Lees-McRae College and Sugar Mountain Resort Host USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals Oct. 24-26

BANNER ELK, N.C. --- Lees-McRae College and the Sugar Mountain Resort are hosting the USA Cycling 2008 Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships October 24-26 on the campus of Lees-McRae College and at the Sugar Mountain Resort.

The first of the weekend events begins at 8 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 24, when the men compete in the cross country competition. Following the men's Division I and Division II races, the women's cross country events will begin at 11 a.m.

The cross country races take place at Lees-McRae's five mile cross country loop filled with a variety of exciting challenges. Plenty of technical climbing and descending will ensure a well-rounded rider comes out on top in this race.

The best areas for spectators to watch the race will be in the bleachers set up at the Mill Pond and along the road by the Mill Pond. Parking for the cross country events will be available at Lees-McRae's athletic complex located on Hickory Nut Gap Road in Banner Elk.

Practice for the downhill competition begins Friday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Sugar Mountain Resort with qualifying for the race from 3 to 6 p.m.

Beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday is the short track competition, located near the Lees-McRae softball field at the athletics complex on Hickory Nut Gap Road. Division II women will compete at 8 a.m., followed by Division II men at 8:45 a.m.

Division I women will compete at 9:30 a.m. and Div. I men at10:15 a.m. The men's B and Coaches' race begin at 1:00 a.m. with the women's B race to follow at 11:30 a.m.

At noon on Saturday, Lees-McRae College is sponsoring a kid's short track bike race for children between the ages of five and 17. For additional information regarding the kid's race, please contact Meghan Wright at (828) 898-8729.

The short track consists of a one mile long loop with a little of everything from flat, open sections to a short climb. Open spectator areas will be available in the middle of the course on the lacrosse practice fields and in the woods along the course, and bleachers will be set up at the finish. Parking for the short track races will be available at Lees-McRae's athletics complex. The short track course is located near the softball field.

At 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25, the downhill races for men and women in Division I and II will begin at the Sugar Mountain Resort. The downhill races are the only events not held on the campus of Lees-McRae.

The downhill course at Sugar Mountain consists of a 1200 foot drop over a mile and a half of trail that includes turns in the ski runs Donovan's drop and Lizard's Lane, and the creek jump to the finish line.

The best areas for spectators to catch the action of the downhill races are the finish line and creek jump at the bottom of Lizard's Lane. Parking for the downhill competition is available at the lodge at Sugar Mountain. Lift tickets for spectators are available from the Sugar Mountain Resort.

Practice for the dual slalom events will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday on the dual slalom course near the lacrosse practice fields at Lees-McRae's athletics complex.

The weekend comes to a close on Sunday, Oct. 26, with the final competition: the dual slalom. Qualifying will begin at 8 a.m. and the dual slalom finals will take place afterwards.

A favorite of mountain bike spectators, the dual slalom is a head-to-head competition down a manmade course usually with gated turns (much like ski racing). The course usually has manmade obstacles such as berms, jumps, bumps and the occasional drop. One side of the dual slalom course is cleared for spectators, and bleachers will be set up at the finish line.

The awards ceremony will follow the final dual slalom competition at the athletics facilities.

Top Lees-McRae riders to watch in the weekend's competitions are Scott Stewart, a senior of Oxford, Mich., Brad Perley, a sophomore from Kennebunk, Maine, Niki Dallaire, a senior from Louisville, Ky., Carla Swart, junior from Buford, Ga., and Ally Stacher, a junior from Etna, Calif. in the cross country and short track competitions. Top downhill and dual slalom riders are Aaron Bradford, a senior of Auburn, Wash., and Ben Hulse, a sophomore of Mooresville, N.C. Four riders will be racing in all four events and competing for the overall omnium titles; Kristi Henne of Plainview, Ark., Swart, Stacher, and Bradford.

Lees-McRae College, who finished on top of the USA Cycling Collegiate National Rankings in Div. I for the entire 2006-2007 season and second by a mere point in 2007-08, is a favorite for the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals. Other favorites (Div. I & II) to watch during the competition are Fort Lewis College of Durango, Colo.; University of Colorado at Boulder; Lindsey Wilson College of Columbia, Ky.; Warren Wilson College of Swannanoa, N.C. and Colorado State University.

"Lees-McRae College has been given the honor, and even more so, the responsibility for hosting a National Championship for the most elite collegiate cyclists in the country for the second year running. Our expectations are that we will again offer them a first class event with demanding courses" said Ried Estus, Lees-McRae College Athletic Director. "The College is very appreciative of the cooperation we're receiving from the towns of Sugar Mountain and Banner Elk. We couldn't pull this off with their logistical support and their contributions of resources."

Sponsors for the USA Cycling 2007 Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships are the Town of Banner Elk, USA Cycling, Sugar Ski & Country Club, Woodlands BBQ and Dereka's Sugar Mountain Accommodations & Realty.

Brian Sheedy, Lees-McRae College Cycling Coach, is the organizer of the race. For additional information, please contact Meghan Wright, Communications Officer, at (828) 898-8729 or visit www.ncca.lmc.edu.

Lees-McRae College is a private, four-year, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church U. S. A., located in the mountains of western North Carolina in the town of Banner Elk. The college is dedicated to service learning and offers majors in twenty-three academic disciplines.