OUTDOORS: Dry Hill downhill mountain-bike races begin Friday in Port Angeles
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Chris Tucker/Peninsula Daily News Timothy Price jumps his bike down the muddy track as spectators watch him during the Northwest Cup downhill mountain-bike race at Dry Hill in Port Angeles on April 10, 2011. The first race of 2012 is this weekend.

By Brad LaBrie

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IT’S APRIL, WHICH means that it’s time for mountain-bike downhill racers to invade Port Angeles for the start of the Northwest Cup Series.

And all those extra Clallam County visitors this weekend won’t give a hoot about the Easter-egg hunts.

They’re here to get down-and-dirty with their mountain bikes on Dry Hill, the race course located just west of
Port Angeles.

The is the fifth year of racing on Dry Hill.

This weekend’s activities start Friday and go through Sunday.

The event draws hundreds of spectators for some of the most exciting races on the Peninsula. (See below for directions to the course).

Three of the five races in the Cup Series, the first three in fact, are set for the North Olympic Peninsula.

At least 300 racers from all over the Pacific Northwest, and really, the world in some cases, and their families are expected for Easter weekend’s races.

“We are fortunate that we have the only track available this time of year,” Scott Tucker, co-organizer of the event with Casey Northern, said.

“There is no other place to ride.”

In addition to regular Northwest Cup racers, there will be four riders from the World Cup Circuit using the course this weekend, Tucker said.

“We have the same kind of tracks they use on the World Cup Circuit, so this is a good training zone for them [as they wait for the World Cup Circuit to open for the season].”

Lots of visitors

All these riders, with their families, friends and supporters, spend several days on the Peninsula during a race weekend.

“Most people stay three to four days at a time when they race here,” Tucker said. “This is a beautiful place to visit.

“We have one couple from Montana who have been here since Monday.”

For this first race, most riders are from Washington and Oregon, but there are others from Canada, California, Colorado, Montana and beyond.

This course attracts the top racers in the world this time of year because of Dry Hill’s low elevation, which is uninviting for snow in April.

Well, usually.

“All of the other tracks are under snow right now,” Tucker said. “We are the only track that doesn’t have snow.

“[Racers] are anxious to get riding, and to try out their new bikes.”

That said, Tucker admitted it was a close no-snow call for Dry Hill this week with some snow, hail and whatnot falling at times on the Peninsula, and even making Forks white for awhile Tuesday.

The snow and ice don’t stick around long this time of year, though.

It may be chilly out and tons of rain fell the past few days, but Tucker is expecting Dry Hill to be, uh, dry by this weekend.

“Snow is not good for racers but mud would be good,” Tucker said.

In fact, many riders enjoy a muddy, sloppy course.

But that may not matter if Tucker’s prediction of dry weather comes true this weekend.

“Our course dries out pretty quickly because we focus on a lot of drainage on our trails,” he said.

Weather reports are saying that it could be down to sprinkles by Friday, it was dry in Port Angeles on Thursday, with a drying out period Saturday and Sunday with partly cloudy conditions but little or no rain.

Check out nwcup.com for more information and registration times.

There will be a kickoff raffle and party at Red Lion in Port Angeles on Friday starting at 7 p.m.

There will be music and food to go along with the raffle.

Here’s directions to the track from downtown Port Angeles: Drive westbound on Lincoln Street to the west side of the town. Go past Albertsons grocery store and continue approximately 3 miles to Walkabout Way, and turn left on Walkabout (which is a small dirt road across from Dry Creek Road).

On Walkabout, take the first right and drive through a big yellow gate, and continue up to the parking area.

Be aware that parking is limited.

There will be two more races on Dry Hill, on April 26-29 and May 11-13.

Then the Northwest Cup Series switches to Skibowl on Mount Hood in Oregon for two races, June 15-17 and July 20-22.

The finals, and the sixth race of the year, is set for Aug. 3-5 at Steven’s Pass.

Legal course

While the North Olympic Peninsula has a state-of-the-art track to race on, mountain bikers are being chased out of many illegal trails and jumps on Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) land in Whatcom County.

According to a story in Thursday’s Seattle PI online newspaper, state officials are ripping apart more than 5 miles of illegal mountain bike trails and at least 50 jumps in Whatcom County because DNR has deemed the trails and jumps unsafe.

“This is public land, it’s open for public use, but it’s not open for public abuse,” Mark Mauren of the DNR said in the article.

According to the story, Mauren said the daredevil bikers could hurt themselves and sue the state.

“[The Whatcom County news] is really depressing for the whole biking community,” Tucker said.

“We are really fortunate here to have DNR support and the support of Green Crow, which owns some of the property [we use].

“Those trails [in Whatcom] were built illegally but we have a stewardship agreement with DNR and Green Crow.

“We got the agreement before we began building the trails.”

Tucker and Northern are co-founders of Olympic Dirt Society, which organizes the Dry Hill races.

You won’t find those two racing during the weekend.

“We’re more of the providers,” Tucker said. “We will be working from sunup to sundown.”

Don’t let all that work go to waste.

It may be the perfect weekend to spend watching daredevil bikers racing down a hillside.

It might be wise, though, to wear mud boots and pants just in case, uh, Dry Hill isn’t so dry.

Last modified: April 04. 2012 6:02PM
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