Quickly becoming known as one of the most challenging bikepacking routes in the country, this self-supported race departs from downtown Fayetteville on Saturday, Oct. 9. The race is a 1,000+ mile loop following the Arkansas High Country Route, a series of three gravel and paved road loops that connect several of the state’s stunning natural regions, including the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges and the Arkansas River Valley.
All photos in this article by Glenn Charles
Starting from Fayetteville’s city center, the race route follows the Razorback Greenway out of Northwest Arkansas – transitioning to backcountry gravel roads that lead deep into the Ozark Mountains. After winding east to the Buffalo National River Corridor, the route drops south into the Arkansas River Valley. From there, the route points west through the Ouachita Mountains before climbing north into the Ozarks and back to the finish line in Fayetteville.
Last year’s Arkansaw High Country Race captivated cycling fans as top professional and amateur endurance cyclists navigated the grueling course over a colorful week in late fall. Several athletes where chasing not only a race win, but previously established course records -or what is referred to as a Fastest Known Time (FKT).
In the end, Ted King – a longtime professional road cyclist turned elite gravel race winner turned endurance athlete – took the overall win and became the first solo competitor to complete the racecourse in under 5 days. King set a new FKT of 4 days, 20 hours, and 51 minutes – an effort that earned him the nickname of “King of the High Country”.
Finishing second overall and first in the Women’s field, professional cyclist Ashley Carelock became the first solo woman competitor to complete the race route in under 8 days – crossing the finish line in Fayetteville in 7 days, 9 hours. Of note, Oklahoman Seth Wood became the first and only competitor known to have completed the race on a single-speed bicycle – cycling the entire course and its 80,000 feet of climbing without the ability to shift into an easier gear – setting a single-speed FKT of 7 days, 12 hours, and 18 minutes.
New for 2021, race officials announced the creation of the Short Circuit Race and an opportunity to experience just the Northwest Loop of the Arkansas High Country Route. The shorter 240-mile distance is perfect for the weekend warrior or endurance athlete looking for a limit-pushing course. Racers will have 120 hours to complete the course, and the same standard race rules apply to the Short Circuit Race.
All participants are equipped with a GPS tracking device using the Globalstar satellite network, allowing fans from anywhere in the world to follow their favorite riders along the route in real-time.
Registration for the 2021 Arkansaw High Country Race and the Short Circuit Race opens June 1, 2021. Each race distance is limited to a field of 50 competitors. Additional race information, including host hotel accommodations and links to register, can be found at www.rivervalley.ozarkoffroadcyclists.org/races-tours/arkansaw-high-country-race.
For race information, contact Race Director Chuck Campbell at (501) 725-1377 or [email protected]. For local information, contact Brannon Pack, cycling coordinator for Experience Fayetteville, at (479) 521-5776 or [email protected]