The Ouachita Challenge mountain bike race will be March 25th and 26th and will involve 500 riders. This 60 plus mile race is produced by the Ouachita Mountain Challenge Association and will take place over parts of the Ouachita Trail and the Womble Trail, as well as connecting roads between the two trails. This is a very challenging racecourse that features steep mountain ascents and descents, creek crossings, and narrow rocky trails. Encounters with wildlife are not uncommon for the riders. The race begins and ends at the Oden School starting at 8 a.m. both days.
The fastest riders will cover this course in about four hours and thirty minutes. There are categories for men and women, as well as age groups and a single speed bike class. In past races, riders have come from about 20 different states. The attraction to our area is partly due to the fact that the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) has designated three trails nearby as Epic Mountain Bike Trails. These are the Womble Trail, the Ouachita Trail, and the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail. The grouping of three epic trails in such a small area is unusual in the United States. This epic designation adds not only to the rider’s interest in this event, but also to increased tourism year round.
The Ouachita Mountain Challenge Association is an all volunteer group that represent the organizations who will benefit from the revenue the event produces. All proceeds from the event are distributed to the local non-profit organizations that help put on the race. These include the Oden School, Friends of the Ouachita Trail, Traildogs, Polk County Development Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Joplin Volunteer Fire Department, Cove Volunteer Fire Department, Sims Volunteer Fire Department, and the Ouachita Amateur Radio Association. The event has a very positive impact on these agencies and their operations.
The Ouachita Challenge has a large economic impact for this area of the state. Motels, campgrounds, and cabins will be filled in the area. Most riders will bring friends and families to the event for the weekend, and many racers spend several weekends in the area practicing for the event prior to the race weekend. With this economic impact in mind, everyone is encouraged to welcome the visitors to our beautiful part of the state. Helping them to have an enjoyable time on race weekend will insure return visits and additional tourism benefits for our area.
Organizers also ask the public to please be careful driving and watch out for riders on area roads over the next week.