Bentonville Arkansas is an old town with its sleepy tales squeezed into a corner of the ancient Ozark mountains in NW Arkansas. Famous as being the home of the founding family of Walmart, Bentonville is putting it’s wealth to work building mile after mile of shred ready singletrack. What followed has been a renovation Bentonville’s style and stoke to realign with all the positives that a good day on the bike brings. With word spreading about this new mountain bike Mecca it was not long before the Epic Rides Series would pay Bentonville visit.
Women take off with a BANG-K Wehn
As with all epic rides events a good day on the bike begins with a hard night on the road. Pro men and women must compete in a short format criterium In the same bikes they intend to race on Sundays epic marathon distance race. Well riders are allowed to change the tires the bikes must be otherwise unchanged. This fat tire crit had a notable different feel to it as many newcomers toed the line. Epic Rides first race on the “Beast Coast” brings a whole new group of pro men and women vying for their slice of big money and even bigger bragging rights.
And just like that with a bang pro women were off! The song remained the same in Oz as a chorus of capable and talented Female pros stacked the start lines and charged off for the first lap cash preem. Woodruff (Stans /Pivot), Erin Huck (CZ Racing) and Clif Pro Team’s Katerina Nash quickly lined up as they pushed the pace for the cash. The women would stay together for nearly every lap as Woodruff, then Gomez-Villafane (Stans/Pivot), then Huck would each take flyer laps trying to break free. However it all ended as Katerina Nash took one of her patented last lap assaults to come across the line first.
Sofia Gomez-Villafane (Stan’s/ Pivot) tries to make something stick. -K. Wehn
Katerina Nash (Clif Pro Team) Proves shes got the Watts when it matters! -K Wehn
Women’s podium 1st Nash (Clif), Huck (CZ-Racing), Woodruff (Stan’s-Pivot), Gomez-Villafane (Stan’s-Pivot), Pendrel (Clif)
As the sun tilted further towards the Ozark ridgelines the Pro men prepped their machines and entered the start corral. The pop of the start pistol and the field launched into the modified figure 8 course onto the first lap for the “El Yucateco Hotsauce Hot Lap” preem. Veteran Geoff Kabush (Yeti Cycles) showed youthful snap to take the first lap cash prize. Behind him a mid pack pileup separates the field as one rider’s tire choice gave way on him.
Men’s start-K Wehn
The smart money was always on Series competitors Kegan Swenson (Stans/ Pivot) and Howard Grotts (Specialized). The two were already smartly positioned at the front and so when the crash split the group the contenders were immediately separated. Joined by East Coast jack of all trades Bryan Lewis (Cutaway USA) and perpetual Devo ride Jake Yackle (Yackle Brothers Racing) who smartly bridged up to the lead two seeing the race walk away from them.Specialized racing’s Howard Grotts throws the lookback to see riders attempting to bridge to the 3 man lead group. -K. Wehn
Swenson, Lewis, Grotts-K.Wehn
As the break group turned lap after lap individual riders would surge off the front of the main pack to try and sneak onto the wheel of the leaders. While several riders got close none would quite make it stick; coming as close as a couple seconds before breaking off
As the race came into the final laps veteran Road pro and recently crowned National Ultra Endurance Series champion Bryan Lewis started holding his cards and setting up for the last set of corners. And sure as southern rain Lewis set up his final couple corners just right to prevent Swenson or Grotts from coming as slid across the line with just enough time to post a victory salute.
Bryan Lewis (Cutaway USA) with the tactical smarts and power to take the W- K. Wehn
Men’s Podium: 1st Bryan Lewis (Cutaway USA), 2nd Swenson (Stan’s-Pivot), 3rd Grotts (Specialized), 4th Geoff Kabush (Yeti), 5th Uhl (Giant Co-Factory)-K. Wehn
With the skinny tire fun at a close it was time for the riders to rest up and reinflate their rough country rubber for Sunday’s EPIC back country race through unknown terrain of the Ozark mountains.
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