By CHRISTINA WOOD
Of the Baker City Herald
Nathan Hobson is a Baker City boy. Just because he now lives in Milwaukie doesn't make him any less enthusiastic about sharing his appreciation of the scenery and opportunities of his native county.
He is the 10th child of David and Claire Hobson of Baker City, a 1982 graduate of Baker High School and has been an avid bike rider since he was five-years-old.
Hobson wants to share his experience of bicycle riding in Baker County with his fellow bike racers and help promote the area to the thousands of biker throughout the state and beyond as a destination.
Hobson is organizing the Elkhorn Classic Stage Race, June 7-9. It will be a three-day, four-stage race.
The racing starts on Friday, June 7, with the Oregon Trail Road Race. The course is approximately 83 miles and will loop from Baker City to Medical Springs on to Union, back through North Powder, Haines and finish on Highway 30 north of the city limit.
The second and third stages are on Saturday and begin with the Wingville Individual Time Trials, a 10-miles course of five miles out and back on Pocahontas Road. The first rider will leave at 9 a.m. with riders following at 30-second intervals.
Stage three will be in downtown Baker City, the Gold Rush Criterium. The course runs from Main to Broadway, turns at Second, turns again at Washington, runs two blocks on First Street to Valley and loops back to the start/finish line on Main at Washington Street.
Hobson said the criterium is a great opportunity for spectators to view the thin-clad racers at their competitive best. This part of the race will have the excitement of the best European races as the riders twist and turn along the pre-set course.
The final day of racing on Sunday will feature the grueling Elkhorn Road Race, approximately 109 miles up hills and through some of the most exciting scenery in Eastern Oregon. Riders will climb 4,000 feet in just 12 miles, a real challenge even for the best riders.
This race course depends on the weather, Hobson said. His first course choice is from Baker City along back roads to Haines, then west to Anthony Lakes, up and over the Elkhorn Drive National Scenic Byway. Riders will go through Granite to Sumpter and turn on Highway 7 back to Baker City.
Hobson has an alternate route, probably over Dooley Mountain, in case the road is still blocked by snow.
Sharing Baker City
Hobson said his purpose in organizing the race was not to make money.
andquot;We are bringing people who don't know Baker City, who have never been here, but will love what Baker City has to offer and will be back,andquot; he said.
Hobson said he has invested his own money on the venture and does not expect to get it back. He has guaranteed $1,000 in primes (prize money) to the racers and has made the entry fees deliberately low to encourage entries. Individual racers can compete for only $75, with teams of four or more discounted to $65 a piece.
The final registration deadline is June 5. Hobson says he has more than 100 entries for the race already and hopes to top two hundred entries by deadline. He would dearly love to have at least one local racer entered in the stage race, but didn't have one at the time of this interview.
Applications for the race are available at Flagstaff Sports, 2101 Main St., or on-line at www.elkhornclassic.com.
He expects entries from Canada, the Bay area of California, and Boise areas and already had entries from Portland and Seattle.
andquot;I want to make this an annual event,andquot; he said. He wants to make the race attractive to a different type of rider, one who seeks the most difficult and physically challenging races. He thinks the challenge and the scenery will eventually attract the cream of the crop of North American bicycle racers.
He said that right now, the local community can help him most by contacting Betty Peacock at 523-6750 or him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer to help.
Signs will be out along the roads warning drivers to beware of bicycles and volunteer drivers will be needed to lead portions of the race and follow along for support.
He has booked rooms at the Sunridge Inn and Super 8 Motels and hopes restaurants, shops, merchants and businesses in Baker City will welcome the riders and their supporters during the three day event.
He believes if the community gives the racers its usual warm and friendly welcome, they will want to come back: to race again, to visit and to enjoy the wonders of Baker County.