Cycling competition comes to Panther Creek Park

Riders prepare to compete in a Tennessee Interscholastic Cycling League event at Panther Creek Park Saturday.

The Tennessee Interscholastic Cycling League showed up in full force Saturday at Panther Creek State Park as it began the first day of its two-day stay in Hamblen County.

More than 400 riders from 30 schools across Tennessee and Kentucky are participating in a mountain bike race that could end up being a regular occurrence, said Katherine Williams, director and founder of the cycling league.

“We’ve gotten a lot of good positive feedback from the teams,” she said.

The cycling league is a collective of middle and high school teams who race mountain bikes. There are eight East Tennessee teams and 30 teams total, Williams said.

They conduct five races during their fall season, one in East Tennessee, one in West Tennessee and the rest in Middle Tennessee, Williams said.

Panther Creek State Park found itself loaded with mountain bikes Saturday.

Tent after tent stood in the field next to the pool and the playground area with high school and middle school students conglomerating. Rows and rows of mountain bikes were present as well with riders cycling all over the park or gathering together.

It was the first time the cycling league has come to Panther Creek State Park. Williams said it occurred because of just scouting the area.

The league had originally been using the Baker’s Creek mountain bike riding area in Knoxville, but outgrew it, Williams said. So, she and other league officials began looking around.

They came upon Panther Creek.

“We came here, checked it out, the mountain bike trails good, it met all the requirements we needed, so we went ahead with having a mountain bike race here,” she said.

The mountain bike teams spent most of Saturday preparing, conducting prerides along the 4.25 mile course. The race itself will start at 9 a.m. today.

Williams said Tennessee has seen steady growth of mountain biking. She said its exploding across the United States.

She said its a good way to exercise and enjoyable. Her organization is trying to specifically target kids who may not even have been on a bicycle before, she said.

Once they start biking, though, they may get hooked.

She said there is some cost, but it pays out in the end.

“It’s not as easy as walking or running with tennis shoes being the purchasing cost, you have to buy a bike, you have to have the gear, but once people buy a bicycle or purchase one, they really enjoy it,” she said.