MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
More than 30 mountain bikers opted out of spending their Saturday morning sleeping in to hit Cherry Point’s tree canopied Piranha Pit trails for the air station’s annual Marine Corps Community Services Mountain Bike Challenge June 18.
Soppy humid air greeted the early arriving riders, who consisted of active duty and retired service members as well as members of the community. Just before the race started, riders ensured their equipment was prepared to withstand the tough terrain of the tree winding trails on the seven mile off road course.
“It’s an intermediate course, but if you’re not paying attention, you’ll still go over your handlebars,” said Terry A. Erb, 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion operations chief. Erb finished the race second overall with a time of 28 minutes, 45 seconds – just behind the first place finisher, John Lynch, who had a time of 28 minutes, 14 seconds. Lynch is the operations officer for Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
The riders began pedaling from the course’s electronic starting point at 8 a.m., releasing one at a time in 30-second intervals to prevent traffic jams on the course’s tight track. Each cyclist raced to win their respective category, based on age and gender.
Jessica R. Romagnoli, a maintenance instructor for the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training at Cherry Point, felt she had an advantage because of her familiarity with the course.
“Knowing when certain obstacles are about to come up helps out a lot,” said Romagnoli, who took first place for females with a time of 40 minutes, 10 seconds. “The remoteness of the trails also helps because it allows you to keep your mind on only what’s in front of you – unless you’re trying to outride a bug.”
The riders also had the incentive to outride each other. “It’s human nature to attempt to catch the person in front of you, or not to get caught,” said Erb. “It was a competitive atmosphere for everyone, but at the same time, everyone was out here to support one another.”
Bernadine Crosby, the MCCS special events coordinator, said that is the whole point of putting on these races.
“It’s an honor to come out and be amongst the Marines,” said Crosby. “Anything I can do to make their lives easier and more relaxed by giving them more resources for exercise is great.”
Crosby added that the race has gained popularity over the years and she hopes it stays that way.
“Nobody puts on a better affair than the Marines do,” said Michael Reed, a psychologist from New Bern, who placed first for the 51-60 age group with a time of 33 minutes, 18 seconds. “Cherry Point has a great outreach to the community.”