Bear Creek Challenge
by Jessica Buch • June 30, 2022
Mid Atlantic Super Series
Bear Creek Challenge
Bear Creek Mountain Resort Macungie, PA
June 5th, 2022
Bear Creek Mountain is my favorite of all the MASS race venues; this course perfectly combines climbing, tech, and flow. It is no surprise that this resort was home to the 2013 and 2014 Mountain Bike National Championships. The team at Bear Creek host two MASS races, the Bear Creek Challenge and Late Night at Bear Creek. Both races make you work hard for the finish.
The weather was perfect on race day, and the trails were in ideal riding shape; we were set for an excellent day of racing. This year Instead of heading off into the woods behind the ponds, we were sent off in the other direction towards the hotel. A fast sprint off the start line heads up a loose gravel hill that meets a sharp turn up a skinny climb littered with rocks. Don’t look to your left; it’s a steep exposed hillside behind the resort and a long way down from the trail to the parking lot below. After completing the first of many climbs, you’ll head down a very rocky section that pops out briefly into a parking lot before sending you on your journey up the mountain.
The climb to the top is a mix of double-wide ATV trail and single track that passes back and forth on the side of the mountain. When you think you’ve reached the highest point and take a second to look at the stunning view from the first ski trail, you are back to climbing. A long gravel access road wraps you around to what is truly the top, and you can once again catch a glimpse of the stunning vista. A few more little spurts of climbing, a mix of grass ski trail and singletrack, before you can catch your breath and start to descend. The downs are just as challenging as the ups, though, offering a variety of rock gardens ranging from a quick bump in the road to all-out hang-on boulder field downhills. Your efforts are rewarded just before you reach the bottom with a fun set of fast berms where you can let it fly. The only things left now are a wet punchy climb next to one pond, a single-track cruise along a creek, and an extended soggy grass circle around another pond. Watch out for the geese that generally head into the water but occasionally decide to join the race behind you. After out riding a wild goose or two, you’re ready to cross the finish line behind the resort and set off on your next lap.
Titled Bear Creek Challenge for a reason, this race is an actual test of fitness and skill. One of the series’ shorter races, with just a 5-mile lap, each lap racks up just over 650 ft of elevation. Bear Creek still manages to pack it all in and leaves you feeling accomplished no matter where you place.
We raced three laps, 15 miles and 1,991 ft of elevation. I finished 9th out of 9 with a time of 2:17:31. My Kona Hei Hei CR handled everything BC could throw at it easily, and I’m feeling more fit and slowly closing the gap between me and the lead. We are ready to take on June, our busy month for racing, and look forward to the next MASS race, Guys Neshaminy Classic.