FORT HOOD — The Fort Hood Challenge two-day championship cycling race kicked off Saturday with a record-breaking 850 riders on the closed-course.
Professional-level racers circled the 33-mile loop three times for a nearly 100-mile competition, but there were many categories and lengths for participants, who ranged in age from 10 to 70. The event also featured a free active-duty military competition Saturday that featured 16 participants.
“Copperas Cove is the most bike-friendly city in the state of Texas,” said Andy Hollinger, race director. “It’s one of only two closed-courses in the state of Texas. The cycle season starts here in January, and it ends here with the Texas State Championship Road Race.”
Fort Hood closed range roads to allow cyclists to ride the loop without sharing the road with motor vehicle traffic.
“Not having to compete with cars whizzing past you is a huge draw for us,” said Sheri Bazley, a Nacogdoches resident whose entire family of seven cycles. “This is a well-run race and the course is very technical, and we enjoy spending the weekend here.”
Copperas Cove has hosted the race for more than a decade, including the last five years the race was conducted on post. The only access point to the race is through Copperas Cove on North Farm-to-Market Road 116.
“This event gives our community great exposure,” said Betty Price, Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce president. “When people come into the area for this event they stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores, so this event is a big source of revenue for us.”
The course features more than 2,500 feet worth of climbs, truly challenging riders. Another benefit is the boost it brings to soldiers and the Central Texas community.
“A lot of people participate in this race because it’s a race that gives back,” Hollinger said, referring to the $10,000 the race raised this year, which will go to several military charities.
Racers like Chris Degenaars, 15, of Plano, said the venue is what makes the race appealing. “This race is very challenging because of all the climbs and hills, but that’s what makes it more fun,” said Degenaars, who competed for the first time in category four. “The fact that it’s all paved and closed-off is a big plus, too.”
The championship race attracted military participants from all over the U.S. Participants came from eight states to race, Hollinger said.