Chattanooga's Ultimate Long-Distance Mountain Bike Race: The 5-Points 50

Five Points has no shortage of high-speed flow, including this berm on the Slickensides Trail
Five Points has no shortage of high-speed flow, including this berm on the Slickensides Trail Jeff Bartlett
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Over the past decade, Chattanooga’s burgeoning reputation as a mecca for outdoor recreation has spawned a full slate of signature events. For trail runners, the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k is now in its 14th year; for climbers, the Stone Fort leg of the Triple Crown Bouldering Comp is celebrating its 13th. You can Swim the Suck, SUP the ChattaJack, or cycle 3 Mountains.

But, for many years, a major piece was missing from that puzzle: a long-distance mountain bike race.

That is until three years ago, when the Lula Lake Land Trust 5-Points 50 first graced the Chattanooga riding community with its presence.

Now entering its third year, the 5-Points 50 has already established itself as one of the can't-miss racing events in the Southeast. Traveling 50 miles through the forests of Lookout Mountain and using some of the same trails employed in Rock/Creek’s Lookout Mountain 50-miler, the Five Points 50 is an illustration of how SORBA Chattanooga, Lula Lake Land Trust, Cloudland Canyon State Park, and Friends of Cloudland Canyon were able to work together to connect several previously isolated trails into a long, off-road race course.

Set to take place on October 10th this year, the race is billed as a grueling course "that will test your will and determination" and "challenge you like nothing you've ever experienced."

Starting from the main gate of the Lula Lake Land Trust , the race begins on pavement to thin the pack before hitting Five Points ; it then combines every trail in the Five Points system with multiple segments of the Cloudland Canyon Connector Trail  (CCCT).

By the time racers find themselves approaching the Nickajack Road Trailhead, they’re 35 miles into the race, have ridden about 25 miles of prime singletrack…and then the fun really starts. Those final 15 miles of the race combine several miles of trail on private property, linking the CCCT and Five Points to the trails at Lula Lake. It is through the grace of these private landowners, including the Long Branch Homeowners Association, that the race is possible.

Thomas Turner racing through a section of water at the 2014 5-Points 50
Thomas Turner racing through a section of water at the 2014 5-Points 50 Jeff Bartlett

It’s these three private-property sections of the race which are closed the other 364 days of each calendar year, making pre-rides of the race course impossible and prompting race organizers to withhold a course map entirely.

“Due to the significant amount of trails on private property, we initially thought this would hamper registration numbers,” explains Michael Long, Lynskey/SORBA Chattanooga race series director. “As it turns out, it was quite the opposite. The mystique of riding never-seen-before trails was too much for some people to resist.”

For 2015, the organizers are upping the ante with a “Fat Tire Festival” and post-race events. Racers can expect food and beer at the finish line, while families and spectators willing to pay $10 can enjoy the same. After the podium awards at 2 p.m., fun events with names like the “Huffy Frame Toss” and the “Night Time Dirty Crit Race” will take place. Spectators hoping to cheer racers on will have several opportunities to do so.

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