Special to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
As summer winds down, cycling mostly turns from competition to long, fun miles.
Fondos are prevalent in the fall. Several dot the calendar this month. The Tour de Salvation in Hot Springs today, the River Classic in Little Rock and the Conway Fall Classic on Sept. 16, the Ouachita Gran Fondo for Families on Sept. 30 in Hot Springs and the state’s largest fondo, the Big Dam Bridge 100, on Sept. 23 in Little Rock.
Meanwhile, back in Northwest Arkansas, Ozark Gravel Cyclists founder Andrew Onermaa has devised something a little different for adventure seekers this fall: The Ozark Randonneur on Sept. 16.
Loosely, a randonneur is a long ride with time cut-offs all done in one push. Riders are self-sufficient, but can ride in groups or solo and every finisher receives equal recognition regardless of finishing order. To be listed as an official finisher, riders will have 15 hours to complete the 120-mile course and 25 hours to do the 200-mile loop.
Onermaa expects the event to slot in nicely between one-day, fully supported gravel races (think Big Sugar, The Rule of 3 or the Chinkapin Hollow Gravel Grinder) and long-distance, self-supported bikepacking races (like Doom — another Onermaa creation — or the Arkansas High Country Race).
“You can be a weekend warrior for these efforts,” Onermaa said. “You don’t have to take time off from work, you don’t have to commit a week of your life or whatever. And so it’s kind of that format, except launching out into the forest versus you’re going to do a bunch of laps in one area.”
The routes will show off some Madison County roads not often utilized by events.
“It’s highlighting roads that a lot of people still haven’t seen,” he said. “We get to showcase a really cool section of the Arkansas High Country route and get to show more of Madison County, where if you’re just doing a day ride from Fayetteville, you’re not seeing as much of it.”
Both routes start and finish from Puritan Coffee & Beer on Dickson Street in Fayetteville.
Onermaa expects a wide range of riders to sign up for the event. At press time, 79 riders were registered. The gamut ranges from experienced ultra-distance bike packers to one-day racers curious to try longer events to the recreational rider who is bike-packing curious.
“We’ve got these people that have done these 1,000 mile, multiday races. You got some people where this is gonna be the biggest ride they’ve ever done in their entire life,” Onermaa said. “I think a lot of people are gonna walk away from it and have a deeper respect for riding in Arkansas and what it takes.”
Register for the event at bikereg.com/the-ozark-randonneur.
The Arkansas NICA season also gets into full swing this month. The Interscholastic Cycling Association held its preseason time trial last weekend in Harrison. 546 athletes from grades sixth through 12th were on hand. The time trial determines the racers’ starting positions for the season.
The first proper cross country race of the year is Sept. 10 at Springhill Park in Barling. Race two is set for Sept. 24 at Clysta Willett Park in Mountain Home.
There’s more cross country mountain bike racing this month as the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series continues Sept. 16 with the NWA Mountain Bike Championship at Devil’s Den.
Through four races, Phat Tire leads the AA team competition by 309 points over Spokes Little Rock. BMC/ Walmart holds a commanding 574 point lead over Spa City Cycling in the A team competition and Buffalo Devo leads the Future Champions Cup standings.
After the Devil’s Den race, the series returns Oct. 1 with the Kessler Mountain Jam in Fayetteville.
And, finally, for those looking to go fast downhill: the fall season of the Arkansas Enduro Series kicks off Sept. 24 in Springdale with Fitzduro at the Fitzgerald Trails.
Kai Caddy is a cycling enthusiast whose column appears monthly in the Outdoors section.