. 19-20
We are most grateful to Alan Weschler of timesunion.com for bringing us this story and to 1speeder whose video below shows what a beautiful place the Catskill Mountains are to go mountain bike riding and the trails look to be a great challenge. This Wilcat Epic is certainly going to attract the crowds.