That’s a pity, because this year may prove more interesting than most. Among the expected 300 participants is expected to be riders of a three-person bicycle and a unicyclist.
That’s right — a man (presumably — one assumes women would have more sense) and a single wheel, riding dirt and paved roads for 40 miles.
“That whole unicycling thing has taken off,” said race co-organizer Ted Christodaro of the Inlet store Pedals and Petals.
The Black Fly Challenge engenders this sort of tomfoolery. While some racers may take it seriously, others are just in it for a good time. The ride is 40 miles of paved and unpaved roads with no technical challenges to speak of, aside from a few medium-size hills. It’s a grand welcome to the summer cycling season in the North Country.
The race has changed somewhat from the days it was solely a mountain bike event. These days, so many people ride it on cyclocross bike — downhill frames and wheels with knobby tires, used for all-terrain races in the fall — that organizers created a separate category.
The cyclocross riders have the advantage, since they have larger wheels and get more distance with each crank of the pedal. However, those skinny tires are also more susceptible to flat tires — which means the rider becomes victim to the inevitable bug bites.
When I rode the race two years ago (without a flat tire, I might add), I found that the only bugs that bothered me were the few that slipped down between the vents in my helmet. Forward-thinking cyclists might consider taping strips of bug netting to seal up the holes. Or just ride harder and hope for the best.
It was the bystanders who seemed to get bugs the worst. The volunteers along the plains, where the heart of the race takes place, either wore full-jacket bug nets or suffered the swatting of the damned.
Still, the race is worth catching, for those who don’t already plan to take part. This year it starts from Inlet, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 12, and ends in Indian Lake.
“With so many races in the books, there’s no shortage of wild stories from ‘out there in the Plains,’ the organizers say on their web site. “Bikes have crossed the Finish Line with no seat, flat tires, broken rims and even on the shoulder of a few determined competitors.”
While some were apparently worried the race might not take place due to the state’s threatened closure of the Moose River Plains area, Christodaro says that never would have happened anyway because the state had already issued a permit for the race and had planned to honor it.
Anyway, the plains are open, the road is in good shape and the black flies are waiting. Let the pedaling begin!
For more information on the Black Fly Challenge, click here.