Race for bikers of all shapes and sizes, by Pam Christensen

Just over eight years ago, Scott Tuma and Rich Uren put their heads together and dreamed up a mountain bike race to showcase Marquette County.
The Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic was born. Ore to Shore is Michigan’s largest mass-start, point-to-point mountain bike race. Last year, almost 2,400 racers enjoyed Marquette’s scenery and hospitality. This year’s races are sponsored by Bell Medical, a subsidiary of Bell Hospital, and will be held on August 11.
The race features the Hard Rock, an aptly named forty-eight-mile race that begins in downtown Negaunee. The course covers some of the most scenic terrain in the U.P.
Racers ride to Ishpeming and then wind their way downhill to Marquette. Mining sites such as Cliff’s Shaft, the Ropes Gold Mine Haul Road, Presque Isle Ore dock and Lake Superior soothe the souls of hard-riding competitors. The Hard Rock start is at 9:45 a.m..
The Soft Rock race also starts in Negaunee and heads straight downhill to Marquette. This twenty-eight-mile race has the most riders and is challenging enough for seasoned riders as well as a great introduction to competitive biking for newbies. The Soft Rock start is at 9:00 a.m. near Lakeview School on Croix Street in Negaunee.
The Hard and Soft Rock races have prize categories for mountain, tandem and single speed bikes. Random prizes also are awarded to riders at the awards banquet.
While most people in Marquette are well aware of the Ore to Shore (O2S) races for adults, people do not realize children can be involved too. Tuma and Uren both are fathers who realized the O2S needed to be family-friendly. The Junior Rock, Little Rock and Littlest Rock were developed to give families a healthy and fun activity and to introduce youth to competitive bike racing.
“Hopefully, these races will give youngsters an opportunity to race just like their parents and to enjoy biking,” Uren said.
Upper Peninsula Health Group is the sponsor for the 2007 youth races. Sponsorship allows for a $5 registration fee for each event and includes T-shirts, ribbons and prizes for the racers.
The Junior Rock race covers a four-mile course. The race begins at Lakeview Arena, loops out towards Presque Isle, then through River Park Sports Complex and back to the arena. The racers complete the race in the same finish area as the adults. The race is open to youth sixteen or younger. Each rider receives a race T-shirt and prizes are awarded to finishers in each division. The race start time is 4:00 p.m. at Lakeview Arena.
In 2006, 253 youth participated in the race. In the boys division, Stig Fjeldheim of Marquette completed the race with a time of 14:33:5 minutes. Girls division overall first-place was Sarah Stroope of Oxford (Michigan) with a time of 18:21:8 minutes. Junior Rock riders came from Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and New York.
The Little Rock and Littlest Rock races are not timed. Each participant receives a T-shirt and prize ribbon. At the end of each race, all riders are welcomed to the “feed station” to fuel up on the same foods that are given to adult racers.
“The excitement and enthusiasm of the children who participate is so wonderful,” said Jean Barnes, cochairperson of the youth races for O2S. “For many of them, this is their first competition, and they take it very seriously.”
The Littlest Rock race is a fifty-yard race for toddlers. This race is the most popular with the spectators. Riders can peddle or push their tricycles, big wheel or push car. The rules are laid back, and the enthusiasm and support of the crowd brings a smile to the face of each contestant. Each child receives a prize ribbon and T-shirt.
“The whole idea of this race, is to give even the smallest biker the opportunity to compete,” Tuma said.
The Littlest Rock begins at 5:00 p.m. in the Lakeview Arena parking lot.
The Little Rock race is a more challenging course that loops around the Superior Dome. The one-mile course gives youngsters the opportunity to “race” under the watchful eye of course marshals, parents and spectators. This race is not timed, but each child concludes the race feeling he or she is a winner.
It is a pleasure to watch the seriousness and competitive spirit that fills each child at the starting line.
To them, this is a big race, and they might grow up to be Lance Armstrong. Little Rock racers receive a T-shirt and prize ribbon as well as the confidence to try other challenges.
Registration for the Junior Rock, Little Rock and Littlest Rock is accepted prior to the race.
Racers also can register at Lakeview Arena on Friday evening from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m., Saturday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Riders are required to wear helmets for all O2S events.
For details, visit www.oretoshore.com or call (866)370-RACE.
—Pam Christensen

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