After playing host to the 2012 and 2013 NCAA Division II men’s and women’s soccer national championships, Columbia County now has the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships on its horizon.
USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing in the United States, and the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau announced that the county was selected to host the 2015 and 2016 championships.
“We want to have events that make sense for this area and to have facilities like Wildwood Park and the Bartram Trail, it just seemed like a natural fit for us,” said Randy DuTeau, the Columbia County CVB executive director.
The event will be staged out of Wildwood Park in Appling. The approximately 65-mile circuit will utilize the Bartram and Keg Creek Trails on a course that stretches from the West Dam Recreation Area to Mistletoe State Park. The race is expected to draw 400 competitors.
“USA Cycling is excited about bringing our premier endurance mountain bike championship to the Southeastern United States,” said Micah Rice, vice president of National Events for USA Cycling. “As a stand-alone event, the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships have never been east of the Mississippi River and the fantastic trails of Columbia County, Georgia will create a great venue for all of our participants.”
DuTeau had a relationship with Rice during his time at the Augusta Sports Council when it hosted the USA Cycling Road Championships in 2011 and 2012. He began talking to Rice about potential events for the area after coming over to Columbia County in 2012.
“About the time we were having those discussions, I had some preliminary chats with SORBA (Southern Offroad Bicycle Association) CSRA, which is our local mountain bike organization,” said DuTeau. “They were looking to do a marathon mountain bike race and it just so happened that USA Cycling was going to be putting out that event for bid and so we just kind of combined the two.”
The USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships will complete a two-year run in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2014. Columbia County plans to emulate that model by developing an outdoor festival that will include a trail-running race, mountain bike demos, and other activities to run in conjunction with the national championships.
Local organizers plan to host a mountain bike race and trail run on the proposed championship course in 2014, which will serve as a “test run” for the nationals.
A date for the championship has yet to be determined.