Michele Chandler, Redding Record Searchlight Published 8:15 p.m. PT March 2, 2020
Redding is about to play host to an estimated 1,000 elite high school mountain bikers, along with their coaches and relatives.
Look for the young cyclists and their entourages to arrive soon, as the teens compete in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) competition — the first time the event has been held in Redding.
Not long after that race, another major cycling event will kick off when the Bigfoot Mountain Bike Challenge comes to town. Originally called the Mayor’s Mountain Bike Challenge, the all-ages race consists of a series of events over a period spanning eight weeks in the spring.
Event organizers say both goings-on have the potential to showcase Redding’s abundance of mountain biking trails, plus attract tourism spending to the region.
Since starting at Berkeley High School in 2001, the cross country mountain bike race for high school students has “seen about 30% growth every year,” said Hilari Freeman, who is coaching the 23 high school student-contingent from Shasta County who are entering this weekend’s race.
The riders she coaches attend Shasta High School, Enterprise High School, University Preparatory School or are home-schooled.
She’s Redding composite team director and head coach for the race, called the Swasey Shred and named after mountain bike trails in the Swasey Recreation Area.
Watch this 2018 video of the mountain bike challenge that’s been renamed Bigfoot Mountain Bike Challenge:
Conceived in 2017, the Mayor’s Mountain Bike Challenge returns for its second year, running from March 20 to June 1. The challenge highlights miles of Redding’s natural beauty, and those who successfully complete the challenge have opportunities for prizes.
It’s the first time the race has been held in Redding. Before, the event had taken place in locations closer to Clear Lake.
While there are about 850 entrants now, Freeman said, the total number of contenders is expected to climb to 1,000 because students can enter on the day of the race.
“They’re fast,” said Freeman, an environmental science teacher at Shasta High School. “A lot of them are already pro level,” going to train abroad during the North State’s hot summers, she said.
The northern conference, which includes teen riders attending schools from North Bay to the Oregon border, races on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Swasey trails. Another group of racers enrolled in schools located in cities from Monterrey to the South Bay will race at Swasey on Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
There will be winners in various categories, based on gender, year in high school and varsity or junior varsity status. The students won’t win any money, just recognition and medals, Freeman said.
The 2020 Bigfoot Mountain Bike Challenge gets underway next month.
Before this year, that event had been named the Mayor’s Mountain Bike Challenge after organizer and former Redding mayor Brent Weaver. The name change came as the event’s popularity spread beyond the city.
The Bigfoot event runs over an eight-week period that starts April 1 and ends May 31, said Brian Crane, a local cycling enthusiast and retired Redding public works director who is helping with the event.
Now in its fourth year, the challenge dares mountain bikers to complete a handful of trails specially mapped out for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.
Each level of difficulty includes five or six Redding-area trails picked to highlight the area’s scenic splendor. People who turn in “passports” to show they completed at least one stage of trails are eligible to enter a raffle for prizes that include gift cards.
There’s no fee to enter the Bigfoot race. “Last year, we had a range from age 5 all the way to age 77,” said Crane.
About 240 people completed the event last year while more rode informally, Crane said. Sponsors include the Redding Trail Alliance, the McConnell Foundation, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Visit Redding and others, he said.
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Michele Chandler covers city government and housing issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter at @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-225-8344 or email her at email@example.com. Please support our entire newsroom’s commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.
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