CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Marc Andre Daigle crossed the finish line, his jersey splattered in mud. When Daigle took off his sunglasses, it revealed eyes wide, from enthusiasm and triumph.

“It was very nice conditions. The course is very clear,” Daigle said, waiting for his friend Mathieu Belanger, who would cross the finish line in second place a few minutes later.

Daigle, of Montreal, won the 100-kilometer Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge. Now in its eighth year, the mountain bike race runs on the area’s network of single track trails and dirt roads. Along with the 100-kilometer distance (just over 62 miles), there are 50K and 25K races, as well as a children’s race. This year, the event saw more than 500 riders take part, approximately 75 more than last year, according to Barry London, the event’s safety coordinator.

“There are places that have some pretty gnarly single tracks,” London said.

That was what attracted Daigle and Belanger to the race. The top two finishers, both were competing in the Backcountry Cycle Challenge for the first time.

“First time racing in Maine, actually. I’m trying to do longer distance these days, so it’s my first time doing 100K,” said Belanger, a Quebec City native. “I didn’t expect a technical course like that. It was realy, really technical all the time. The terrain looks like Quebec City (trails), so I was kind of used to it. But you know for 100K, it’s very tough.”

The Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge is a direct descendant of former mountain bike races in the area, the Carrabassett Cross Country Challenge and the Widowmaker Challenge. There also was a lap race, but with riders asking for an endurance race, the Carrabassett Region Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association stepped up and created the Backcountry Cycle Challenge.

“A couple of us locals went to the town and asked if we could still keep mountain bike racing alive,” race organizer Kimberly Truskowski said.

Joseph Dickerson navigates a dangerous section of trail called the Widow Maker in the Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge, a 100-kilometer mountain bike race in the woods in Carrabassett Valley on Saturday. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

The event’s proceeds go towards maintaining and building the trails.

“Our trail network is getting a lot of popularity. We’re building trails that will stand the test of time,” Truskowski said.

Each race brings riders through diverse terrain, none more than the 100-kilometer jaunt. From the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, the course heads towards the rest of the resort before moving towards the Bigelow Preserve and Carrabassett Valley airport.

“There’s some pretty good climbs, a long climb up West Mountain,” London said.

Typically, the 100-kilometer race takes at least five hours. Daigle crossed the finish in approximately 4 hours, 45 minutes, with Belanger a few minutes later. The friends rode together for most of the race, before Daigle pulled away over the final 15 kilometers.

“We were climbing and climbing,” Daigle said.

Marc Andre Daigle, left, of Montreal, raises his harms in victory as he wins the Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge, a 100-kilometer mountain bike race in the woods in Carrabassett Valley on Saturday. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Belanger said he was slowed by a minor crash around kilometer 85, when his pedal clipped a hidden rock. It was shortly before that he began feeling the length of the course in his body in the form of fatigue.

“Around kilometer 80, I was really feeling it,” Belanger said.

The course has remained pretty much the same over the years, although each year it sees some minor tweaks.

“The first couple years of the race, where there were a couple of places with steep climbs, people said ‘Wow. That was brutal,'” London said. “Then they said ‘Bring it back.’ We have riders here from California and other states. This event’s getting on the national scene.”

London and his staff of volunteers at first aid stations throughout the course make sure to keep careful track of all racers so nobody is accidentally left on the course injured. The race continues to grow, and Truskowski said there are no plans to cap the number on entries.

“People are asking for more and more. We’ve got people asking for 100 miles. We’ll see if we entertain that,” Truskowski said.

A rider cruises along the race trail with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background during the Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge, a 100-kilometer mountain bike race in the woods in Carrabassett Valley on Saturday. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

This is the second year the race has been a part of the National Ultra Endurance Series. That affiliation could draw more top level riders like Daigle and Belanger.

“I decided Tuesday to come in,” Daigle said. “We’re close to Montreal, a few hours. I like long distance, and this is real long distance. I like this because it’s mainly single track.”

Daigle was asked a simple question. Why? Why put your body though the grind of a 100 kilometer race through the woods?

Daigle laughed and smiled. That was his answer.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.