The second annual N.U.T. Cracker Mountain Bike Race brought cyclists from across the Pacific Northwest to ride through the North Umpqua Trail Saturday morning — and drew them back to Stewart Park on Saturday evening for The Great Umpqua Bash.
With a reputation for being a “tough race,” the N.U.T. Cracker was 53 miles long and featured 4,400 feet of climbing downriver, said event coordinator Mike Ripley of Mudslinger Events that helped plan the race.
Riders took off down the trail at 8 a.m. from Lake Lemolo and finished the race around 2 p.m. at Tioga Bridge.
“The North Umpqua is just so beautiful,” Ripley said. “Some people are treating this like a bucket list item to do this.”
Riders were invited back to the Great Umpqua Bash on Saturday evening to celebrate completing the trail with food trucks, a beer and wine garden and a guest appearance from the Wildlife Safari cheetah.
The band Roseburg, named after the town where its founding members met, took the Nichols Band Shell stage at 7 p.m. and performed to a sparsely filled Stewart Park. An estimated crowd of 120 people cheered as the band came on stage.
Awards for the top three men and women racers were handed out at the Great Umpqua Bash as well. Loren Mason-Gere of Eugene took first place, completing the men’s race in a time of 4 hours, 45 minutes, followed by Scott Hood of North Bend and Trevor Schissler of Roseburg.
Schissler said he’s new to racing and has only participated in four other races before tackling the N.U.T. Cracker.
“I did better than I thought I would,” Schissler said. “(It’s a) great hiking trail, but a little more advanced for mountain biking. It’s pretty steep, you’re going to get a work out in.”
This year, two women participated in the race. Julie Browning, of Portland, took first place followed by Jennifer Hart, of North Bend, in second place.
Browning said this was her first year participating in the N.U.T. Cracker Race.
“I liked it — it was tough, but yeah it’s different than any other race I’d done,” Browning said. “It was beautiful. I wish I could have slowed down to look at the river!”
Katie Bryson and Kevin Gathers traveled from Anaheim, California, to spend Labor Day weekend in Roseburg. They found the Great Umpqua Bash online and decided to check it out.
“We actually just googled what’s going on — we’re from Southern California,” Bryson said. “So we just drove up here for a vacation ... we just meandered over here to check (the Bash) out.”
Bryson said they drove through Roseburg years ago and had always wanted to come back and explore the area.
Twenty-one cyclists registered and rode through the N.U.T. Cracker race, though only five of them were from Roseburg.
Daniel Sidder, of Corvallis, said he’s new to racing and wanted to give the N.U.T. Cracker a shot.
“I just saw the race and thought it looked really cool, we live up in Corvallis. I thought, “Well, might as well sign up and see how it goes!” Daniel Sidder said. “We camped up at Lemolo. It was a blast.”
Susie Sidder, Daniel’s wife, said there was a noticeable sigh of relief from cyclists as they passed the finish line.
“Everybody that came through seemed happy about their accomplishment,” Susie Sidder said.
Ripley said the trail is difficult even for seasoned riders, but he said he hopes to create more trails for riders of all experience levels.
“Honestly, its some of the toughest, most rewarding mountain biking anywhere,” Ripley said. “Everybody that lives in Roseburg should be super proud of this national treasure that most people really just don’t know about.”