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Mountain bike race returns to Sylvan Island for 2021 season opening

Mountain bike racing is back at Sylvan Island. The race in 2020 was cancelled because of the pandemic, and riders were excited to hit the trails again.

MOLINE, Ill. — As groups of mountain bikers take off from the starting line, they are getting back to a more normal tradition.

"It’ll be fun, gonna get out there and get sloppy and get messy," said Mandy Griesenbeck.

Griesenbeck is the race director for the Sylvan Island Stampede, a mountain bike race organized by the group "Friends of Off-Road Cycling," otherwise known as FORC.

Griesenbeck got everyone else peddling, before joining her race later in the morning. And this year, it was a big race.

"Last year of course with COVID we had to cancel pretty much the whole mountain bike season," Griesenbeck said.

That makes the 2021 event the 12th time the race has been held at Sylvan Island, according to Griesenbeck.

It was also a big turnout, with 260 riders pre-registering for the event. It was the largest Sylvan Island Stampede race hosted there in several years, Griesenbeck said.

"We did all pre-registration to kind of eliminate lines at registration table, but yeah this is almost a hundred riders more than it was two years ago," said Griesenbeck.

All of those riders also experienced the wet trails, though Griesenbeck said Sylvan Island's trails were in good shape given Saturday's rain.

"We will have some sections with some water," Griesenbeck said. "We’re aware of one area with about four inches. It makes it more exciting."

But the weather and trail conditions didn't keep away spectators like Timothy Gray.

"Race was on and it was great to see so many people out here," Gray said.

Gray came out to cheer on his son, who competed in a six mile race.

And Gray knows the curves and challenges his son would face, because he's ridden the course at Sylvan Island before.

"But the time that I rode it it wasn’t so wet," said Gray.

Those wet trails and challenges were all worth at the end, riders rewarded with big smiles as they complete each lap.

"I hear people talking to each other like ‘hey it’s great to see ya, it’s been two years.’ So everybody’s excited to be back," Griesenbeck said.

Each rider shifted into gear as they raced toward a more normal finish line.

The races at Sylvan Island kicked off the mountain bike racing season in both Iowa and Illinois.

The proceeds from registration will help maintain eight mountain biking trail systems in the Quad Cities area. For more information about those trails, click here.

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