LOUDONVILLE — For the riders participating in the Mohican MTB 100 mountain bike race, finishing times and final results didn’t carry the normal gravitas.
Just getting on the course was a win.
The event went off without a hitch on a sunny and cool Saturday morning. Several of the mud-flecked racers trickling across the finish line at Mohican Adventures Campground could be overheard thanking race director Ryan O’Dell for the opportunity to do what they love.
Many of the National Ultra Endurance Series races have been canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. O’Dell decided to go forward even though the Ohio Department of Natural Resources denied him a permit to utilize the 25-mile mountain bike trail in the Mohican State Park and adjoining Mohican Memorial State Forest.
Consequently, the course for Saturday’s event was shortened — the 100-mile race was actually 65 miles and the 100-kilometer race turned out to be closer to 50K — but participants didn’t seem to mind.
“I haven’t talked to a single person who wasn’t happy that we had the race here,” O’Dell said. “After two months of lockdown, we’ve got to think about not just people’s physical health but their mental health, too.
“When you get our here and you’re able to do something like this, it really clears your mind.”
The race was modified to adhere to Ohio’s current social distancing guidelines. The popular mass start through the streets of Loudonville was eliminated and in its place was a time trial-style start that sent small groups of riders onto the course every few minutes. Racers were encouraged not to linger near the finish line and O’Dell periodically reminded spectators that gatherings of 10 or more people were prohibited.
Additionally, aid stations were manned by only a handful of volunteers because of the pared-down race field. A volunteer medical team was on site so as not to burden the Loudonville Fire Department.
Earlier in the week, Loudonville fire chief Mike Carey raised concerns about his department’s ability to provide logistical support for the race during an ongoing health crisis.
“Chief Carey’s greatest concern was that we might put pressure on his department and we took that seriously,” O’Dell said. “We had a doctor here today and EMTs and nurses at all of our aid stations. To my knowledge we had no serious injuries and I don’t even think we’ve had any scrapes and bruises.”
As for the race itself, the competition in the marquee men’s open division was fierce. Two-time Olympian Tinker Juarez of California finished fourth in 4 hours, 23 minutes and 33 seconds and was one of three riders to finish within 4 seconds of one another during a sprint to the finish line.
“The three of us rode it all the way to the end,” the affable 59-year-old Juarez said. “I didn’t have the legs to outsprint the young guys but it was fun battling with them.”
Logan Kasper won the open in 4:09:55, while Jorden Wakeley was second in 4:22:03. Scotty Albaugh was third in 4:23.30, followed by Juarez and Alex Tenelshof (4:23.34).
O’Dell hopes Saturday’s event will serve as a model for other races across the country.
“We’re going to evaluate what we did and I’ll talk to our captains and take a look at our mitigation plan again and see if there’s anything we could have done better,” he said. “I’ll be sharing that with race directors all across the country so they have some sort of blueprint for how to get their races open.”