Approximately 400 racers took to the trails of Elings Park this past weekend as part of the Santa Barbara Bikefest.
Both racers and promoters deemed the event a success, even though the situation for the event’s sixth annual iteration appeared dire in the days preceding its kickoff.
Only days before the event, Santa Barbara County dropped a temporary restraining order against the event, which it had originally pursued due to claims that the event violated a covenant between the Elings Park Foundation, which oversees the park, and the County.
Though the issue will likely rear its head in court again, race director Tom Spiegel said attendees deemed the event a success.
“Every single person I ran into out there said they were happy [we] had the bike race,” Spiegel, who owns mountain bike race promoter Team Big Bear, said.
Three different competitive mountain bike events were held at Bikefest, according to information provided by Team Big Bear.
Short Track, a short, intense style of racing held on a short loop of the park’s trails, was held on Saturday, along with Super D, which rewarded the fastest racer on a mostly downhill course. Sunday was dominated by the Cross-Country race, where competitors rode up to four laps of a six-mile loop around the park.
By and large, attendees, a mix of locals and visitors from across the state, were impressed by the race’s organization.
“I love this course. It’s the only race that’s near the ocean in the whole US,” said John Nobil, a Big Bear resident who raced in the cross-country race. “There’s a heat wave everywhere else, but there is no other venue with an ocean view.”
The race’s close brush with cancellation was on the minds of many racers, who were greeted at registration by a petition to allow future bike races to continue in the park.
“I don’t see an alternative,” Nobil said. “Santa Barbara deserves to have a mountain bike race.”
Were the race cancelled, the impact on Santa Barbara’s image would be dire, said Menso De Jong, who travelled from San Luis Obispo for the cross-country race,
“[The near-cancellation] basically reinforces outsider’s beliefs that Santa Barbara is exclusive and doesn’t want outsiders,” De Jong said.
County politics aside, Jonathan Rivera, who also traveled from San Luis Obispo for the cross country-race, said the event was a good time overall.
“It’s very easily accessible, self-contained and overall a great location for a race,” Rivera said.