Mountain biking, a favorite sport and recreational activity in the Rim Country, returns tomorrow, May 2, at the Hike Bike & Run Mogollon Masher race.
The event — stop six in the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona — state championship series, will be held on the Carr Lake Trail system located near Woods Canyon Lake, about 30 miles east of Payson.
Hike Bike & Run owner Mick Wolf, a cycling enthusiast himself, is sponsoring the race.
“This race brings mountain biking back as Payson’s prior races, the Stampede, Payson Pounder and Mayor’s Cup no longer exist,” he said.
Wolf expects the race to draw up to 300 riders of all ages and experience levels from beginners to professionals.
Among the locals Wolf anticipates will enter are Scott Davidson, Cypress Gorry, Daniel Conley, Chris Smith, Tim Moser and possibly Matt Sopeland and Wayne Gorry.
Among those racers, Wayne Gorry, a 54-year-old schoolteacher, is probably the most recognized, having been a huge part of the state cycling scene for two decades. He’s won numerous MBAA state championships, the U.S. Mountain Bike marathon title, the NOVA Nationals, Payson Mayor’s Cup and the New Amsterdam Cyclo-Cross series.
He’s also the Rim Country’s biking guru using his talents and knowledge to sell the sport to younger enthusiasts.
All who enter the Masher will be battling for MBAA series points that can lead to individual state championships when they are decided June 13 at the Flagstaff finale.
Also, the winners in the 15-16 years and 17-18 years age division qualify for participation in USA Cycling Regional Camps.
Last summer, Conley — a 16-year-old Payson High School student — attended one of the camps held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
In addition to the Mogollon Masher and Flagstaff Finale remaining on the MBAA calendar, the Flagstaff Frenzy will be held May 16 on the Campbell Mesa Trail system.
The series began Feb. 14 at the Whitetank Whirlwind near Phoenix.
Wolf touts the Carr Lake Trail area as an ideal site for the Masher because of its more than 100 miles of non-motorized, single track trails that are fairly flat and fast.
The course includes a long loop of nine miles and a shorter one that is six miles long.
In the marathon men’s division, which Wayne Gorry has previously participated in, entrants must ride seven long loops or 63 miles.
The pro men ride three long loops and one short, or 33 miles.
The junior boys and girls ride shorter distances of one short or one long loop.
The staging area for the race is located on FR 208, a few hundred yards off FR 300 between Woods Canyon and Bear Canyon lakes.
While MBAA races similar to the Masher were once a hot ticket around Payson, all have fallen by the wayside.
Some say they don’t know the reason for the decline of racing near Payson, but Wolf says it’s “because the quality of trails in Payson have deteriorated ... we can’t draw the top racers anymore.”
He believes, however, that the trails atop the Rim near the high country lakes are some of the finest in the state and could eventually become the site of world-class events.
For the Masher, spectators are welcome free of charge and concession stands will be open.
Also, the area contains some of the best camping sites in the state, Wolf said.