An expert class racer bumps over obstacles rocky, tree-lined
Wayne White | Managing Editor
MELVERN—Whirring and clacking, low-hanging leaves and branches
slapping helmets, arms and legs, about 30 mountain bikers sped and
bounced through trails along the Marais des Cygnes River Sunday.
The riders were competitors in the first mountain bike race hosted
by Melvern at the Riverside Trail and Park.
Experts in the race rode a total of 16 miles along the grueling
and challenging racecourse laid out by organizers from High Gear
Cyclery, in Emporia. But, surprisingly, most riders were smiling
after making their laps around the course.
According to Lelan Dains, race director, the smiles were the result
of challenges riders faced during the race and the fun of riding
“All of the racers commented on how much they enjoyed it and
found it very challenging,” Dains said after Sunday’s
“Mostly it was because of how the trail was laid out,”
he said. “The trail’s design is what sets it apart.
The features within it make it very good for racing – a lot
of rocks and lots of technical spots.”
The race began at the gates of the park before descending into an
old quarry where riders tested the structural integrity of their
bikes going over boulders, up steep, rocky slopes, and through narrow
tunnels of native trees. Several riders tested their own structural
integrity. At least one rider crashed and flew over his handlebars
on the initial lap of the expert race, but quickly jumped up and
mounted before scrambling up a hill. Sixteen miles later, the same
rider crossed the finish line smiling and echoing other racers huffing
and puffing, “Great race!” and “Great course!”
as they finished the race.
“The guys who designed it knew what they were doing,”
The unsanctioned race was open to everyone and offered three classes
for expert, sport and beginner cyclists. Experts completed four
four-mile laps; sport racers finished three laps; beginners rode
two laps or eight miles.
“This day has been a long time coming for the Melvern group,”
said Sherry Davis, project coordinator of Kansas PRIDE Healthy Ecosystems-Healthy
Communities Program. “Melvern’s Riverfront Trail and
Park began as a water quality project to help the community protect
their local water resources.”
She said one of the community’s goals was to create access
to a water resource that would increase the public’s appreciation
of water quality for recreation while maintaining the integrity
of the natural area. The park also provides a healthy environment
for native wildlife and plants of the local ecosystem, she said.
Dains said the idea for a race came from the Melvern Friends of
the Trail, who approached the cycling store in Emporia about sponsoring
“The Friends of the Trail simply wanted more people out there
using their trail,” he said.
About 15 mountain bike races are held throughout Kansas during a
typical season, Dains said. There’s a good chance Melvern
will be the site of future races, he said.
“I anticipate this could be a yearly thing,” he said.
With the positive experience of Sunday’s race, plans are already
being made for next year’s race. A 5K run could be one added
event, he said.
Dains said he would encourage other cyclists to try Melvern’s
trails, which are open to everyone year round.
“Generally speaking about the trail, most people would be
surprised of what is there,” he said. “It’s worth
a drive out there.”
Hiking, fishing and bird watching are a few other recreational opportunities
available at the trails.
Expert Men 34 and under
First, Matt Brown, Emporia
Second, Garret Seacat, Emporia
Third, Dustin Burgardt, Emporia
Expert Men 35+
First, Justin Farmer, Kansas City
Second, John Wagoner, Salina
Third, Bobby Smith, Wichita
First, Kathy Riedy, Topeka
Second, Michelle Pettigrew, Wichita
Third, Leslie Gallagher, Holton
Sport Men 35+
First, Tom Athon
Second, Scott O’Mara, Emporia
Third, Elliott Rodda, Wichita
Sport Men 34 and under
First, Dustin Sopoci, Topeka
Second, Joel Dixon, Emporia
Third, Clint Herrman
Beginner Men 34 and under
First, Clay Lambert, Emporia
Second, Spencer Allen, Emporia
Third, Josh Gold, Emporia
First, Anne Marie Garret