Before Sunday, Stephanie Beall of Atlanta had not only never ridden the bike trail at Lake Tobesofkee’s Arrowhead Park, but she had also not competed in a mountain bike race.
“This is my first race ever,” she said shortly before her race began. “I was going to come and watch, but at 10 p.m. last night, I decided to try it.”
Beall had one thing in common with many of the veteran mountain bikers who competed in the Georgia State Championship Series event -- until Sunday, no one had competed on Arrowhead’s rebuilt bike trail in an organized race since the Mother’s Day tornado of 2008.
Before that storm, there were plenty of races at the site. But fallen trees took out much of the trail after the storm.
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The Ocmulgee Mountain Bike Association landed a $91,500 grant in September 2010 that helped rebuild about 6.7 miles of trails at Arrowhead.
Not only did the group have the new trail designed, but it also was able to use heavy equipment to create much of the trail rather than do it by hand.
“A lot of people here remember the old trail, and they’re excited at how it’s been fixed up,” said Jeff Clayton, a member of the local mountain bike association. “I’d say it’s a definite improvement. This trail is a mix of art and science. The trail was designed, and this time it was more carefully thought up. We saved the best stuff from the old trail. And, there’s still room and plans to extend it even further.”
Eddie Wimberly, another member of the group, said the new trail is reminiscent of the previous one, but also an improved version.
“The character of the (old) trail is here,” he said. “Obviously, parts are different. There are different routes because of where the trees went down (during the storm). I think it’s better than the original trail.”
Dave Berger, the race director for the Georgia State Championship, said Macon used to be part of the circuit before the Mother’s Day tornado, and he is glad to have it as the fifth stop in the six-event series.
However, Berger said he hopes to schedule future races in Macon at a different time of the year. Because of the July Fourth holiday and extreme heat for the past couple of weeks, Berger said, only about 150 racers participated in Sunday’s event.
“It’s taken its toll,” he said.
Still, there were a wide range of competitors Sunday, both novice and experienced. Berger said the range of competitors goes from as young as 3 to racers in their 60s.
“We have 22 different classes based on skill and age group,” he said.
Beall said she walked the course before she competed to try to get a feel for it.
“I’m a little nervous, a little excited,” she said. “I’m going to treat it like any other ride, only faster.”
For more information about the Ocmulgee Mountain Bike Association, visit their website at www.sorbaomba.org.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.