PORT ANGELES — Daring mountain-bikers with nerves of steel will descend upon the Olympic Peninsula this weekend from all around the Western half of the U.S. and Canada for the 12th NW Cup, set for Friday through Sunday at Dry Hill.
As in past year, Dry Hill/Port Angeles is hosting two NW Cup events this year. The first is this upcoming weekend, with the second series of races slated for May 3-5.
The races this weekend are not only part of the eight-race NW Cup downhill races held throughout Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho, but are also part of the national Pro Gravity Racing Tour, according to event director Casey Northern.
Northern said upward of 500 racers will be expected to compete this weekend in categories ranging from beginners to professionals. He said that when the NW Cup began in Port Angeles, there were probably fewer than 10 local riders competing. Now, he thinks possibly as many as 50 local riders compete in the races.
The growth in the sport locally “has been really cool to see,” Northern said.
In the NW Cup, mountain bikers race against the clock down a challenging and steep downhill course.
Race organizers have been scrambling the past few weeks to get the race course prepared after heavy snowfall all through February. Parts of the race course got up to five feet of snow in February.
“We were sweating it there for a while,” Northern said. He said Bruch and Bruch Construction Inc. did a lot of work to grade the race track, and Lakeside Industries donated some rock to help tamp down the mud on the course. Northern said Brady Bradshaw Construction donated the use of a dump truck to help with work on the bike run.
“It’s in primo condition right now,” Northern said. He said the warm and dry weather the past couple of weeks also has helped the course, though precipitation is expected this weekend for the races.
“Rain or shine, we’ll show up,” he said.
With all the herculean efforts being put into making the race course ready for this weekend, arrangements couldn’t be made for spectator shuttles this year. People going to the event up Walkabout Road west of Port Angeles are advised there is limited parking and they should arrive early and carpool. Sunday will be the busiest day.
This year’s schedule follows a similar pattern from previous years. There will be training races on Friday. Saturday, there will be training and seeding races for the Sunday’s finals. The seeding races Saturday will begin at 5 p.m.
The finals will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday with the pros going last. Races should last until at least 3 p.m. with awards ceremonies coming afterward.
Northern said Cedars at Dungeness will have a food booth at the race site and coffee and other drinks will be provided by Coffee Gypsies.
Port Angeles is a unique site for the downhill races as most of the other races are held at mountain ski areas. At the NW Cup, there’s lodging and city amenities mere minutes away from the race site.