Is the Red River Gorge ready for a one hundred mile mountain bike race? A lot of pieces have been moving into place. I think now more than ever the area is ready.
The winds are blowing more favorably for mountain biking. We have a new District Ranger in the Cumberland District of the Daniel Boone National Forest. He and his wife mountain bike. The Forest Service has hired a full time trails specialist for the DBNF. The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition is supportive and open to mountain biking development on their land in Lee County. Hollerwod Park is on the verge of opening in the four main Gorge counties. And finally, the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway is open and there is strong support for it to be a multiuse off road adventure route.
We are finally getting a local advocacy group—the Cave Run – Red River Gorge Mountain Bike Alliance. Statewide there is a push for more trails and more outdoor adventure events. Other nearby areas are getting a lot of attention like the Sugarcamp Mountain Trails and the Dawkins Line Rail Trail in Prestonsburg, the resurgence of mountain biking in the Morehead/Cave Run area, and new developments around London and Somerset. Eastern Kentucky is ripe for a mountain biking renaissance.
In the Gorge area we have some great local elected officials who are supportive of outdoor recreation. We have active tourism folks who are working hard to promote new events and whatever attractions we already have. And there is finally a small but determine local community of outdoor enthusiasts that just love the Gorge and the landscape around it.
There is a buzz about this race. People come to me and ask if I’ve heard about it. Word is getting back to Kentucky from other states that people are interested and looking forward to this. I have people demanding more information and I am doing my darnedest to get things in order to a point where I can share more details.
And why the Red? What makes it special from a long distance mountain biking standpoint? I’ve raced my mountain bike in three states. Most of my experience comes from the big mountains of Colorado, but I’ve also raced around some hills in Ohio, and I’ve ridden shorter events in Kentucky. While the Rocky Mountains are grand on a scale unlike anything in the east, and the unique challenges I’ve faced in the shallow hollows and farmland of Ohio have been memorable, the Red River Gorge region of Eastern Kentucky offers a rugged and unforgiving experience. The climbs are short but gut-wrenchingly steep. They come at you relentlessly. Our course will pass under towering cliffs, wind through the shadows of majestic trees, and pass over clear and fast moving streams. You might see natural sandstone arches. You’ll be challenged and tested over and over as you race for the finish. And there will be a unique challenge guarding the finish line of this race. It will be epic. It will be unforgettable.
The Red River Gorge is known among rock climbers as a place to test your endurance. The cliffs are overhanging and force climbers to train for anaerobic endurance. The Red River Gorge is going to become known by mountain bikers as an endurance mecca as well. Your legs will fail. Your lungs will burn. Your heart will pound. You will suffer long.