latest Double Oak Life magazine article – Skyway Epic and Bamacross
The August issue just arrived a few days ago in the mail. Though it got somewhat edited for use, below is what I submitted for those that don’t receive the magazine.
I recently participated in the second annual Skyway Epic mountain bike race in Sylacauga (ride report here), along with around 70 other riders, many from the Shelby County area. After crashing hard multiple times, getting lost twice (nobody’s fault but my own it turns out), and spending over six hours on my bike I knew I had to find out more about the creation of this race from organizer himself. Brent Marshall has been organizing Cyclocross races for several years, and last year he established the inaugural Skyway Epic mountain bike race.
#1: Brent, can you briefly explain what exactly the Skyway Epic is, and how you came up with the idea to organize such a race?
The Skyway Epic is a 60-mile mountain bike race, run on a mix of singletrack, 4-wheeler trails, forest service roads, and unimproved jeep trails. Climbing a total of 6,000 vertical feet, the race starts and ends at the boat launch area of Lake Howard in Sylacauga.
I came up with the idea for the Skyway Epic through my own experience racing similar events around the southeast. I knew we needed one in Alabama, but the trick was finding an area with the proper terrain and facilities. We have a lot of purpose-built mountain bike trails being developed and maintained in Alabama, but there is something about the feel of being in the backcountry that is hard to replace. Luckily I was able to hook up with members of the Cyclists of Greater Sylacauga, or COGS, who have a wealth of knowledge on all the trails and roads in the area.
#2: Are there any plans to continue to alter the route or to add additional mileage for future versions of the Skyway Epic? And how big would you like to see this race grow in the next five years in terms of racer attendance?
Right now the plan is to alter the route each year to showcase the vast network of trails in the forest, while keeping the mileage below 75. I would like to cap out at 150 riders within 5 years.
#3: You also organize a race series in the Fall and Winter called Bamacross. For the uninitiated, can you briefly explain what Cyclocross racing is?
Cyclocross is a short circuit race that typically traverses a mixture of dirt, pavement, grass, and mud, with most courses being around a mile long with lots of tight twists and turns. There are also “barriers”, which force the racers to dismount quickly, run over the barriers, and then remount to resume riding. Each course is unique and the racers don’t know exactly what to expect. The short course allows plenty of viewing/cheering/heckling opportunities for the spectators and this element makes up at least 75% of what makes cyclocross so special. A cyclocross bike can be thought of as modified road bike with knobby tires, though races can easily be run on mountain bikes as well.
The races take place from late September through January, typically at public parks, and are formed into a series in and around the Birmingham metro area. Racer attendance averages around 100 participants, many of whom live and/or work in the Shelby County and Dunnavant Valley areas.
More information can be found regarding Bamacross and the Skyway Epic at bamacross.com or by joining the Bamacross facebook group.