Mountain bikers continue tradition of Wednesday night races at Riverside State Park

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May 22 – Every Wednesday at this time of year, about 200 mountain bikers of all ages and skill levels hit the dirt at Riverside State Park.

Many adults then end the evening with a beer while the children drool over the prize table.

“The beer garden is like an English pub,” organizer Gino Lisiecki said. “Everyone talks about what he did right or wrong.”

Lisiecki and Eric Ewing took over the event, dubbed the Wednesday Night Mountain Bike Races, from the Spokane Department of Parks and Recreation more than 15 years ago.

Ewing said they quickly learned they could set up a mountain bike course in a matter of hours at Riverside State Park, which would take riders 30 minutes to an hour. He said it took seven hours to set up a route at Beacon Hill, where the city hosted, which cyclists completed in 20 minutes. Cyclists have cycled at Riverside State Park for the past decade and a half.

The nine races in May and June range from 6 to 10 miles. Some run two laps, so their mileage doubles from 12 to 20 miles.

Lisiecki said the course, which was 8.3 miles long on Wednesday, is getting longer and harder each week.

Lisiecki said they run in May and June to avoid dry, dusty trails, hot weather and the resulting fire dangers in the summer.

“May and June have always been very good for us, except last June,” Lisiecki said.

“God, it was hot in here. We had one day it was 108 degrees.”

Although they are called races, not all of them ride fiercely.

Ewing said the riders range from national mountain bike champions to kids under 10.

“I guess that’s kind of the beauty of our program here, it’s really something for everyone,” Ewing said.

Runners can start the course between 5:30 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. More competitive riders start at 6:30 a.m.

Russ Schwartz, 69, said he had been racing Wednesdays for about six years. He said he enjoyed riding with friends, watching young riders improve and drinking beer afterwards.

“I do it for fun and it’s about pushing myself,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz is also president of the Riverside State Park Foundation, whose mission is to raise awareness for the park and raise money for things in the park, like a newly installed water fountain. Wednesday’s races are great for the park, Schwartz said.

Dave Braun, 57, said he had been racing Wednesdays for about 12 years except for the past two years due to the pandemic and a busy work schedule.

“It’s great to hang out with my tribe because it’s been a few years,” Braun said.

He said he loved the competition the races brought, but mostly raced against himself.

Jonathan Klesch watched his 13-year-old son, Henry, compete on Wednesday.

“I think it’s kind of a mid-week respite for everyone, just a little break,” Jonathan Klesch said.

Henry Klesch said he has been riding on Wednesdays for the past few years.

He said the races provide good training and experience for his son and his racing team.

“I really like the area,” said Henry Klesch. “This is my favorite mountain biking area.”

Derek Garcia, a 37-year-old former professional triathlete, competed in the Wednesday Series for the first time last week.

He said he planned to ride with his son, who was not there Wednesday, this week.

Ewing said 200 runners participated Wednesday and haven’t had fewer since last year.

Lisiecki said there were 30 to 50 runners when he and Ewing took over the series. He said he believed the growth in ridership was because they could ride as hard or as easy as they wanted, they could bring their families and races didn’t block out weekends. -ends.

He said Spokane’s population boom and the pandemic pushing more people into parks and biking has also led to more bicyclists on Wednesdays.

Ewing said he didn’t expect the number of people who attended the event 15 years ago to ride with their kids now.

“It’s so cool,” he said.

Ewing said many runners complete the course at 7:45 a.m. and end up at the beer garden. Several young riders often watch the prizes.

“To stand in the doorway of my trailer and watch all of this and kind of know that we created this fun for people on a Wednesday night is the most satisfying part for me,” Ewing said.

Riders race their way through the course during the Wednesday Night Mountain Bike Races at Riverside State Park on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

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