Armed with tents, headlights, sleeping bags, bicycles and maybe even some beer, hundreds of bicycle enthusiasts and their families kicked off a weekend of camping and bicycle riding Saturday at Riverside State Park.
The 24-hour “Round the Clock” bike competition, in which participants compete for prizes and bragging rights, began at noon Saturday.
“It’s kind of like the Woodstock of mountain biking, really,” race Director Wendy Zupan Bailey said.
The competition, in which racers can ride solo or join teams of up to 10 and race relay-style, consists of a 14.5-mile loop.
Zupan Bailey said solo riders who are competing for the top spot often ride the full 24 hours without sleep.
“The top contenders don’t (stop),” she said. “Some of the solos take a nap, depending on how competitive they are.”
The race, now in its 12th year, offers something for everyone, competitive or not. Some riders strive for the top prizes, some ride just for fun and others come for the camping and camaraderie.
“For the most part, it is a fun, family environment,” said solo racer Joshua Raybell, 37, of Coeur d’Alene. “Friends, family, camping and mountain biking. How could it get any better?”
While Raybell is racing solo, he said he wouldn’t get through the grueling 24-hour ride without the support of his wife, who, luckily for him, is a massage therapist. “She keeps me well-nourished,” he said. “She’s the team support.”
The race is followed by a shorter children’s race today, in which about 100 kids participate. Raybell’s 5-year-old and 2-year-old will be among them. “They love it,” he said.
This year, a record 850 people signed up for the race, Zupan Bailey said. Most people come from throughout the Northwest, but some come from as far away as the Midwest. She said the race has grown each year. “It’s about 100 riders a year (more),” she said.
Prizes are awarded in a number of categories. The top male and female finishers receive a cash prize, and the top teams in each category get jerseys and wine.
Dan Tolley, 42, of Pasco, is competing for the second time on a team of 10 friends in the corporate category. “It’s not only the riding portion of it – it is a great course – it’s kind of like a giant camping trip with all your friends,” he said. “It’s a bunch of fun. It’s just kind of like a big festival-type atmosphere.”
Tolley said that while he plans to have fun, he also wants to land good lap times. “It’s competition with the other riders, but it’s a lot more (of a) competition with yourself,” he said.