Provincial 55+ mountain biking event coming to Muskoka thanks to local organizer Karen Litchfield

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She’s relatively new to mountain biking, having just seriously taken up the sport last summer, but Huntsville resident Karen Litchfield is undaunted by the prospect of organizing the inaugural OSGA 55-plus mountain biking event in Muskoka this fall.

Litchfield’s husband, Doug, was already an avid mountain biker, going out every Tuesday night with the group that meets at Algonquin Outfitters. She went out a few times last summer and loved it. That group is mostly men, however, and she wondered if there might be more women interested in riding. So she reached out to Tracy Stager, who was part of the Tuesday night group, as well as Kristi MacDonald, who owns The Bike Shops in Huntsville and Gravenhurst, about leading a women’s group a few times a week, while Litchfield coordinates the riders. They now have 39 women on the list, with between five to seven usually participating in the Monday and Wednesday evening rides.

Litchfield has always been active and participates in other sports year-round. When the Ontario 55-plus Winter Games came to Huntsville earlier this year, she offered to forerun the downhill ski course after missing out on registering as an athlete. She had the opportunity to meet Games organizers and asked about the OSGA’s summer events, particularly mountain biking. It wasn’t on the list.

“He said he was looking for something to replace bocce ball,” Litchfield says. “He phoned about two weeks later and said, ‘good news, they’ve approved mountain biking and you’re organizing it’. I’ve never been at a mountain bike race but I’ve always been involved in athletics and I’ve always organized sport events. I thought, how hard can it be?”

So she approached Mike McLaughlin at Buckwallow Cycling Centre in Gravenhurst and set a date for the event—September 6—and arranged for timers. She and Doug rode the trails to select the best course, one that was safe and suitable for riders of various skill levels. It’s about an 8km course with a combination of single track and double track. “Basically it’s all of Buckwallow’s easiest trails and I think there’s one intermediate trail,” Litchfield says.

The deadline to register is August 30 at osga55plus.ca. The event is open to anyone in Ontario. The fee is $5 for OSGA members and $15 for non-members. Start time is 2:00 p.m. on September 6.

Race categories are Women’s 55-64, Women’s 65+, Men’s 55-64, and Men’s 65+. Winners may be eligible to take part in the demonstration sport during the 2020 Canada Games in Kamloops, British Columbia.

Litchfield encourages anyone over 55 who likes to ride to sign up.

“It is timed and a mass start and we will have prizes for podium finishers,” she notes, “but the key is come out and have fun and race at your own pace.”

Women interested in joining the weekly rides with the Huntsville group can email Litchfield at [email protected]

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