ODEN – In spite of a rainy Saturday and a cold Sunday, over 400 cyclists braved the course known as the Ouachita Challenge Race and Ouachita Challenge Tour.
Cold temperatures didn’t slow anyone down Sunday as 232 cyclists took to the course. Brandon Melott set a new track record with a time of four hours 25 minutes and 35 seconds.
Eric Haynes finished second, John Austin Whittington finished third, Chase Peeler finished fourth and Olivier Laviqueue finished fifth.
Sara Sheets won the women’s open division, with Scotti Lecuga finishing second, Amanda Lappe finishing third, Rachel Furman finishing fourth and Laureen Coffelt finishing in fifth place.
In the single speed class, Aaron Mcdaniel finished first in the men’s division. Corey White finished in second place and Corey White finished in third.
Aerah Hardin won the women’s single speed division.
Sunday’s course stretches over 60 miles along sections of the Ouachita Trail and Womble Trail. It also crossed Highway 270 and travelled along some of the back roads in Montgomery County. The feature which separates the race held Sunday and the tour event held Saturday is a trip over Blowout Mountain.
Temperatures were warmer Saturday for the Tour, but cyclists had to deal with rain and mud throughout the course of the day. There were 197 cyclists at the start of the race. They were coated with mud from the course by the time they made it to the first check station at Big Brushy Creek Day Use Area.
Shawn Hodges turned in the best time Saturday, finishing the race in five hours.
Lisa Uranga was the first woman to finish Saturday.
The Ouachita Challenge is made possible by a host of volunteers. They include the Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT), Ouachita Amateur Radio Association, First Responders from Cove, Vandervoort, Joplin, and Sims fire departments, registration help from CASA (court appointed special advocates), finish Line help from Polk County Developmental Center, and help from the Oden Woods & Water Club, as well as other local groups.
Many of the proceeds from the Ouachita Challenge go to help fund local organizations. Each year around $25,000 is donated to many of the groups who help with the race.
For more information regarding the race visit their website at ouachitachallenge.com