by: Jared Bolton
Thursday, May 18, 2023 | 6:00 PM
Welcome to Quick Fill.
It’s race week once again and this time we’re in Ohio for the legendary John Penton GNCC. This race is always just a little a bit different. As the longest running venue on the GNCC schedule, the Penton is a bit of a nod to the days of old. While a lot has changed here over the years, what hasn’t changed is the fact that this can have a bit of an old school feel. There’s not a ton of amenities like other places, the parking isn’t perfectly flat all over, and the race track itself can turn out to be a tough one.
Regardless, people still turn out in droves to try their hand at The John Penton. The Ohio locals love this kind of riding, as do people from other parts of the country as well. Some folks don’t enjoy the soil here that can be very slick when it’s wet, or silty dusty when it’s dry, but overall, this is still a really cool race from both a racer and spectator standpoint.
Before we tell you what to expect out on the track, here’s a few notes for the weekend… First, as a reminder DO NOT follow your GPS all the way to the racetrack. Every year someone makes the mistake of simply only following their GPS and ignoring the written directions, and even the giant red arrows out on the road. Please, follow the written directions on the event page HERE. GPS is a great thing and it makes our lives so much simpler, but they can still steer you wrong and they will do that coming to The Penton. I know, following written directions can be difficult but I promise that thousands of people made it to thousands of events for many, many years prior to GPS, and you can do it too!
Also, there will be two live bands on Saturday evening. Sick Serenity and Missing November will play on the podium following the ePeeWee race, so stick around because it sounds like these guys do a really good job. Finally, don’t forget that this is a eMTB event, so once the eMTB race starts (5pm on Saturday evening) you need to stay off the eMTB course on your eMTB (unless you’re racing of course!). Please respect this rule and these racers time on the course as you would not like them interfering with your race!
Now let’s talk about the racecourse. We’re expecting some rain Friday night into Saturday morning, so the overwhelming theme of this week has been to make the course as ridable as possible in all forms of weather, and still try to keep it as fun as possible. With that said, there are not quite as many up and downhills as there usually would be at The Penton, but overall this is still a pretty darn good racecourse.
You’ll be starting at the end of the lap, so you’ll take off from the start and bounce back and forth between some woods and trackside pitting sections all the way to the finish line before heading out on the full lap. Out of the finish, you’ll head over and up the FMF Powerpoint hill behind the concession stand, then come right back down to a short field section and back into some zigzagging woods to the one-mile mark. From the one to the two sees the majority of the hills on the racecourse, albeit not very big hills. Things open up just a bit around the two-mile mark, and then tighten back up shortly after. You’ll zigzag back and forth quite a bit as you make your way to the three-mile mark and down a long downhill section.
This eventually leads you into the Monster Mile section, then down into another valley with a smaller hill back out of it. From there, you’re headed through another tighter section over to the four-mile mark, then into some slightly more open trail to the five-mile mark. Just after the five mile mark, the PM bike racers will split off and head into the infamous John Penton Section. This is a tight, technical and really awesome single track section that continues along to add just around three-miles of additional trail to the racecourse. Our buddy Jeff Hupp has spent a lot of time working on The Penton Section since last fall and he’s done a great job. I don’t want to ruin it, but there are three new rocky ravine sections and two really big (optional) uphills.
The Penton Section ties back in just past where it leaves the trail and then its through a mix of open and tighter trail to the six-mile mark. At the six, you’ll head up a long uphill section that is also a bit tighter, then across the top of this and down a long downhill back into some open trail over the seven-mile mark. Things open up a little bit at the seven before crossing the road and through a short field section and back into the woods once again. This woods section has a couple of up and downhills that are fairly wide and offer lots of room for error if they get slick.
You’ll then find your way into a big field section, passing the eight-mile mark along the way, then back across the road and into the pro pits. After the pro pits you’ll pick up a flowing trail to the nine-mile mark, and then some faster trail and couple of field crossings over to the ten-mile mark. From there, you’ll zigzag through a couple of sections of tighter trail before tying back into the start.
For the PM ATV racers you’ll be just around 11-mile mark (as long as the weather cooperates!) and with the addition of The Penton Section, the PM bike race will be a whopping 14-mile loop! Overall it’s shaping up to be a rad race track that could produce some great racing… Could we have seven different bike winners in seven rounds? Anything is possible at this point, so stay tuned.
That’s going to do it for this week’s edition of Quick Fill. Enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you at The Penton!