Overview Of The Dirty TourThe Dirty Tour is a three-stage mountain bike race which begins on Friday evening and ends Sunday morning. Over the weekend, the riders cover more than 34 miles of terrain in Mendenhall Valley.
Each stage offered different aspects of the mountain biking challenge in distance and difficulty.
Friday's two-mile time trial begins at the end of the pavement on Montana Creek Road. The course drenches the riders as puddles replace potholes and rain replaces dust.
The contestants ride up the gentle grade of a one-lane dirt road to the point where the road becomes a trail. The riders then turn around to boogie back down the hill and, to a certain extent, rid their nostrils of the stink from the rotting dog salmon littering the creek.
"The rain, the smell, and the pollen is not a great combination for some of us," competitor Dennis Travis said.
Saturday's race alongside the banks of the Mendenhall River near Dimond Park poses more technical problems then elemental difficulties.
Several steep drops, hundreds of tree roots, and a pumpy little hill climb confront the riders on a four-lap, 11-mile course.
Sunday's finale at Dredge Lake totals 17 miles.
The racers crank out five laps around a 3.5-mile loop and average about an hour and fifteen minutes to complete the race. Sunday's speeds proved higher than on any other day because the flat course offers the racers several long straightaways to turn up the speed.
"The time trail was nice and short, a quick up and down, and really, really muddy," Melissa Goldstein said. "Saturday's course was pretty technical because I hadn't rode over a lot of roots like that in quite a while. Sunday's course was my favorite. It was much faster out here at Dredge."
Why Race? What's The Benefit Of Competition?46 year old newcomer, Brett Kovach, started mountain biking earlier this year and found the racing scene to be more about fun and camaraderie rather than competition. Kovach's favorite part of the weekend was "surviving."
"I've never done one of these before," he said. "Coming out here with everyone is a lot of fun. You pick up your own pace and rise to the occasion. I wouldn't push myself as hard if I were by myself. The competition is not competition ... it's fun. It's just a gas!"
Jim Papoi shared Kovach's opinion about mountain biking.
"It is a lot of fun, there is a good group of guys out here, and it is a good all-around workout," Papoi said. "It is good for the upper body, good for the lower body and it's pretty challenging."
Goldstein, a mother of three young kids, made the weekend races her comeback to mountain biking.
"This is my first time in 10 years, and I am just getting back into it now," she said. "I used to do it a lot but I am looking forward to doing more of it in the future."
If some people are worried about getting into the local mountain biking scene, McFarlin offered some fresh air to a suffocating dilemma.
"I think some people are intimidated by the word 'racing,'" he said. "They think it is going to be really hard core, but the races here in Juneau are pretty easy and are set up for all ages. You can take risks if you want to or you can just take it easy.
"If you know how to ride a bike, then you can ride all the courses. It would definitely be good to see more people out here."
Travis, owner of Juneau's Glacier Cycles, believes there the sport's popularity is experiencing a boom.
"Mountain biking has greatly increased over the last couple of years, partially due to the increase in gas prices and partially because the quality of some of the trails in the Juneau area," Travis said. "The Herbert Glacier trail, for one, used to be impossible to ride, even on big mountain bikes. Now it is an incredible trail and anybody can do it."
Other trails are seeing renovation as well.
The historic Perseverance Trail in downtown's Gold Creek Basin has been widened and graded in numerous areas. Both of these trails are fantastic bike rides available to the public.