Racers ‘send it’ at the Pisgah Pedalfest

Kelly Nugent shouts as she lands a jump at the Pisgah Pedalfest race on Sunday. She placed second in the women’s 31 to 50 age bracket. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — The sound of mountain bike tires whirred down the side of Mount Pisgah at the Pisgah Pedalfest race on Sunday.

Volunteers along the side of the course cheered on the racers.

“You got this! Send it!” they shouted.

Bikers flew off the dirt ramps, lifting both tires several feet off the ground, slamming them back down and leaving a cloud of dust behind as they sped on to the rest of the course.

The Pedalfest, the first competitive mountain biking race at Mount Pisgah ever, according to event organizer Kris Miemis, brought in 75 racers and around 200 people in total.

Adrian Hayden, 17, is a professional mountain biker from Saranac Lake who has raced around the country. He took first place in the Pisgah Pedalfest’s men’s 19 to 30 age bracket on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

“It’s been amazing. It’s been like a whirlwind,” event volunteer Tiffany VanEtten said.

Miemis said he was really happy with the turnout. He didn’t know how many people would come, but saw way more than he anticipated, including people from downstate and western New York.

“I don’t know how they found out about it but it’s awesome that they did,” Miemis said.

Mountain biking is a growing sport. Many of the racers there only got into it in the past few years. Several of the adults said they started mountain biking because their kids did.

“It’s great to see all these kids. It’s amazing how many young people are getting into it,” said Tom Hesseltine, a volunteer at the summit.

Eric Bennett whizzes around a curve on his way to a second-place finish in the men’s 31 to 50 age bracket at the Pisgah Pedalfest Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Miemis said it was the exhilaration of speed that brought him and his three sons into the sport.

“My boys love to ski and they live to mountain bike,” he said.

The mountain bike trails on Pisgah are all built by the Barkeater Trails Alliance.

Hesseltine said BETA does good work on the trails.

“They make the trails really fun to ride,” Hesseltine said.

Aiden Hoyt takes flight on a mountain bike as he races down Mount Pisgah at the Pisgah Pedalfest on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

He said the switchbacks make biking uphill pleasant.

The event was a fundraiser for Saranac Lake Innovative Cycling Kids to build a pump track in town.

“A pump track is a series of humps and turns that when ridden properly on a bicycle, you can use your own weight and momentum, and not have to pedal,” Miemis said.

He said the closest one is in Wilmington. He’s unsure where this new track would go.

Karen Miemes said a group of young mountain bikers were the “driving force” behind the fundraiser. She was proud that the children got their parents to put on the event, and thanked the many people who made it happen.

Eli Land catches huge air off a jump as he races to a second-place finish in the Men's 19 to 30 age bracket of the Pisgah Pedalfest Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

“We have such a supportive community,” Karen said.

Event organizers said they want to keep the sport’s growth going. They think there’s a lot of potential for mountain biking in the area.

The Pedalfest was a celebration of mountain biking. The day started with a group ride to Dewey Mountain and continued with rides down the dual slalom course and features at the bottom of the hill for kids to ride over.

The main event was on the flow trail, “The Cure.”

Safety first

Kris stood near the top of the track, as racers first entered the woods. He knew all the names of the young adult racers who passed by him, cheering them on.

Kris said his biggest concern with the event was safety.

“It makes me anxious,” he said. “There’s high consequences if you crash on a bicycle, especially if you’re going fast. … You just hope that the riders ride within their ability and don’t push it too hard.”

As his son Lou whizzed by on his run, Kris shouted to him, “Keep it safe bro!”

There were no injuries at the Pedalfest, Karen said.

The trail was marked with crash fences and caution tape. Organizers held a large safety meeting before the race. The route was lined with volunteers blowing whistles as racers passed to space them out at safe distances. There were also ambulances there.

Alison Lacivita was about half-way down the mountain, after one of the bigger jumps. She’s a Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad member and a mountain biker herself.

“Working at community events is the best,” Lacivita said.

That morning she had worked on the Ironman route tending to minor bike crashes in Keene.

Kris said the only day the mountain was available for the Pedalfest was the same day as Ironman. He’d like to change that in the future.

Racers and spectators

Adrian Hayden, 17, of Saranac Lake races mountain bikes professionally around the country. He said he came out to have fun, show “local support” and get to ride on some of his “home trails.”

“I helped to build these (trails) when I was like 10. I probably didn’t actually help that much because I was really young,” Hayden said with a laugh.

He was glad to see a “grassroots” event at Pisgah and said it was a great introduction to racing for a lot of the people there.

He got into mountain biking when he went to Whiteface Mountain as a child.

“I did a day at Whiteface and that was it. I’ve been riding ever since,” Hayden said.

Kevin Lenhart from Onchiota was spectating in the woods, looking for his girlfriend Danielle Roots to pass by on her run. He said this was her first race and she had only gotten into mountain biking recently.

Jamie Campbell was there with her kids who ride. But she said she had gotten into competitive biking before they did.

“The new bikes are so awesome that I started biking at age 42,” Campbell said.

She had to stop biking during the pandemic because she was busier at work, so she said she was very glad for the Pedalfest to get her back out on the trail.

(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Pisgah Pedalfest was a fundraiser for the Barkeater Trails Alliance. It’s a fundraiser for Saranac Lake Innovative Cycling Kids. The Enterprise regrets the error.)


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