2014 OMBC Races: Top 5 Lists & Race Summaries

James Knott's OMBC Number Plate

Your OMBC Number Plate has a $5 deposit. You can return it at the end of the race or keep it for a full season. I usually get a new number every spring and stick with it for the season.
Photo by Jackson Sarver

For the past several years, the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship (OMBC) race series has been my main training priority.  I was one of only two racers last year to complete all 10 races in 2013 and I only missed two races in the two seasons before that – one of them was when my youngest son, Oliver, was born.

That doesn’t say anything about my fitness or technical prowess at those races.  It just means I’ve earned lots of ribbons of participation.

But, it also puts me in the unique position of knowing a lot from a racer’s perspective about all the courses that are listed on the 2014 (tentative) schedule.  I have raced at every single venue listed.  Some of the courses are more familiar to me than others and I definitely have my favorites.

Here are some of my thoughts on the 2014 OMBC race calendar. I have also come up with some Top 5 lists that I think might be able to help you decide which races you would like to attempt this coming season.

These summaries are based on my recollection of the events and are far from perfect.  Please let me know if you have any corrections or additions to the information below.  I will try to update it as I get more information.

First, the Top 5 lists…

My Top 5 Favorite OMBC Races for 2014

  1. Mohican State Park
  2. Lake Hope State Park
  3. Alum Creek State Park
  4. East Fork State Park
  5. Dillon State Park

Top 5 OMBC Races for Beginners

  1. Lake Hope State Park
  2. East Fork State Park
  3. Dillon State Park – no rock gardens in novice race
  4. Alum Creek State Park
  5. West Branch State Park

Top 5 Most Technical OMBC Courses

  1. Mohican Cabins
  2. Scioto Trails
  3. Dillon State Park
  4. S&S Trails
  5. West Branch State Park

Top 5 OMBC Courses for Climbing (based on sport distance in 2013)

  1. Scioto Trails
  2. Mohican Cabins
  3. S&S Trails
  4. Mohican State Park
  5. The Wilds

Top 5 Longest OMBC courses (Based on sport distance in 2013)

  1. Mohican State Park
  2. Scioto Trails
  3. East Fork State Park
  4. Alum Creek State Park
  5. Lake Hope State Park

Top 5 Fastest OMBC Races (Based on my GPS recorded speed in 2013)

  1. Alum Creek State Park
  2. East Fork State Park
  3. Mohican State Park
  4. Scioto Trails
  5. Dillon State Park

These Top 5 lists are based on my Garmin Connect data, my memories and my opinions.  What do you think?  Do you agree with my lists?  Let me know in the comment section.

2014 OMBC Race Course Summaries

Series Kick-off / Mohican Cabins – March 22

Jimmy Knott’s 2013 Sport GPS data: 13.5 miles, 2700 ft of climbing

This race was previously known as “Mohican Wilderness”.  They moved the start of the race from Mohican Wilderness to The Grand Barn at the Mohican Cabins.  The revised course is a little shorter, but still has most of the same technical challenges.  Last year, sport riders raced for 13.5 miles and climbed nearly 2700 feet total on two laps.  Novices do one loop and experts do three.

Map OMBC Mohican Cabins

Map of the OMBC course at Mohican Cabins

This course has plenty of rocks and rock gardens including a steep downhill rock garden through large boulders.  Many riders attempt the descent, but I’ve always walked it.  It’s technically challenging and I’ve never had the opportunity to practice it when I wasn’t racing.  I feel like hitting it for the first time in a race scenario when my adrenaline is high is a good way for me to go over the bars (and land on a rock).


Wayne Bowers and James Knott race at Mohican Wilderness in 2011. This is the beginning of the long climb in the Mohican Cabins course.
Photo by Chris Spring from Facebook

In general, this might be the most technically challenging course and was I forced to put my foot down several times and had a couple short hike-a-bikes in the 2013 race – although there were no crashes.  This one is definitely worth a pre-ride if you can find the time to make it to Loudonville.

Mohican Cabins Elevation Chart for OMBC race

Mohican Cabins Elevation Chart for OMBC race. The race starts at about mile 4 of the chart. You can see that there are two major climbs on each loop of about 400 feet over the course of a mile for each one. The race ends on a killer climb that might make you dream of a DNF.

The race starts near the top of a hill and after a short steep climb you quickly hit a long fast downhill with some loose stones. – loose enough to make you question your speed as you float through them.  There are two major climbs on each loop.  They are both about 400 feet over the course of a mile.  It’s cruel to finish the race on a climb.  You’ve given it your all and then you have to suffer some more – but that is part of what makes this course challenging and fun.

The Wilds – April 5

Jimmy Knott’s 2013 Sport GPS data: None

Update 3/30/14: Here is a course preview for the 2014 OMBC race at The Wilds that I put together.

This was the first mountain bike race that I ever attended, and because of that it has a special place in my heart.  The race fell off of the OMBC calendar for a few years, so my memories of the course are a little vague.  I remember it with lots of great singletrack, a good variety of terrain and several challenging climbs.  A good balanced course for well-rounded riders.

Note: I have no map or elevation graph for the Wilds.

Tecumseh’s Revenge / Scioto Trails – May 4

Jimmy Knott’s 2013 Sport GPS data: 20 miles, 3800 ft of climbing

Map OMBC Scioto Trails

Map of the course at Scioto Trails. The course has several long stretches of gravel road.

This course also gives me warm fuzzies because it is the only OMBC sport race that I have won.

There were two features to this course that made it unique amongst the OMBC races.  The first is that it had more dirt/gravel roads included in the course than any other OMBC course.  This is good if you like to put your head down and get in a good rhythm with your cadence.  It’s bad if you only like riding on single track.


A graph of the elevation on the OMBC Scioto Trails course. This course has more climbing than any other OMBC race. You can see some of the steep climbs and descents through the course. This graph shows two loops.

The second unique feature is that it has some of the steepest downhills in the entire series.  I rode them all, but I saw evidence of a few skid marks into the woods where it looked like racers had gone too fast and missed the turns to stay on the trails at the bottom.  These descents made me question my judgement a little.

OMBC Scioto Trails Podium_Facebook

This is the only time that I have won my age group in an OMBC race, but because of a combined age group, I was only standing in the #2 spot on the podium.

Loops were just under 10 miles each.  Novice did one, sport did two and expert did three.  Each loop had about 1900 feet of climbing (Can anyone verify this for me?).  My race was about 20 miles and 3800 feet of climbing.

One cool feature to this race is that the organizer of the race, Chris Seeley, has a delicious spread of food laid out after the race.

Mohican State Park – May 17

Jimmy Knott’s 2013 Sport GPS data: 25 miles, 2200 ft of climbing (Can anyone verify this? My GPS may have been off.)

Map OMBC Mohican State Park

Map OMBC Mohican State Park – notice how the course is one long loop of sweet Ohio singletrack. You definitely get your money’s worth in this fun, adventurous race.

This is THE classic OMBC race in my mind.  Mohican State Park has an awesome 24 mile singletrack loop that holds up in bad weather very nicely.  This is the only course in the OMBC series where the sport and expert racers do the same distance.  So, sport racers can compare their times with the experts and see if they are ready to move up.  With the out-and-back it’s about 26 miles long for both classes.  Novices have a shorter loop that is around 8 miles I think.

This course has some technical challenges, but I think of it as a trail that has a good flow to it.  There are some sections with rocks and others with roots that get slick when the course is wet.  You will pass through both deciduous and pine forest.

OMBC Mohican State Park 2011 Photo By Chris Spring

This is the start of the 2011 OMBC Mohican State Park race at the Mohican Adventures campground. Chris Knapp is off to an early lead.
Photo by Chris Spring from Facebook

As a sport racer I used to fear this course.  It is long and hilly and takes a big toll on the body.  I use to be a lot heavier and the hills made my legs burn long before I hit the finish line.  Since I lost weight and increased my fitness level this course has become a lot more fun for me and I actually look forward to it.  It’s fun to be on one big loop where the terrain is constantly changing.  In 2013, I recorded about 2200 feet of climbing, which ranks it 3rd on the OMBC schedule for the amount of ascending.

The starting point for this race is at Mohican Adventures.  They have camp sites and cabins for those that want to make a weekend of it.  Also, since the start of the race is on private land, there is usually some delicious Great Lakes beer waiting at  the end for race finishers.

Note: My elevation chart for this race was screwed up for some reason.

Battle of Turkey Run / S & S Trails – July 12

Jimmy Knott’s 2012 memory of the sport race: 14 miles, 2400 ft of climbing (Does anyone have stats for this race?)

James Knott races at S&S Trails in the OMBC series.

James Knott races at S&S Trails in the OMBC series in 2012.
Photo by Heidi Shilling, who had some broken fingers, or some other sort of malady, and had to sit this race out.

Chris & Colleen Skinner organize this race in the woods on his private property.  The course changes year-to-year depending on the weather and the whims of Skinner.  Lately, they have been leaning towards making the race loop shorter with more laps.  This course has a lot of climbing and lighter riders definitely have an advantage on this one – I think that in 2012 each lap was 600 feet of climbing and 3.5 miles in length, but that is just from memory.  I also believe that it was three loops for novice, 4 loops for sport and 5 for expert.  We’ll have to wait and see how they set it up this year.

This is farm country and you will also spend at least sometime on each lap riding along the perimeter of a farm field.  This open territory sounds like it might be easier, but it is usually uphill or through some mud and doesn’t offer much relief.  It is a great place to pass or be passed so start thinking about that for your race strategy.

This race usually finishes off with a cool picnic/party with a buffet of awesome food, a band and camping available for those who want to partake in post-race libations.

Note: Last year the race was cancelled due to wet conditions so I have no maps or elevation charts.

Race to the Hills / Lake Hope State Park – August 3

Jimmy Knott’s 2013 Sport GPS data: 18.25 miles, 1850 ft of climbing

Map OMBC Lake Hope State Park

Map of the OMBC Lake Hope State Park course in 2013. This is for sport. Novice and experts have slightly different paths. This is a fun course that I recommend to mountain bikers of all skill levels.

This is one of my favorite courses and one that I would recommend to every racer.  It’s not overly technical, but challenging enough to keep it interesting.  It is a fast race with great flow.  The novices and first-timers can handle the technical demands and the experienced riders will enjoy the speed.  I think of it like being on an amazing roller coaster ride.

The course is located in a hilly part of the state near Nelsonville, Ohio.  Racers get points in the OMBC and WVMBA (West Virginia Mountain Bike) race series.  The age groups of these two series don’t line up, so there is usually several mass starts (as opposed to smaller starts for each age group) with most of the experts starting at once, followed by a large combined group with all of the sport racers and then the novices.  There is over a mile of gravel covered road before you reach the singletrack so you need to take advantage of this section to get yourself a good position on the trail.  Otherwise you might get caught in the traffic of this large group.

Elevation Chart OMBC Lake Hope State Park

This is a graph of the elevation at the OMBC Lake Hope State Park race. There are a few decent climbs on the course, but they save the steepest one for the end of the race.

Beware, the course ends on a steep climb out of the woods.  It is rideable, but after you’ve fatigued yourself for 90 minutes or so, it will make your legs burn.  I usually run this climb.  Once you exit the woods, you might think you are safe.  Oh no.  The road continues going uphill.  Your lungs will be desperately sucking oxygen as you ride in fear of being passed by your rivals on this final stretch of road.

Northeast Ohio Crankfest / West Branch State Park – August 10

Jimmy Knott’s 2013 Sport GPS data: 17 miles, 1450 ft of climbing

Map OMBC West Branch State Park

This map shows the course at West Branch State Park. You can see that it is divided into sections north and south of Cable Line Rd. I feel these two sections of trail are almost like different races.

This is a good race, but I have a personal bias against it.  I never seem to have a good race here and I’m not sure why.  I’ve had a lot of mechanical issues and sloppy technical performances.  Hopefully, I can turn that around in 2014.

The race begins with a long, wide section of snowmobile trail.  This part of the course thins out the herd before the singletrack gets tight.  There are really no technical challenges at this point.  You can sprint as fast as you want for over a mile.  Caution though, you may need that energy later in the race.  You must decide how much energy you can expend on this fast section of the race.  I almost always go too fast at this point and regret it later.  You will come across this long section of trail on each loop and it’s a great place to refuel with food and drink.

Elevation Chart OMBC West Branch State Park

In this graph the race starts at about mile 3.5. Each loop starts with a climb and then descends down toward the lake.  I measured 1450 feet of climbing on my Garmin for the sport race. This graph is showing two laps.

I almost think of this race as two separate courses.  You start the course on the southern side of Cable Line Rd.  After the snowmobile trail this section becomes twistier and more technical.  There are several small rock gardens and one of the best creek crossings in the OMBC series.

About halfway through the loop you cross over to the north side of Cable Line Rd and ride parallel to the lake shore.  It feels like a different course at this point.  The rocks mostly disappear and the soil gets sandier.  There are a lot of switchback turns that open up into straightaways.  This is great for people who can repeatedly accelerate powerfully out of the curves.

My favorite part of this race is going for a swim in the lake after the race.  I have done that every year and it is very refreshing way to finish the day.

Dillon Rocks / Dillon State Park – August 24

Jimmy Knott’s 2013 Sport GPS data: 14 miles, 1500 ft of climbing

Map of the OMBC race at Dillon State Park

Map of the OMBC race at Dillon State Park. When you start to see the lake on your left hand side you know that you are in the second half of the race. Don’t forget to enjoy a post race swim!

In my mind, Dillon is a short, fast course – and I love it that way.  (Experts ride double the distance of sport riders though.)  What immediately comes to mind when you think of this course are the two major rock gardens.  Expert racers will do the rock gardens twice.  Novices do not ride these at all.  The racers are usually fairly close together when they hit the first rock garden.  So, even if you can clear the rocks, the racer in front of you might go down at any minute.  The fastest way to get through is to cleanly clear the rock garden on both wheels.  The second fastest way might be to jog around the traffic jams that build up.

Graph of the elevation at Dillon State Park

The race starts 6 miles in to this chart. It is a loop so the fact that it tilts to the right has more to do with the GPS acting funny – maybe a change in the barometric pressure. You can see that there are only a few climbs on this course – just enough to keep you on your toes.

The second half of the course does not have as many rocks and has a great flow to it.  There are a few steep climbs and hike-a-bikes, but not so much so that it is a defining feature of the course.  I measured 1500 feet of climbing on my Garmin for the sport version of the race.

The Expert women line up to start the OMBC race at Dillon State Park

The expert women line up to start the OMBC race at Dillon State Park.

Just like West Branch, this race starts near the shore of a lake and going swimming is a great way to cool down and clean off afterwards.

ACDC Alum Creek Dam Challenge / Alum Creek State Park – September 14

Jimmy Knott’s 2013 Sport GPS data: 18 miles, 1000 ft of climbing

Map of the OMBC race course at Alum Creek State Park

Map of the OMBC race course at Alum Creek State Park. Notice the long straight stretch across the dam before you hit the singletrack.

This is my home course, and therefore, one of my favorites by default.

The race starts next to the beach at the Alum Creek Reservoir and then crosses the dam.  This grueling 1 1/2 mile ride across the dam is partly paved, but turns into a bumpy mix of grass and hard-packed soil.  It is one of the defining features of the course.  Even if you survive it on the way to the singletrack, it just might kill you on the way back where you will be nervously looking over your shoulder afraid that your rivals will pass you.  Rider’s are very exposed to the elements on the dam and there is a good chance of hitting a headwind on one way or the other.  It is one of the few moments in OMBC races where small pelotons form.

James Knott in the OMBC race at Alum Creek State Park

Alum Creek is located in the center of the state near the city of Columbus. Because of that, this course brings out a lot of great competitors. Even though this is my home course, I only placed 6th in my age group. Notice the roots at the top of the trail. There are a lot of these throughout the race and your ability to float over them will help you have a strong finish.
Photo by Jackson Sarver

The single track is mostly flat, tight and twisty.  There are plenty of roots and riders who can float smoothly across them will speed through the course.  There are also a lot of bridges.  I haven’t counted, but I am guessing that there are more bridges on this course than any other OMBC race.

After the first dam section, you ride on half of the beginner loop, then do one loop on P1 for novices, two for sport, or three for expert.  You then finish by doing the second half of the beginner loop and heading back across the dam to the beach.  Experts usually race after the novice and sport racers are finished to cut down on trail traffic.  Faster sport racers will be passing novices on their second lap, so practice those passing skills.

Graph of the elevation at the OMBC race course at Alum Creek

The slight rightward tilt is because of GPS error. What you can tell from this graph is that there are no spikes, and therefore, not a lot of hills. This is a fast and fun course.

This is a fast race and has the least amount of climbing of any OMBC race.  Advantage goes to those who can come out of the tight turns with plenty of speed.

The Southeast Scream / East Fork State Park – September 28

Jimmy Knott’s 2013 Sport GPS data: 19.5 miles, 1200 ft of climbing

Map of the OMBC race at East Fork State Park

Map of the OMBC race course at East Fork State Park. There are some nice views of the lake. I would like to encourage my rivals to slow down and appreciate them. 🙂

The OMBC race at East Fork State Park is another flat and fast race.  It begins with a mile long sprint to the singletrack.  This is another moment in the series where small pelotons will form.  The trail can be tight and difficult to pass on, so one of the keys to this race is being smart on the road.  After 8 or 9 miles in the woods, sport and expert racers will hit this same stretch of road again.  Novice will finish after one lap, sport after two and expert after three.  This is a good moment to refuel or get a drink – unless you’re afraid of being passed on this wide open stretch.

The trail is well-built, but not overly technical, so this course is approachable for beginner riders.  There are a lot of switchback turns and being able to accelerate out of these is a very important skill.  There are plenty of fast straightaways too that are fun for building up speed.

Graph of the elevation for the OMBC race at East Fork State Park

The race starts at mile 8 on this graph. This figure charts a sport race and you can see that there is a small dip in each lap.

One of the defining features of this course is the creek crossing.  Water passes over a large flat sheet of rock and this area can get slippery.  It is very rideable, but I have heard many tales of people wiping out on these slick rocks.  If you can’t pre-ride this feature, then take it with caution.  It will hurt you and your derailleur.

The last two years, the race was staged from a lightly used portion of the park, so be prepared to for a five minute bike-ride to the bathroom when nature calls because there is a good chance that not all of the facilities will be open.  You have been warned, so no complaining.

OMBC Championship / Mohican State Park – October 4

Jimmy Knott’s 2013 Sport GPS data: 25 miles, 2200 ft of climbing

James Knott tackles Mohican State Park in 2012.

James Knott tackles Mohican State Park in 2012. The bright orange shirt keeps me safe. I have never been shot by a hunter. 🙂

See description above for more course details.

After Alum and East Fork this is going to feel like a big hilly beast to some folks.

This race is important for the people who are completing the entire race series.  It counts as an extra race in the final standings.  It is the second time in the season that you race this course so it’s a great opportunity to see how your fitness level has improved (or gotten worse – doh!) over the summer.

Good Luck This Season!

Those are my thoughts on the races this year.  What do you think?  What races are you most looking forward to?  Are there  any races that you are afraid to try?

Please bookmark this link and refer to it throughout the season.  I will try and update it if I get additional information about the races.  Also, don’t forget to share it with your friends who are thinking about racing this year.  Now is the time to get them pumped up for an exciting season in the woods.

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Hope to see you at the races this summer!



4 thoughts on “2014 OMBC Races: Top 5 Lists & Race Summaries

  1. Great write up James! I enjoy Lake Hope the most for its fast, flowy trails and short punchy climbs. But it’s hard to beat Mohican state park for 24 miles of beautiful single track. I think I’m most looking forward to racing Scioto trails this year. I didn’t make it there last year. And I am one of those people who like long tortuous climbs.

  2. Rumor has it that the single track right next to the “airport” (non gravel side where you usually start the race) has been bulldozed. So, its no longer single track on that half of the course. Haven’t ridden it myself lately but, to his disappointment, I know the guy who did.

  3. Pingback: The Wilds: OMBC Race Preview with Photos, Charts & Stats | Quickdirt

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