(PHOTO CAPTION: Jeff Kerkove of Colorado removes his biking shoes after completing 180-mile route. Jan Heine relaxes in a cast-iron bathtub in Hill Wheatley Plaza after completing 500-mile route. — Photos by Kai Caddy)
HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Arkansas — The finishers in two of the shorter routes in the 2022 Arkansas High Country Race began arriving back in Hot Springs Sunday and Monday while bicyclists tackling the 1,000-mile route in the challenging event kept on pedaling through some of the toughest mountain terrain in Arkansas.
Hot Springs is hosting the marathon event this year and in 2023.
Jeff Kerkove of Colorado was the first finisher Sunday after completing the clockwise option of the 180-mile Ouachita Triple Crown segment. He arrived back in Hill Wheatley Plaza in downtown Hot Springs 23 hours and 5 minutes after the Saturday morning start. Christopher Farney finished second at 32 hours and 29 minutes. Robert Orr was third at 36 hours and 33 minutes.
Alex Kowalski completed the counterclockwise option of the 180-mile OTC segment in 31 hours and 4 minutes. Zachary McCool was second at 33 hours and 57 minutes. Larry Wagner of Hot Springs finished third, completing that route in 35 hours.
In the 500-mile AHCR South Loop clockwise option, Jan Heine of Seattle, Washington completed the 500 mile South Loop option first at 46 hours and 59 minutes then relaxed in a cast-iron bathtub at the finish line in Hill Wheatley Plaza. On the counterclockwise option of the 500-mile loop, Aaron Arnzen was at 342 miles as of 9 a.m. Monday.
As of 9 a.m. Monday, Arkansas’s Ernie Lechuga was in first place in the 1,000 mile AHCR event, going clockwise on the route that takes riders over some of the most rugged mountain terrain in western Arkansas. Lechuga was at 491 miles Monday morning.
On the counterclockwise option of the 1,000-mile loop, Jacob Loose was the leader at 335 miles, with Hot Springs’ own Randy Windle at 322 miles.
Seventy-six cyclists set off from downtown Hot Springs Saturday morning in the challenging multi-day biking event.
The cyclists, representing 23 states, chose from one of three routes: the 180-mile Ouachita Triple Crown loop, the 500-mile South Loop, or the 1,000-mile AHCR route. They had the option of taking on their selected routes traveling clockwise or counterclockwise.
The AHCR route covers most of Western Arkansas. Riders must be self-supported (no help from friends) as they ride pavement and gravel road segments totaling 75,000 feet of elevation gain.
The riders’ progress can be tracked in real time at https://www.followmychallenge.com/live/arhc22/
The Arkansas High Country Route was developed by Arkansas’s own Chuck Campbell in partnership with Adventure Cycling.
“We are excited to be the host city for the fourth year of the Arkansas High Country Race,” Visit Hot Springs Trails Coordinator Traci Berry said. “Hosting the race gives us an opportunity to showcase our unique, historic town as well as the three IMBA Epics located in our region: the Womble, LOViT, and Ouachita National Recreational Trail by offering a third option for the event, the Triple Crown - connecting all three of the IMBA Epic Trails, to cyclists from all over the country.”
For more information call Traci Berry at 501-321-2027.