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Riding the last rays of sunlight

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | August 13, 2020 1:09 AM

Many newbies roll in finale of Wednesday night mountain biking series at Farragut

ATHOL — Kent Eggleston eyed the field of 27 cyclists in front of him, waiting in a long line for the start of their 6-mile, cross-country race Wednesday, and asked if they wanted to break into two groups.

“No,” came the answer without hesitation.

They were ready and anxious to roll.

“One group it is,” a smiling Eggleston said. “Boom.”

A minute later, they were off, pedaling fast and furious, the final of the Wednesday night mountain bike ride series at Farragut State Park that began July 15.

About 65 riders, rookies to veterans, 8 years old to 62, have been pushing the pace up and down hills, around sharp turns, through narrow trails and zipping along the flats.

The final night of the series, “Best of the Bunch,” featured good competition, camaraderie and awards. Parents pitched in to help with registration and results.

Most importantly, it introduced youth to mountain biking and the art of racing, a sport near and dear to the hearts of Eggleston, owner of Trek Bicycle Shop, and Mike Gaertner, owner of Vertical Earth bike shop. Both are sponsors.

The series benefits the Kootenai Composite, a youth cycling team of middle and high schoolers.

“It’s been working out great,” Gaertner said.

On a sunny, cool evening, the finale was all Eggleston hoped for.

“Lots of newbies on that last wave,” he said excitedly. “Where have they been?”

Wave starts gave riders on the two-lap, 12-mile course, and the one-lap riders, plenty of space to accommodate social distancing concerns, and a few wore masks.

While many sporting events have been canceled, the Wednesday night series stayed strong.

“This one is unique because you can be separate,” Eggleston said.

Luke Smith and Cody Rewinkle of the Silver Valley have enjoyed the Wednesday night race series.

“It’s pretty fun,” Rewinkle said. “You’ve got everything — hills, flats, curves, speed.”

Same for Smith.

“I just like racing and that they did all this,” he said.

Gaertner has been participating in the mountain bike series at Farragut since the ’90s. As both a cyclist and sponsor, he loves the challenge that comes with it.

“It’s super fun. Every night can be different,” he said. “You go back and forth, somebody’s feeling better one day than another. It’s fun to have a reason to push yourself out there.”

The series is free for those 17 and younger, as it encourages youth to be out active.

It’s working.

“Lots of new kids tonight,” said Eggleston, who has been involved nearly a decade.

That’s what he wants to see.

“The best thing is the kids getting involved in this sport,” he said.

Both he and Gaertner had praise for the young riders who took advantage of the chance to ride and race this season when it was canceled in surrounding areas due to COVID-19.

It’s not all fun and games. Some of the youth fought hard for top five finishes as they mixed it up with adults.

“We’re seeing that for the first time this year,” Eggleston said. “Local, young riders are very competitive in a fast race.”

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Kent Eggleston goes over instructions with riders at the start of the final night of the Wednesday night mountain biking series at Farragut State Park. (BILL BULEY/Press)

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Riders pedal away Wednesday night at Farragut State Park. (BILL BULEY/Press)

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Sam Sudweeks (578), and Bene Sudweeks (577) join the crowd at the Wednesday night mountain biking series at Farragut State Park. (BILL BULEY/Press)

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