BOONSBORO—On a downhill section of the course, mountain bikers whizzed by, their bikes kicking out stones as the machines rounded a curve by Greenbrier State Park’s lake.
On a wooded hillside on another part of the course, riders pumped their pedals to make it up the steep terrain. One racer expressed exasperation as he experienced equipment failure.
Those were the scenes Sunday afternoon as about 500 mountain bike riders turned out in picture-perfect weather conditions to compete in the ninth Greenbrier Challenge.
This is where mountain biking is taken seriously.
To race in the event, some bikers must have a license from USA Cycling Mountain Bike, which sends top bike riders to the Olympics, said Tom Moore of the Potomac Velo Club, a local bicycle group that sponsored the event.
Racers in Sunday’s event competed in four categories, with pro being the top category, Moore said. Then there were three categories with category one being the highest skilled, followed by levels two and three, Moore said.
Each lap on Sunday’s course was 5.7 miles long and competitors in the pro category completed about five laps, Moore said.
Racers started their laps along the park’s lake, then followed the route’s path up the wooded hillside. The route then wound down by the lake’s dam and through some rough sections that included water and rocky terrain.
“You’ll see a couple guys come through with banged-up legs,” said Assistant Race Director Kyle Bondo.
“This is one of the bigger races,” said Moore, adding that the event is one of four qualifiers in the mid-Atlantic region for the national mountain bike championships. The championship races will be in Idaho this year and will move to Pennsylvania next year, Moore said.
Supporters of the riders sat along sections of the trail cheering them on as they went by. A large group of people relaxed around the starting line, where there also were food vendors, people who fixed bikes for free, and others who cleaned bikes and sold bike-cleaning products.
Retzer Cariaga of Spring Grove, Pa., was assessing his performance after a day of racing at the event. Cariaga said he completed seven laps in a marathon competition — which was his goal for the day — and he hopes to continue improving his time in future competitions.
Cariaga said mountain biking is a more recent interest for him, followed by road bicycling, which he started in 2004.
“There’s just more fun in mountain biking,” Cariaga said.
Stefan Schwarzkoph, 38, of Washington, D.C., said Sunday was the third time he competed in the Greenbrier Challenge.
Schwarzkoph said he likes the lake and the other surroundings at Greenbrier State Park as a backdrop for the event.
“It’s a nice break from city life,” Schwarzkoph said.