PITTSFIELD —Bikes with training wheels, balance bikes, or the most cutting-edge modern bike available, all riders are welcome to compete in the Berkshire Cycling Association's Berkshire Mountain Bike Training Race Series.
Tuesday's opening race gave riders their first chance to compete in the free 11-week race series at Springside Park.
The series is continuing to grow in its third year, and the new options of a kids balance bike race and an elite four-lap race offers riders family-friendly fun, while keeping a competitive atmosphere.
The series started with a one-lap balance bike race and a three-lap kids race. Zach Clark finished first in balance bike race. Blake Arena won the kids' race. Both races allow the young riders to navigate the course, while going up and around obstacles. Arena, 5, rode a bike with gears for the first time. Other riders raced with an assist from a parent, focusing on maintaining their balance and keeping their feet on the pedals.
Race Director Erik Forestell said adding the balance race for children just beginning to learn how to ride is a great way to increase participation in the sport.
"That's the idea of the program," Forestell said. "In previous years, we started the kids' race with training wheels and balance bikes in there and they kind of got overrun by the older kids. So this year we decided to separate them.
"It's going to foster kids to continue on and on [with biking]. They all had smiles across their faces when they came across the finish line."
Andrew Thorne has three children competing in various levels of the series. Emily, 3, Zachary, 6, and Benjamin, 8, all started riding at young ages and continue to accompany him on rides long and short.
"Emily was on pedals at two and a half, a balance bike by three and without training wheels at three and a half," the elder Thorne said. "It's easier when you get rid of the training wheels young. They get much more confident without the training wheels. ... Since I [ride] they want to ride."
Older riders competed in a one-lap, two-lap, three-lap and four-lap race through the park. Matt Giardina won the invite-only four-lap race. Michael Rossi finished first in the three-lap. Zach Robinette and Dillion Woolridge finished first in the two-lap and one-lap, respectively.
The adult races also consists of youth riders, riders competing at a leisurely pace and experienced riders such as Giardina. Giardina said the mix of all types of riders is what makes the race series unique.
"It's a lot of fun. The main thing is for everyone to have fun," he said. "This race series is great because it allows kids who've never done anything racing-wise to actually get into it. You get your weekend warriors, who don't really race, but still come out here and put a good effort in. Then it goes all the way to — I've been racing 18 years."
Also available for riders that may not be the fastest down the trail is the special events category. This week's event was the log pull, as youth tugged a 15-pound log downhill and adults lugged a 50-pound log uphill past the designated finish area. Jeremy Mazolini was the fastest male log-puller, finishing in 23.82 seconds. Sue Sacco was the top female finisher (23.82). Zachary Hubbard was the top youth finisher (10.88).
1. Blake Arena; 2. Noah Wesley; 3. Miles Allain.
1. Zach Clark; 2. Emily Thorne; 3. Elizabeth Wesley.
1. Dillion Woolridge; 2. Eric Harrington; 3. Cedric Lemaire
1. Zach Robinette, 2. Jake Kobrin; 3. David Tucker
1. Michael Rossi; 2. Alan Miller; 3. Niles Ackerman
1. Matt Giardina; 2. Charles Leach; 3. Matt Thomas
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252