Last September, Hurricane Florence ripped through Cedar Point and Swansboro, NC. It was the most significant storm the area had seen since 1954 when the category 4 winds of Hurricane Hazel released its fury on the towns. The havoc that Florence brought by way of violent winds and days of rain and flooding have left a permanent mark on the area.
The Atlantic surged, pushing its waves far into the mainland, destroying homes and roads. Eventually, the storm would subside, the sun would peak through, and life would resume. In the days following the storm, a breeze blew from the south deep into the woods of the Croatan National Forest where its residents took a distinct interest in what they could smell. You see, the Croatan has a healthy and thriving population of black bear. When the storm surged onto the mainland, it brought with it a smorgasbord of sea creatures.
Bears were being spotted in places where people were not used to seeing them, crossing over State Route 24 and heading towards the beach to dine on an irresistible buffet. As quickly as they appeared the bears once again retreated to the forest amongst the tall pines and sandy pathways.
Over the past weekend, locals witnessed another strange creature in abundance all over the remote dirt roadways of the Croatan, the American Cyclist. Much like the black bear, residents of Cedar Point are accustomed to seeing cyclists every now and again but never in such numbers. A gathering of almost 600 participants gathered for their own smorgasbord, not of fish and crustaceans, but for a feast of dirt and sweat.
This was the second year for the Croatan Buck Fifty, a 150-mile race around the dirt roads and pathways of the Croatan National Forest. In the inaugural year, the race saw about 200 participants. Word spread quickly after last year’s event that it wasn't one to be missed and riders came from all over to get a taste of what is being billed as the "Best Bike Game Ever."
The race started off cracking down the first sections of forest road, and this year's overall contenders wasted no time on separating themselves from the large and chaotic group. New for this year's event were two detours to keep riders off the often busy Route 58 which added some tactical and challenging terrain. A cut through a cornfield and narrow chutes through the trees gave the day a bit of cyclocross flavor and also eliminated any sustained chance for recovery.
Perhaps the real allure to the Croatan Buck Fifty is the challenge, the opportunity to see if you're capable of completing such a task. While the leaders and eventual winners put out impressive and inspiring rides, there were people going way beyond their limits to finish this year's event. At the core of endurance sports is the ability to push beyond what you think you are capable of. The ability to unlock the unknown potential is addictive as it is intimidating. As the sun faded, riders one by one would continue to roll in exhausted yet elated.
It will be interesting to watch and see how this event continues to grow in the coming years. As a cyclist there is always an allure to exploring, whether it's a new road or trail, or simply just exploring our own abilities. The Croatan Buck Fifty offers an opportunity to explore all of these avenues, we hope that next year that you will come to explore with us.