It started with a vision. Therese McCoy loved mountain biking and wanted to bring riders together for a series of races. When she approached her friend Tracy Evans with the idea, the response was immediately positive. Both women are committed to a lifestyle of exercise and adventure in the great outdoors, and with support from friends and community, Blazing Saddles was born.
Blazing Saddles is an annual three-week mountain bike race series in Shasta County, featuring outdoor fun, food and music. It’s now in its 5th year, and the program is thriving more than ever with an average of 70-80 participants per race.
Similar to other sport races, this series attracts serious and competitive athletes. Unlike other races, it also attracts families with riders of all ability levels, ranging in age from 2 to 70 years old. According to veteran participant Meri Passidakis, “Everyone has a blast.”
Meri became involved with Blazing Saddles after the youngest of her three children went into remission following a life-threatening illness. After several years of focusing intensely on her child’s needs, Meri’s time for self-care had gone by the wayside. As her daughter’s health improved, Meri began to look for ways to improve her own well-being. Through Blazing Saddles, she found a door back into a sport she loved.
For a few race seasons, Meri and her youngest child entered the beginner race together on a tandem-like bike. Meri says, “The medals my daughter earned at Blazing Saddles still hang on her wall and she proudly shows her achievements off to all our house guests! Blazing Saddles has given her a sense of pride and self-worth.” Meri is now a vital part of the Blazing Saddles team, providing a strong voice in spreading the news about the fun festival, as well as operating a photo booth at the races.
With support from local bike shops and businesses, participants and spectators also have chances to win prizes and raffle baskets. The last race of the series features a special event for very young children that involves chasing a “masked bandit who is trying to escape with a bag of loot.”
Another thing that sets the Blazing Saddles races apart is the food. Having competed in a number of prior race events, and finding herself exhausted and hungry at a meager chow line at the end of a race, co-founder Tracy Evans enthusiastically decided the group should feed everyone involved. “I was determined to provide the foods that I craved after a hard effort, and PLENTY of it – even for the very last racer.” The group hoped that the food would keep participants mingling around, enjoying each other’s company, and it seems to have worked. Tracy notes that the spectators also have plenty to eat as well, while they wait for friends and family members to finish the race.
According to Meri, “Even if you’ve never ridden a mountain bike in your entire life, if you go to the event, you’ll feel like you are at a family reunion, and that you’re an important member of the family.” She adds that you’ll also leave wanting to get on a bike!
2013 races will be held May 23 and 30, and June 8, at Swasey Recreation Area (off Swasey Drive) in Redding. Each race features beginner, sport and expert levels. Rider registration is 5:30 to 6:15 p.m., and races start at 6:30 p.m. sharp. More information can be found at http://www.facebook.com/BlazingSaddlesRedding