The Coastal Carolina Off-Road Series began in the 1990s with just two races on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The series has since expanded to six different race courses from Myrtle Beach to Greenville due to the interest from bike clubs in the surrounding area. On Sunday, 91 adults and eight children competed in the fourth race hosted by the Down East Cyclists at the Henderson Pond Trail on Camp Lejeune.
“Each of the six race courses offer a special challenge to our racers,” said Jeff LeBlanc, president of Down East Cyclists. “We don’t have the mountains like other events across the state; however, we make good use of the terrain we do have and do our best to make the course challenging and fun for all rider levels. Volunteers of Down East Cyclists have put countless hours of hard work into making the Henderson Pond Trail a venue worth (the travel) for mountain bike racing or just riding for the pleasure of it.”
This year, professional racers came to Henderson Pond Trail for the first time. Robert Marion and Drew Bailey, cyclists with American Classic/Xpedo Professional Mountain Bike Team presented by Maxxis, used the Coastal Carolina Off-Road Series as a warm-up for their regular season.
“We just like the whole atmosphere that comes along with the Coastal Carolina Races,” said Marion. “And, anytime you can come somewhere like Camp Lejeune and race on a Marine base, on trails normally not open to the public, and it benefits the troops, that’s just a good all-around package.”
Marion said he prefers to get a feel for the terrain when riding unfamiliar courses. Sometimes, he only gets a chance to do a preliminary course walk, but for this race, he showed up a day early to ride the course and get an idea of what to expect. Henderson Pond Trail was basically everything the seasoned rider had expected, save one detail.
“I was surprised how fast it was with the amount of roots, twisting and sand,” said Marion. “We’ve seen most everything before, but it’s still good to know when you’re going to be bombing down a descent or something and have a U-turn at the bottom.”
The race was divided into experience-level categories. Marion finished first overall in his category: expert. Taking first overall in their respective categories were Karl Yachulke (advanced), Ross Harris (entry level), Michael Oddo (first timer) and Emery Kapusta (youth).
LeBlanc was asked if the race was a success.
“Very much so! The weather was beautiful, the racers and spectators had a blast, and everyone was safe,” said LeBlanc, adding with a smile, “other than a few scrapes and bruises which are just part of mountain biking as you know.”
The fifth race in the Coastal Carolina Off-Road Series, hosted by Cape Fear Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, will be at Brunswick Nature Park in Wilmington, April 23.
For the full race results, visit www.webscorer.com/race?raceid=97282.
For more information about the Coastal Carolina Off-Road Series, visit www.ccors.com.
For more pictures from the event, visit www.facebook.com/camplejeuneglobe.