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Bicyclists take to Tamaqua's streets, test hills and trails Anthracite Coal Cracker Classic challenges riders

  • Tommy Steinebrunner, 12, from Sykesville, Maryland, placed third overall and first in the under 19 class.
    Tommy Steinebrunner, 12, from Sykesville, Maryland, placed third overall and first in the under 19 class.
Published September 15. 2012 09:02AM

Bicycle riders from near and far took to to the streets and hills of Tamaqua as they challenged themselves during the Reading Anthracite Coal Cracker Classic held last weekend.

"We had an idea to start a bike race and we did it," said co-organizer Aaron Berger. "We were avid bike riders before, and when they canceled the races we wanted to bring it back."

The annul event is organized through the efforts of Tamaqua Area High School graduates Richard Chwastiak and Berger, two long-time mountain bikers and racers.

The race picked up where previous races staged by the Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission (ESRC) left off, beginning and ending at Tamaqua's Bungalow Park and taking advantage of trails on the outskirts of the borough boundaries.

The first Bungalow bike race was held in 1999. Previously, the races were held in conjunction with Tamaqua's Summerfest in June and Heritage Festival in October. ESRC and the former Jama Bike Shop in Tamaqua were the organizers of those races.

When Jama Bikes closed, the races fell by the wayside until Berger and Chwastiak worked to revive the concept.

"This is bringing something back to the community," Chwastiak said.

The race was open to all ages, and involved three classes ranging from a seven-mile beginner race to a 21-mile expert lap course.

"Our race is unique because the course is located on old mine land and open to any age," said Chwastiak. "This provides a style of riding that is specific to the coal region."

He added that you don't have to have fancy or expensive bikes to participate.

"Through the dedication of volunteers and the assistance of many local business and organizations, we have been able to once again bring this unique race back to our community," said Chwastiak; adding that over 200 man-hours were put into the track this year alone.

"These races are huge. And to think, they are held here in Tamaqua," said Jason Boris, Executive Director, Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission.

Berger, Boris and Chwastiak stressed that the goal of the Coal Cracker Classic is to give each racer "the best mountain bike race experience in Northeastern Pennsylvania."

The winners were expected to be posted online via their Facebook page.

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