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Hundreds of bicyclists take to the hills of Tamaqua

  • ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Riders get a police escort as they travel down Stadium Hill to start the race at the bottom of North Lehigh Street.
    ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Riders get a police escort as they travel down Stadium Hill to start the race at the bottom of North Lehigh Street.
Published September 13. 2011 05:00PM

The Reading Anthracite Coal Cracker Classic mountain bike race was held in the mountains north of Tamaqua on Sunday as part of the Mid-Atlantic Super Series, one of the largest regional mountain bike races.

Tamaqua Area High School graduates Richard Chwastiak and Aaron Berger organized the event with additional support by Jason Boris, executive director, Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission.

A total of 258 cyclists of all skill levels, local and from as far as Virginia and Florida, participated. Beginner racers rode the lower loop of the track, the part of the track Jama Bikes ran races on in the past. Two miles, however, were added to the existing five. The sport class raced two laps on the lower loop, and the beginners ran one.

In addition to the lower loop, miles of new track, combined with enduro and other existing trails, were made for expert and endurance racers, creating what was being referred to as the mammoth loop, which was nearly 20 miles.

Several racers compared the course's terrain to Jim Thorpe's.

"The course was a lot of fun," said Brandon Draugelis, who finished in first place in the Expert Elite Class with a time of 1:48. "I did a lot of riding in the Jim Thorpe area. The course was pretty similar to the trails around there: steep and rocky and generally fun."

Draugelis was riding for Team CF (Cystic Fibrosis, based in Philadelphia.)

"The beginning of the race was challenging," one expert racer said, "because it was all uphill. It felt like forever."

"There's a really fun section after the hike-a-bike stuff," another expert racer said, "real swoopy fast."

"There was a lot of climbing in the first 10 miles, got the heart rate up at first," said Matthew Bilharz, expert elite rider for Bikesport. "Then, you got past the first-aid station there, and I thought it was pretty good after that. The last four miles or so, six miles or so, was mostly downhill, not a lot of climbing or anything, some good rock sections, some nice downhill shoots, a nice double-track in the middle - get some speed to get some miles in and a good single-track in between. I enjoyed it. I never did this course before, so I didn't know what to expect on one lap. It was a pretty close race."

Endurance racers had it the toughest, completing twice over what the experts had done, a total of nearly 40 miles. Although the course had its challenges, many riders liked the variety of terrain - rock gardens, drop-offs, sharp curves.

Andrew Hoover took first in the Endurance Class with a time of 4:31:57.

Full results of the race are posted on

Boris expressed his appreciation for all the volunteers, sponsors, Tamaqua Police and fire police. Organizers pointed out that this first annual bike race in Tamaqua was challenging for all the riders.

"Each new race will continue to attract more and more racers every year to our area," Boris said.

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