Pando Challenge- “The longest running mountain bike venue”
23 years ago, I competed in my first mountain bike race, The Pando Challenge “State championships”. I had just received a gift from my girlfriend, Marnie. It was a sweet steel, black and chrome Schwinn Sierra mountain bike with big knobby tires, flat pedals and 24 gears to choose from! I remember that race like it was yesterday. I was 24 years old and I looked cool on the outside wearing my high top tennis shoes, t-shirt and dew rag, but on the inside I was SO nervous at the thought of racing for eight mile ( 2 laps at Pando) in the beginner class division.
The race started near the parking lot and before you had a chance to take four breaths you were climbing straight up the ski hill. I actually had to walk up part of the hill as I remembered feeling on the verge of blacking out.
Once at the top you jumped back on your bike and continued down the rough cut single track. Through the dense woods with punchy little uphill climbs and twisty loose descending turns, you winded your way back to the start and did it all over again. The tradition at the Pando race is to always have the finish line at the top of the ski hill, OUCH! I remembered limping in and placed 12th in my age group. That was my last mountain bike race until 2007.
Fast forward 23 years to Pando Challenge race 2013 and I’m really shocked at how much has changed in the sport of mountain biking. You see Spandex skin suits, carbon fiber everything, clipless pedals and almost no one racing in t-shirts. The race started as usual near the parking lot and straight up the ski hill, but this year, Brent Walk decided to switch it up and we raced the course in a backwards direction. It seemed like much more climbing in this direction and for all the Founder’s team racers in the expert class, the six laps seemed like we were riding the 1990’s old steel heavy bikes.
After sprinting up the ski hill ( on my bike!)to the finish line, I felt I had a good race but had deja’vu with a 12th place finish in my age group.
My old girlfriend, now wife, Marnie took 2nd place 2:22:35
Tom “Single Speeder” Stolz 4th place 2:01:50
Matt “The Hammer” Remelts 4th place 1:59:09
Dennis “Long Haul” Murphy 10th place 2:23:00
Tim ” Lumberjack” Curtis 4th place 2:04:48
Tenner ” dew rag” TenCate 12th place 1:59:19