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By Zachary Adams, photos by A. E. Landes
Rain soaked saddles traveled along back country roads for miles upon miles to reach a hidden gem located pretty respectively far from any kind of “civilization”. The cars and trucks of bike racers packed tightly into a parking lot designed for horse trailers located in the lovely little State Park at Fowlers Hollow in Perry County Pennsylvania.
A small, hardy group rides these trails in Tuscarora State Forest, but a race has never been heard of in these parts. It caught some attention. So much so that the local ambulance self-dispatched itself to see what all the excitement was, and the district forester even came out to get a closer perspective on the day. What he saw was 140 smiling faces covered in mud.
The Tuscarora Mountain Bike Enduro, the series opener for the revered Mid-Atlantic Super Series, is a loop-based endurance race on a 6.6 mile track over double track and single track trails. With 944 feet of elevation per lap, it’s no joke. It’s a solid course on moderately rocky trails that starts off with the largest climb of the course followed by technical trail and a short steep climb dubly named “the Beast”.
After a week of beautiful, warm riding weather, the sky opened up and dumped as much rain as it could the night before the race in one mighty deluge: resulting in half off the course being a dark caldron of brown-black mud concealing the rocky contents of one wicked stew. After four hours of stirring around this gnarly pot o’ mud, racers kicked it up to get out for another lap before the four hour cut off (much like a 24-hour race format).
The Men’s Open race would be won year by one of Pittsburgh’s fast guys named Rob Spreng, racing for Dirty Harry’s. The Women’s Open race was dominated by Philadelphia’s Carolyn Popovic of Team CF, one of the best women’s racers in the Mid-Atlantic right now. The Masters 45+ race was won by Peter Phillips Jr. of Shirks 10. To complete the Pennsylvania sweep of the podium, Gerry Pflug of Salsa Cycles/NoTubes/Top Gear took the win in the Single Speed race.
“If given the choice between racing on a dry or muddy course, I will always choose a fast dry one. Not so much because I don’t like riding in the mud, but because I hate doing all the cleaning and bike maintenance that needs to be done after a muddy race," Pflug said. "But, I must say that racing in the mud at Tuscarora was a whole lot of fun, even if it did add a lot of extra clean-up time to my life.”
With some unrivaled vegetarian chili in their stomachs and custom awards in hand, racers prepared for long drive home. Undoubtedly many of those who raced would be standing in their back yards that evening washing away lingering mud from their bikes, their clothes, and their selves, but they would not wash away a great start to the 2012 MASS endurance series.
See the full results at midatlantictiming.com.
And you can see the full photo gallery by A. E. Landes Photography.