Riding the rock garden

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A score of spectators hiked into the woods Sunday to watch as the pros made their second loop through the 17-mile BUMP and Grind course at Oak Mountain State Park.

&8220;Whoa…Nice Ride!&8221; said one member of the crowd as a pro slid through the pile of rocks on his front tire.

Others weren&8217;t so lucky.

&8220;Ew, are you alright, man?&8221; another fan asked a biker who flipped over his handlebars, just missing a tree.

This is Blood Rock, the most techincal portion of the trail. Its name originated from a red paint mark on the protrusive rock at the top of the pile. However, since Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedlars&8217; BUMP and Grind race began 13 years ago, this stretch of trail has lived up to its name, producing awe-filed rides and wincing wrecks.

&8220;Blood Rock rocks,&8221; said Vestavia Hills native Don Hoodenpyle as he fixed a flat at the base of the rock pile. &8220;You&8217;ll see a lot of crashes, but for the guys who ride through it&8217;s just a rush when you get down to the bottom. It&8217;s like, &8216;Yeah, I made it.&8217;&8221;

While some like Hoodenpyle love the trecherous ride, others try to avoid it.

&8220;That wasn&8217;t part of my course today thankfully,&8221; Wetumpka native and beginner racer Mike Cruise said.

Second-year mountain biker Greg Smith was among those who gathered at Blood Rock.

&8220;I can&8217;t ride it, so I want to watch everybody else ride it. It&8217;s a neat place to watch the expertise of most of these riders that have been coming through here,&8221; said the Inverness resident.

&8220;Most of the wrecks happen because they get to this place right here and realize, I maybe shouldn&8217;t be doing this,&8221; Smith said while sitting above the rocky terrain.

Blood Rock is just one element of the race that keeps spectators and racers coming back year after year.

&8220;This is a great facility. I don&8217;t race a whole lot. I wouldn&8217;t go chasing around the southeast to race, but I wouldn&8217;t miss this one. The whole southeast comes here,&8221; said north Shelby County resident Doug Dowdy.

The race also continues to grow, as new racers, such as Toby and Christina Smith, come from across the nation to compete at Oak Mountain.

&8220;This is the first year we&8217;ve done this. We heard really good things about this race,&8221; Toby Smith said while sitting above Blood Rock waiting for his wife to ride through.

&8220;It&8217;s a great course. For a 17-mile course, it&8217;s blazing fast,&8221; the Denton, Texas resident said.

Aside from the course and skill level of the professionals racing, spectators and racers were drawn to the park for a day with the family.

Some families watched from Blood Rock most of the day before hiking back to the starting line to prepare for the Youth Series races.

&8220;It does a lot to get (kids) out here. These guys really do it right,&8221; Cruise said.

Local winners were mixed upon the pros, as Helena&8217;s Stacey Davis captured first in the Sport Women (ages 44-99) race. Birmingham residents Racheal Butler, Sim Butler, John Close, Dusty Davis, Terry Duran, Mike Hurley and Bob Schlemmer each won their events.

Jamie Whitmore captured the women&8217;s pro title, while Ryan Woodall won the men&8217;s pro event.