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Hundreds of young mountain bikers ready to shred at John Hunt Park

Published on April 21, 2022

three young boys are pictured riding their bikes down a wooded path in the John Hunt Park Mountain Biking Course

The Alabama Interscholastic Cycling League (AICL) will hold its final race of the regular season April 23-24 at the single-track mountain bike trail at John Hunt Park.

The race, called ParTee at John Hunt Park, is expected to draw some 3,500 athletes, coaches and spectators from across the state. It is the first major event since the course opened late last year.

The 4.1-mile trail features superfast machine-built berms and enough rollers to satisfy even the most adventurous athletes. Berms are banked corners that allow mountain bikers to pick up speed as they turn. A roller is a hump or series of humps on the trail.

The project was a joint partnership between the City, Barry Smith Trails and Huntsville Area Mountain Bike Riders (HAMR). AICL also provided input, knowing the league would eventually hold races here.

Exponential growth

HAMR Vice President Erin McMahon said the introduction of the Alabama league to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) in 2015 has helped grow the sport exponentially over the last seven years.

AICL Race Director Dustin Dew puts the growth in perspective, saying the league began with a little more than 250 student-athletes from across the state. Today, there are more than 700 middle and high school athletes, along with 380 coaches.

While some choose to compete with AICL as individuals, many train as part of a team. There are seven teams in the Huntsville/Madison County area: Bob Jones High School, Buckhorn High, Grissom High, Huntsville High, James Clemens High, Madison Trailblazers Composite Team and Randolph School.

Both Dew and McMahon attribute some of the growth to the sport’s family-friendly atmosphere.

“You will see people arriving on Friday and setting up massive trailers and RVs and making an entire weekend family trip out of the race,” Dew said. “The neat thing about mountain biking is it is a family sport. When a student-athlete plays a traditional sport like baseball or football, it is tough for the entire family to participate in tournaments or events. Mountain biking allows the whole family to travel together.”

McMahon agrees, adding the sport appeals to all ages.

“It can, of course, be a very challenging sport if you want to be competitive and push your limits, but it doesn’t have to be, if you’re just looking for a little exercise or another way to enjoy nature,” he said. “Entire families can get out on our local trails together and each family member can finish their ride smiling.”

Event details

The first day of competition will focus on middle school athletes. Following three waves of rides, the awards ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, the high school mountain bikers will take to the trail. The top finishers will be recognized during an awards ceremony at 3 p.m.

Looking to join a team in your community? The AICL is open to students grades 6-12. To learn more about the sport of mountain biking, HAMR is a great place to start. The group is holding its Spring Skills Clinic April 30-May 1. For information, visit hamrhsv.com.

Photo of the landscape for the mountain bike course showing hills and rugged dirt path
John Hunt Park’s new Mountain Bike Course is one of Huntsville’s new recreational attractions for professional and amateur cyclists. Photo courtesy of Chad Edwards.