Cycling Championships coming to Columbia County

After playing host to the 2012 and 2013 NCAA Division II men’s and women’s national soccer championships, Columbia County now has the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships on its horizon, starting in 2015.

USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing in the United States, and the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau announced Thursday that the county was selected to play host to the 2015 and 2016 championships.

Dates for the event staged out of Wildwood Park in Appling have not been set.

“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, Ga., will create a great venue for all of our participants.”

Randy DuTeau, executive director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau, dealt with Rice during his time on the Augusta Sports Council when it played host to 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,” DuTeau said. “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 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.

The USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Champion­ships will complete a two-year run in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2014.

The Columbia County Con­vention and Visitors Bureau 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 play host to a mountain bike race and trail run on the proposed championship course in 2014, which will serve as a “test run” for the nationals.

“We’re honored to have been chosen by USA Cycling to host
this prestigious event,” DuTeau said.

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