As Mayor Madeline Rogero helped lift the burlap sack covering a name placard, a mountain biker launched over a wooden jump in the background, officially marking the opening of the Devil’s Racetrack Downhill Trail in South Knoxville last Friday afternoon.
It took a crashed computer server and a lot of enthusiasm to get here. Devil’s Racetrack, Knoxville’s first expert-level gravity trail for mountain biking, was constructed with a $100,000 grant from Bell Helmets earned through a competition more than a year ago. East Tennesseans voted with such enthusiasm that they crashed Bell’s corporate server, taking several websites offline for several hours.
“We never saw anything like it,” Jessica Klodnick with Bell Helmets told the crowd. “It not only crashed our website, but several of our sister websites as well. We lost that e-commerce for a day, but it was great.”
When the votes were tallied, Knoxville had smoked the competition, beating out Asheville and San Francisco for the grant money. Over the past year the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club has worked furiously to carve the nearly mile-long trail into the side of Pappy’s Point, a knobby hill in part of the Urban Wilderness closest to downtown, just 2.5 miles away. It marks the area’s first expert-level downhill mountain biking trail—technically a double-black diamond gravity trail—a component of the larger Baker Creek Preserve, a roughly 7-mile network of trails and other attractions developed by Legacy Parks with $210,000 from the state, and other contributions. The grand opening continued on Saturday with a host of bikers lining up for group rides, food trucks, and other festivities.
Riders lined up at the top of Pappy’s Point to test their skill on the treacherous trails below. The highrises in downtown Knoxville in the distance peek over the rolling ridgelines. A large dirt mound blocks views of the obstacles below: a series of berms and jumps, a curved wooden wall, a rock garden, and a large wooden jump that doubles as a bridge over a gravel path leading towards the summit, among other things. One after another, bikers of various skill level pedaled up and over the mound, leaving nothing but small puffs of red dust as they put their own abilities to the test.
Legacy Parks Executive Director Carol Evans joked that 98 percent of the people who turned out for the opening ceremonies would never set foot (or tire) on the track. Yet it marks yet another addition to Knoxville’s outdoor playground, an attraction that may help boost its burgeoning reputation as a destination for the outdoor enthusiast. If this weekend’s turnout was any indication, that may hold true.
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