This year’s races will be held on Saturday, Feb. 3, with the cross-country race starting at noon and the downhill race just after dark. The course is located off U.S. 28 in Graham County near the Fontana Dam.
For 32-year-old Chad Smith, a construction supervisor from Franklin, the seven-mile, single-track course is usually wet and on par with nationally designated races because of its rugged terrain, which features roots, rocks and creek beds.
“I’ve run Icycle the past three years,” Smith said. “Fontana is a very unique place.”
After a seventh-place finish at last year’s Icycle, Smith, who rides for Yeti Bicycles out of Golden, Colo., is looking for a top-five finish.
His advice for riders new to the course?
Just have fun. Oh yeah, and wear decent clothes and bring plenty of determination.
If the weather is anything like last year, be sure to dress warmly. Even if weather conditions appeal to its namesake, the Icycle is still on.
“The weather will vary,” Smith said. “They don’t call it off. They run rain, shine, sleet, snow.”
For competitive mountain bikers, the heart of the racing season doesn’t begin until March, so the Icycle is an early tune-up that tests skilled riders in a fun atmosphere.
“It’s a lot more fun than it is pressure,” said O.J. Simpson, an expert-class mountain biker formerly based in Franklin and now living in Asheville. Simpson, who has raced at Icycle the past three years, estimates about 300 riders will come out to compete this year.
Early weather forecasts look good — highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the 20’s with a slim chance of precipitation — so maybe more thrill-seekers will sign up. Registration will be open up to 30 minutes before either race, but race-day sign-ups come with an extra $5 late fee.
The cross-country race starts at noon with waves every five minutes. The staggered start allows the expert class to begin first (three laps), followed by sport class (two laps, then beginner (one lap), then single speed (co-ed, two laps) and big bike class (co-ed, one lap).
And for a little more adventure, you might try the nighttime downhill race, which starts at “dark:30.” In order to participate, riders must wear a 10-watt (or greater) night riding lamp. Racers will not be allowed on the course without proper lighting.
After the cross-country race, enjoy a warm chili supper for $7.
The entry fee for either race is $20. The combined entry fee for the noon and nighttime races is $30. Race day registration and check-in will be at the Fontana Village Adventure Center from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for the noon cross-country race. The nighttime race registration and check-in is from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Online registration will close on Feb. 1. To register online or to get more information about the Icycle Mountain Bike Event, go to www.jandwevents.com.