At the DINO Mountain Bike Challenge at Muscatatuck County Park, much could have been said about the trail on which the cyclists were getting ready to embark.
Cat-2 cyclist Meredith Link of Columbus needed only one word to describe it: unreal.
Through sharp turns, rugged terrain and lots of obstacles, Link said it’s all a part of being involved with mountain biking.
“It’s definitely a competitive environment,” Link said. “There are a bunch of people out here that have done this their whole lives, and you see them fly through these difficult courses like it’s nothing, where some people just want to enjoy the outdoors and be with their friends and have fun with it.”
When asked why she keeps coming back to compete in the DINO Challenge, Link let out a sigh and said, “Because I’m crazy.”
“I just love my bike,” Link said. “I used to do BMX all the time when I was younger and decided to pick up a mountain bike and push the level of intensity up. The combination of being outdoors and being with friends adds a level of excitement to it as well.”
Link’s brother, Matt Battin of Columbus, competes in the highest level of the DINO challenge, the Cat-1 division. Cat-1 cyclists compete in a grueling four-lap race totaling more than 26 miles.
“I’ve done this my whole life,” Battin said. “I just love the thrill of riding fast through the woods and being able to pick up speed because you just don’t know what’s going to happen while you are out there.”
Battin saw first-hand what could happen. After taking the lead in the final lap, he had a flat tire and couldn’t continue.
“It’s a course with many obstacles,” Battin said. “There are so many things that can happen to you when mountain biking, so you have to make sure your bike is in the best condition when you get out there on race day.”
Columbus resident Tim Proctor, who raced alongside Battin in the Cat-1 and finished 10th overall, uses the course to train for Cycle Cross, which is a mountain bike series in the Ohio Valley.
“This is a fun place to compete, but it also gets you in shape for much more,” Proctor said. “None of the courses you do are guaranteed to be easy by any means, and that’s what makes the world of mountain biking that much more fun.”
While going downhill is almost a sigh of relief for some cyclists to rest their legs, Proctor considers himself an uphill cyclist.
“I like to do the things that everyone else hates,” Proctor said. “Everyone looks forward to going downhill to let their legs rest, but I like the feeling of pushing myself uphill and going as fast as I can, and that’s where I believe I have a lot of people beat.”
Columbus’ Jacob Brown, who made his first appearance this year at the DINO challenge in the Cat-2 division, said his first experience was all about being in the environment with the other cyclists.
“It’s a way to get out and stay active,” Brown said. “I had heard from a lot of people that it was a fun and competitive environment, so I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity to join in on the fun.”
Brown also noted the technical aspects of the course and described it as a three-lap grind.
“It’s a pretty technical course,” Brown said. “There are a lot of curves, dangerous paths and steep hills that can all but take you out of a race if you aren’t too careful.”
While the competitive aspect is there, the camaraderie and friendship between the local cyclists keeps them coming back for more.
“It’s great to meet up with friends and go out and enjoy a nice day,” Link said. “We do this in the most competitive way possible, but to meet up with old friends and try to outdo each other makes this race that much better.”
Tomasz Golas won the Cat-1 division. After 1 hour, 52 minutes and 39 seconds of cycling, he beat second-place Edwin Colvin by nine-tenths of a second. Rounding out the top five were Brent Mayer, Robert Kendall and Jason Kors.