Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Beech Mtn NC Bike Trails To Host National Championship!!
He continued to do so years later while cycling for Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky, satisfying the daredevil side of the Brevard native.
Now a 30-year-old general contractor from Etowah, Herndon has reached the pinnacle of race-course design, having been chosen to oversee the construction of a race track at Beech Mountain Resort in Avery County that will host the 2011 and 2012 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships.
Herndon, the 2007 dual slalom national champion in mountain biking, drove up on Sunday and, beginning today, will spend the next 11 weeks constructing the riveting courses in time for this year's nationals Sept. 22-25, 2011 which for the first time will take place at a resort in the South.
“It's going to be fun and challenging but also safe,” said 14-year-old Luca Shaw of Hendersonville, who races on Herndon's Specialized/GROM elite juniors team with his 15-year-old brother, Walker. “It seems that every race we went to this year with Chris, he'd always have better ideas and was always thinking, ‘That could be so much better,' or, ‘That's really dangerous.' ”
“Which is funny,” Herndon said, “because when I was in college, I built a lot of crazy stuff that was really fun to ride because I was wanting to push myself to my limits. But now that I'm building for other people, I've kind of gone back to building something that's safe and fun for everyone to ride.”
Designing three race tracks Along with Etowah's Danny Cesare and Mike Thomas of Boone — both of whom also have impressive racing and course-design resumes — Herndon will be carving out three race tracks: a pro and amateur downhill track and a dual slalom track on which both amateurs and pros will race.
The sport is much like skiing in that competitors race down the mountain — time-trial style against the clock — executing turns and jumps. World-class gravity racers often reach speeds of 45 mph on a downhill course and 30 mph in slalom racing. While some of the downhill course at Beech Mountain will feature ski-slope sections, Herndon said, what happens in the woods is what will really wow spectators.
“Most people would walk into the woods and say, ‘There's no way anyone could ride a bike down this,' ” Herndon said of the numerous boulders and drop-offs that riders navigate. “These guys come through it at 30 mph — pretty impressive.”
So, too, Herndon added, is the commitment to excellence shown by Beech Mountain Resort.
He said officials there approached him last fall about submitting a bid to USA Cycling for hosting nationals. After walking the area one day, Herndon determined the beautiful location, unique High Country terrain and top-notch accommodations in and around the resort made Beech Mountain an ideal spot.
However, he told officials the trails there needed a lot of work, and that turning the resort into a national championship-caliber venue would require a substantial investment.
The entire project — including course construction — will cost about $100,000, Herndon said, and “they were fully on board for it.”
In addition to hiring Herndon and his team, the resort will purchase and install lift trays, which hold competitors' bikes on the ski lift as racers are shuttled up the mountain. This is a necessity for increasing the capacity of riders atop the mountain during an elite race like nationals, Herndon explained. Now, each lift chair will hold four riders instead of one.
“You have to go nine hours from here to get that kind of product,” Herndon said. “It's a huge investment, but they knew that that's what they needed to do. ... It's great to see a resort actually taking the right steps, and not just trying to host an event to make money off of it. They truly want to do it right, and that's the only reason I'm involved with them.”
Conversely, resort officials were eager to work with a man recognized as one of the best around in creating first-class courses.
“We feel confident that Christopher Herndon will design a unique facility ensuring that Beech Mountain Resort will produce an innovative product,” Ryan Costin, general manager of the resort, said in a statement.
The Shaw brothers, who will be together at Hendersonville High this fall, certainly are excited about having such a venue so close to home. The closest mountain-bike park of its kind is six hours away in Snowshoe, W.Va., the boys pointed out.
”It's huge because next year, the stuff that Chris is doing now to it is going to make it sustainable for the years to come — the courses he's building, the people he's bringing in,” said Walker Shaw, who competed with his brother at junior nationals last year in Colorado. “I actually really look forward to next year because it's going to be a great training tool, having a place like that to ride downhill. There's not many places you can ride downhill bikes. It's very specific, and it has to be good for it to be fun.”
Luca Shaw added that he hopes the new course at Beech Mountain will elevate the popularity of the sport in the Southeast.
Talia Freeman, marketing director at Beech Mountain, said Herndon brings “a real insight to safety and beginner terrain,” which is important to the progression of mountain biking in the region.
“We are very fortunate he is overseeing our efforts,” Freeman said. “To say (Herndon) is knowledgeable of the sport and trail building is an understatement. He really takes an innovative approach to everything he does, which will ultimately differentiate us from other areas.”
Info, Photo from BlueRidgeNow.com