Mountain biking creates an increase in Laurel County tourism

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LONDON, Ky. (WYMT) - Nearly 50 bikers made their way to Eastern Kentucky to race on the Broken Spoke Cycling Trail near Levi Jackson State Park on Saturday.

Organizers say summertime weather opens up an opportunity for outside events, which brings an increase in tourism.

This year, one of the fairground's main attractions is mountain biking, a sport Keith Cottongim took to the next level.

He says the races are new and scored in the same way as motocross.

"As far as I know, this hasn't been done before, this type of racing," Cottongim said.

There are men and women divisions and both groups raced in two 30-minute heats.

Cottongim says whoever gains the most points is declared the winner.

"We've got five people [that are] gonna go home with some money," he laughed.

Olivia Shannon, the winner of the first women's race, says even though the heat made it difficult, she was excited to take part in the race.

"This week was about 95 [degrees], so it was much hotter," Shannon said. "So I think we all got a little practice this week but it feels a lot cooler in the woods. There's not much climbing so the twisty turns really cool you off until you pop out over here in the sun. But, no crashes [occurred] and it felt really good."

London-Laurel County Tourism Commission officials say the feedback from this event is positive and they hope this cycling event attracts tourists to their "Crossroads of Adventure."

"Some have come from Louisville, some have come from Tennessee, they are just all over the place, and also some local people that just really love the sport," Co-Executive Director Kelly Burton said.

The money prizes come from donations made by the non-profit group "Friends of Levi," London-Laurel County Tourism, and Cottongim himself.

Burton says, believe it or not, this money will go full circle.

"These guys today have worked their butts off and so they are going to be hungry. They are going to be staying in our hotels. They are going to be staying in our restaurants. They've burned a lot of calories today."

Organizers say Kentucky is a place that offers a challenge for athletes.

"We have excellent terrain for mountain biking and cycling," Cottongim said. "And you know, that's what I want to do. That's the reason I started this. I said, 'You know, we've got so many people that don't know what we've got.'"

That challenge is one many racers wished to take on despite the heat.

"They race in this all the time. The only thing that will be rough for them is, you know, they go all out for 30 minutes. So, hey, we are having fun but it really don't mean nothing," Cottongim laughed.

He says five riders will go home with money prizes. The first place winners receive $100 each.

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