SPORTS: ‘Legendary’ mountain bike racers set for Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — Mountain bikers from around the world will be arriving in Clallam County in droves this week.

This is the second of three Northwest Cup mountain biking races to hit the area this year.

And the one this week, Thursday through Sunday on Dry Hill west of Port Angeles, is the biggie of the three. This is the one that spectators of the sport need to see if they want to watch mountain biking in 2013.

“The Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy of mountain biking will be here this weekend,” race co-director Scott Tucker said.

“Think of it as a golf tournament put on by the local golf club where the top 40 golfers in the world will be playing.

“We’re really getting two legends of our sport here who are still at the top of their game.”

Aaron Gwin of California is the McIlroy of mountain biking, one of the hottest young competitors in the world, Tucker said.

Gwin is a two-time and current World Cup champion who just competed in the Sea Otter Classic in California last weekend.

Another world-class mountain biker expected this weekend is Cedric Gracia of France.

“Cedric is the Tiger Woods of mountain biking,” Tucker said.

Gracia is the veteran biker still at the top of his game.

In a popular video on the Internet, Gracia is shown packing his bike up a steep desert mountain by horse, and then going down the mountain trail between cacti in a cloud of dust.

France is just one of the many countries that will be represented in Port Angeles this weekend.

Tucker and co-director Casey Northern also are expecting competitors from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

“We’re also expecting several UK riders,” Tucker said.

In all, 100 pros and 400 riders overall are expected to hit the Dry Hill trails this weekend.

Very few of the amateur riders are from the area.

“At least 99 percent of the riders are from outside the Peninsula,” Tucker said.

Dry Hill draws bikers from around the country and the world like nobody’s business.

“We’re turning out to be everybody’s favorite race in the country to go to,” Tucker said.

“They love the town, the terrain and the timing of the races.

“The town is affordable and beautiful.”

It helps that the races occur so early in the year. There are no other mountain biking events going on right now.

Spectators are encouraged to take a trip to the mountain to watch the event free and to purchase food and drink, but they need to keep in mind that parking is limited.

“Car pool if you can,” Tucker said.

Directions to Dry Hill are on the Northwest Cup Web site, nwcup.com.

Pro and amateur riders will practice at Dry Hill on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Also on Saturday afternoon from about 3 to 5 p.m., the pros will race for seeding in Sunday’s races.

“Saturday afternoon would be a good time to watch,” Tucker.

Sunday is the big racing day with events scheduled for pros and amateurs the whole day going from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“It will be a good show,” Tucker said.

Food and drink will be available by vendors Friday through Sunday.

Barbecue-style cooking will be available by Bighorn BBQ & Grill of Port Angeles. This is the second year in a row that Bighorn has been at the Northwest Cup races.

Drink will be provided by Gypsy Coffeehouse, a premier mobile coffeehouse based in Port Townsend.

The espresso wagon can be seen at the Port Townsend Farmer’s Market, the Wooden Boat Festival and other activities in Jefferson County.

A longtime area sponsor that has supported the event the entire six years it has been held at Dry Hill is Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles.

“Red Lion through the years has been very supportive and very generous,” Tucker said.

Red Lion gives discounts to competitors and also hosts the after-event party.

The weather is expected to be fairly nice this weekend, at least for spectators.

“It sounds like it will be mostly sunny with some sprinkles,” Tucker said.

The riders would welcome the rain because they like to race in mud.

There might have been a little too much mud during the first race this year on April 5-7 during a monsoon.

The third and final Dry Hill race of the year will be on May 17-19.

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