MARQUETTE - Cyclists packed into Negaunee Saturday morning for the starts of the Hard Rock and Soft Rock races that make up the main attractions for the Ore To Shore Mountain Bike Epic, ending up just a short time later covered in mud at the finish line at the Lakeview Arena in Marquette.
"I think there's a good variety of events. You have everything from the one mile (kids' race) up to the 48-mile," said Wendy Frye, co-coordinator of the new Shore Rock 10-mile race. "You can get different generations... There's so much good energy here."
Hundreds of participants took part in the various Ore To Shore races, Saturday, from kids to adults.
Starting on Iron Street in downtown Negaunee was the 48-mile Hard Rock race, which takes bikers along trails from Negaunee west to Ishpeming and then east to Marquette.
"I've never done the Ore To Shore and I haven't been to Marquette in 20 years," said David Grim of Cross Plains, Wis., who rode in the Hard Rock.
Grim, who participates in other races, said he heard from other racers about the Ore To Shore and decided to give it a try this year.
"It looks great on the videos," Grim said of footage he has seen from prior years.
For Negaunee residents and businesses, the start of the two long races in the city means a lot of new faces and a chance to show the town to those who might not have visited previously.
"It's an amazing influx of people who have never been to the U.P. before," said Marybeth Kurtz, owner of the Midtown Bakery and Cafe in Negaunee. "I had people waiting at the door for me."
At the finish line in Marquette, the area around Lakeview Arena became a sea of bicycles and tired racers celebrating their finishes and digging into some well-deserved refreshments.
On hand to help athletes refuel was the Refuel with Chocolate Milk campaign, one on of its 125 stops at endurance events around the country. Working with Jilbert Dairy, the tour passed out nearly 2,000 samples of chocolate milk, the carbohydrates and protein of which can help athletes recover from a race.
"They look pretty excited," said tour representative Sophia Bly. "It's cool to see how intense the athletes are."
Besides getting some chocolate milk, racers also got a chance to get a "milk mustache" picture taken and free massages.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.