Home Breaking News Oklahoman overcomes mud and mountains to win Ouachita Challenge

Oklahoman overcomes mud and mountains to win Ouachita Challenge

The field of 221 riders peddles through the fog and into the breach as they launch on their 65 mile trek to the finish line of the Ouachita Challenge Race Sunday. Photo by Dewayne Holloway


ODEN – Hundreds of cyclists from across the United States soldiered through the mud and bugs as they battled to be the first to climb the hill at the Oden School and be declared the winner of the Ouachita Challenge.

This year’s events featured dry weather, but rains the night before the tour left muddy conditions behind for those participating in the tour and the race. The grueling 65 mile course weaves its way in and out of the Ouachita National Forest as it bounces from the Ouachita Trail to the Womble Trail and back. It crosses paved highways several times as it pops in and out of the forest. Roadies, gravel grinders and mountain bikers alike battle the course, as well as each other, as they vie for the top spot in the Ouachita Challenge.

Ray Hall of Tulsa Oklahoma pumps his fist as he crosses the finish line to win the Ouachita Challenge Sunday. He did so 11 minutes ahead of the next competitor. See page 12 for more highlights.
Photo by Dewayne Holloway

Ray Hall, age 43 of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the first to emerge from the trail and climb the grassy knoll to the finish line Sunday for the win in the Ouachita Challenge Race. He did so in 4:40:48. He fell short of setting a new record, but impressed everyone with his ability to overcome not only the difficult muddy terrain, but the competition as well. He finished almost 11 minutes ahead of the next competitor.

The second and third place finishers offered some excitement for those gathered at the finish line as Todd Gearhart, age 31 of Dallas, Texas, took to the hill with 18 year old Hayden McLaughlin hot on his heels. Unfortunately for Gearhart the climb of the hill was too much at the end and he went to the ground. McLaughlin, a resident of Warrensburg Missouri, peddled past him and finished in second place with a time of 4:51:30. Gearhart’s competitive spirit forced him to his feet. He pushed his bike up the hill to claim the third spot on the podium with a time of 4:51:46.

Tracy Martin of Alexandria, Louisiana, was close behind with a time of 4:52:31 and Rick Moseley of Fairway, Kansas finished fifth with a time of 4:53:36.

The top female finisher was Dawn McDowell of Longview, Texas, with a time of 5:59:04, followed by Rachel Furman of Little Rock with a time of 6:07:41.

The winner of the men’s single speed bike division was Andrew Brock of Little Rock with a time of 5:05:47.

The winner of the women’s single speed bike division was Maegan Fitzgerald of Denton, Texas with a time of 7:25:46.

Top Ten overall finishers include:

1st place – Ray Hall Tulsa, Oklahoma, age 41 (4:40:48); 2nd place – Hayden McLaughlin Warrensburg, Missouri, age 18 (4:51:30); 3rd place – Todd Gearhart Dallas, Texas, age 31 (4:51:46); 4th place – Tracy Martin Alexandria, Louisiana, age 48 (4:52:31); 5th place – Rick Moseley Fairway Kansas, age 49 (4:53:36); 6th place – Chris Drummond Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, age 35 (4:56:44); 7th place – Terry Coddington Conway, Arkansas, age 46 (4:58:44); 8th place – Bryan Fawley Dallas, Texas, age 32 (4:59:03); 9th place – Joshua Snyder Poteau, Oklahoma, age 35 (5:01:23); 10th place – Brian Roggeveen Saint Charles, Missouri, age 43 (5:03:15).

The tour, which takes place Saturday, is a recent addition to the Challenge. It gives additional riders an opportunity to face the course. There are a few differences in the layout of the course, with the most notable being the tour detours around Blowout Mountain, while the Race goes over the mountain.

Brad Flachsbart of Allen Texas comes across the finish line first in the Tour Saturday.
Photo by Dewayne Holloway

Although it is not technically a race, you couldn’t tell by watching the participants. Brad Flachsbart, age 42 of Allen, Texas, finished the course first in a blistering speed of 4:49:41 while riding a single speed bike.

Shannon Estes followed with a time of 5:14:21 and Stuart Rasley finished third with a time of 5:16.01.

The top female competitor was Erin Madara of Shreveport, Louisiana. The 29 year old finished the course in 6:56:51.

Top 10 finishers include:

1st place – Brad Flachsbart Allen, Texas, age 42 (4:49:41); 2nd place – Shannon Estes Starksville, Kansas, age 36 (5:14:21); 3rd place – Stuart Rasley Dallas, Texas, age 40 (5:16:01); 4th place – Rodger Nutt McKinney, Texas, age 43 (5:26:11); 5th place – Adam Rasmussen Coppell, Texas, age 43 (5:26:44); 6th place – James Gaston Crested Butte, Colorado, age 51 (5:26:48); 7th place – Kent McCormick McKinney, Texas, age 45 (5:28:46); 8th place – Troy Anderson Dallas, Texas, age 44 (5:29:24); 9th place – Steven Allen Allen, Texas, age 40 (5:29:43); 10th place – Larry Price McKinney, Texas, age 57 (5:35:09).

Brent Cutler of Flint Texas ploughs through some water Saturday.
Photo by Dewayne Holloway

Most competitors begin their training as much as 12 weeks in advance to prepare for the sheer torture of a 65 mile ride on a trail that is filled with difficult terrain, much of which includes some of the steepest inclines one can find on a single lane trail.

The competitors aren’t the only ones who get an early start on their preparations for the Ouachita Challenge.

Well over 100 volunteers coming together to prepare for the event in advance. They then work hard to make sure the Challenge is a pleasurable experience for everyone involved.

Many of the competitors come to the area early to scout the course. They rent vacation property, camp, or utilize the area’s hotels and resorts for lodging. Some will spend a week or more in the area before and after the event.