Bikers of all ages and abilities to compete at Pats Peak in June

  • A biker races along trails at Pats Peak during a past Mountain Bike Festival. This year, the event officially begins on June 7 at 3 p.m. Courtesy of Pats Peak

  • Bikers on the trails at Pats Peak for the annual Mountain Bike Festival. —Pats Peak

  • Bikers on the trails at Pats Peak for the annual Mountain Bike Festival. Courtesy of Pats Peak

Monitor staff
Published: 6/3/2019 9:26:12 AM

For most, June means warm weather and the end of the school year, but at Pats Peak, June means something more: the annual Mountain Bike Festival that attracts several hundred riders from across New England for two days of racing. The festival has taken place at the beginning of the month for the past 18 years.

Presented in cooperation with S&W Sports and the Eastern Fat Tire Association, top bikers will compete in their respective races for several thousand dollars in cash and prizes.

This year, the event officially begins on June 7 at 3 p.m. when the campground opens at the Henniker ski resort. For those who wish to get in some practice before the signature 24-12-6 hour races, the course is available several weeks before the Saturday challenges.

Starting at 12 p.m. on June 8, bikers will compete alone or in teams of up to five on a diverse circuit course that includes trails, fields and roads as well as obstacles presented by the natural terrain such as rocks, water and various inclines.

Riders tackle the course for the allotted number of hours – six, 12 or 24 – with the longest race ending at noon on June 9.

Maine resident Jesse Bell noted the unique challenge of the 24-hour race, which he has biked solo for the past three festivals.

“There’s no sleeping, there’s no stopping,” he said.

Because the race takes place on off-season ski slopes, bikers are “either going up or downhill” as they strive to complete the greatest number of laps of the course in a day’s time.

Bell, who has over 20 years of competitive biking experience under his belt, advised bikers to “look at the micro, don’t look at the macro.”

Whether that means focusing on completing “one lap at a time,” “one hour at a time” or “one corner at a time,” he shared that it is easy to become overwhelmed by the length of the race if competitors allow themselves to fixate on the big picture.

Also on Sunday is the aptly named Downhill Thrill, in which bikers ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain and speed down, and the faster multi-level X-Country Challenge.

The racing can be grueling, but Bell stressed the “good atmosphere” of the event, and reiterated that all activities are “run really well” and “always on time.”

“Everybody is willing to help out,” he added, noting that volunteers arrive in the early hours of the morning to prepare for the packed schedule.

Regardless of experience, bike enthusiasts are sure to find a good time. The weekend promises close competition and thrilling feats of endurance as a different kind of racing overtakes the alpine slopes come June.

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