Though the snow has melted on the slopes of Pats Peak in Henniker, competition lingers as mountain bikers replace skiers and snowboarders on trails of varying difficulty, from Puff to Hurricane Glades, during the resort’s annual Mountain Bike Festival, happening Saturday, June 14, and Sunday, June 15.
Lori Rowell, the director of marketing and sales at Pats Peak and a long-time spectator of the festival, said the energy and intensity that the bikers bring sets the scene for this for this off-season event.
“A lot of the bikers really get into it,” she said in a phone interview. “[The bikers] come down through the woods and jump over rocks and bike over stumps. It’s amazing.”
This year, Pats Peak will be celebrating its 13th Mountain Bike Festival with three different events. Since its inception, the festival has featured a signature event called “24.12.6 Hours of Pats Peak.” This race tests bikers on how many times they can complete the 5.62 mile course in 6, 12, or 24 hours. The course starts at the ski lodge, travels around the different slope paths and up the mountain, totaling 873 feet of vertical climb. The final stretch is a downhill dash in the woods back to the ski resort.
Since the 24.12.6 is judged based on the number of laps bikers complete, bikers have the option after each lap of resting in a pit stop area, where they can fix up their bikes, replace flat tires, mess with the gears, etc. The riders can also stop for snacks or a nap if they choose or, if they’re on a team, they can tag themselves out and let the next racer on their team go. There are classes for solo riders, two-person, four-person, and five-person teams.
There is also the X-Country Challenge, which is held on the same course, but instead of riders competing for number of laps, they race to see who can finish the laps fastest. The race, which was adopted in 2009, has become a part of the “Root 66 series,” a series of cross-country mountain bike races throughout New England.
The third event is the “Downhill Thrill,” which became a part of the Eastern States Cup New England DH Cup USAC Regional Championship Series in 2009 as well. This course is a timed event that starts at the top of the mountain and runs right through the challenging Hurricane Glades. For all three events, there are three separate categories for amateurs, beginners and pros, as well as sub-categories for age groups, the youngest of which starts at 12 and climbs to 50+.
According to Rowell, the festival has seen participants from all over New England, but there are also a healthy amount of local people that come as well. Anyone who is licensed by USA Cycling, a national bicycling organization, can join in the races, or people can simply watch and take part in the lodge’s festivities at the lodge, which include live music and food vendors.
“There’s a lot of people who come and ride during prep-riding [on Saturday], and there’s also people who come just to watch the prep,” said Rowell. “There’s also camping on the property, so anyone can come and camp as well.”
Though the weekend festival generates the attention of mountain bikers, the course is actually free to ride for anyone looking to practice or for first-timers who need an excuse to get their feet on the pedals.
“[The mountain] is free to ride, but unfortunately there is no lift access,” Rowell said. “Especially before the race, we encourage people to ride it just to get a feel for it, but [the courses] are open all summer.”
As seen in the June 12, 2014 issue of the Hippo.