Northwest Arkansas sits in a section of the Ozarks referred to as the Boston Mountains. These mountains are maximum dramatic at the southern end of the area, around Fayetteville, domestic of the University of Arkansas, and one of the longest-running level races in the U.S., the Joe Martin Stage Race. This level race celebrated its 40th strolling remaining 12 months and has grown to come to be a necessary part of our Cycling seasoned tour and longest continuously authorized UCI seasoned race on U.S. Soil.
Head north thru Springdale and Rogers, closer to the other primary communities within the region and the panorama tiers into an all-at-once flat plateau. On the northern end of this plateau is Bentonville, and north into Bella Vista is rolling hills just like the Ardennes in southern Belgium. The region gives a touch bit of the entirety in terms of cycling conditions and demanding situations. So it isn’t absolutely sudden that the location is beginning to grow to be one of the new hotbed locations of U.S. Biking.
The first efforts to broaden mountain motorbike trails within the area commenced within the mid-2000s, extra than four hundred miles of herbal-surface trails and paved paths were created. Trail improvement has been the spinoff of several regional public/personal partnerships mixed with the Bentonville-based Walton Family Foundation’s extensive generosity, which has supplied more than $70 million for trail improvement because 2007.
A watershed moment for Northwest Arkansas cycling got here in 2016 whilst the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) World Summit became held in Bentonville. Since then, increasingly more country-wide-scale mountain motorcycle occasions were held in Northwest Arkansas, consisting of the NICA National Directors’ Conference, the Outerbike Festival, the Epic Rides Off-Road Series race, and more than one period of IMBA Trail Labs. But the actual coup got here simply months in the past, whilst Fayetteville was offered the UCI World Cyclocross Championships in January 2022. This event will raise Northwest Arkansas onto the global biking degree, and cycling supporters intend to take most gain of that opportunity.
As Brendan Quirk, Cycling Program Director of the Runway Group, a company targeted on high-quality-of-lifestyles projects and economic development in Northwest Arkansas, says, “It can be an excellent possibility for us to have fun our biking subculture, and to place on one heck of a party.” The Runway Group serves as the gravitational middle for Steuart and Tom Walton’s local development work, grandchildren of authentic Walmart founders. Quirk works intently with the Walton Family Foundation in cycling initiatives. Originally based 30 years ago with Sam and Helen Walton’s aid, the inspiration is a circle of relatives-led enterprise operating to create access to opportunity with the aid of improving K-12 schooling, protective the surroundings, and advancing the high-quality of lifestyles in its domestic vicinity.
Jeremy Pate, a Program Officer for the Foundation, says, “In Northwest Arkansas, one of the foundation’s key tasks revolves around coping with the fast boom the place is experiencing in a manner that preserves and enhances the prevailing urban material.” A broader set of transportation and mobility alternatives is part of this attempt, consisting of plans to make the network amenable to all bicycling transportation styles and events. Says Pate, “We are seeking to keep a feel of the vicinity, for both long-time citizens, beginners, and site visitors to the vicinity.
Adds Quirk, “Our area has great natural splendor, the sort of rich subculture you get with a primary college metropolis, and the effect of tech-pushed Fortune 500 groups such as Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt. The runway has a huge variety of pastimes to enlarge our regional strengths — with a lot of emphasis on cycling and trails. Beyond that, the agency also sponsors many different arts and cultural pastimes, food and culinary training, and even aviation pursuits. “In my cycling position, I spend time engaged with our portfolio of biking companies as well as running with the crew to assess commercial enterprise possibilities inside the cycling and outdoor area,” Quirk keeps.
The Walton brothers are especially involved with and assisting to power the various cycling initiatives. “We spend an excellent little bit of time with the inspiration on philanthropic projects related to trails and biking, inexperienced space renovation, and the destiny of multi-modal transportation,” Quirk provides. “Tom and Steuart have encouraged us to push as difficult as we will with biking activities right here in Northwest Arkansas. Their passion for cycling is off-the-charts, and in conversation, it’s abundantly clear how they accept as true with inside the transformative strength of bicycles.” [Editor’s Note: The two Walton brothers, through their private investment vehicle, also recently acquired high-end British apparel maker Rapha and a stake in the local bike manufacturer Allied, underlining their long-term commitment to the cycling industry.]
The area is turning into well known for its work related to mountain cycling and trails. However, Quirk says, ”We even have a ton of consciousness on biking-as-transportation.” Interestingly, the Northwest Arkansas MSA (metropolitan statistical place, as described via the U.S. Census Bureau) was these days ranked variety 14 inside the country in phrases of populace boom. As a result, there is a considerable volume of recent roads and transportation infrastructure being built. “We’re working to ensure to the high-quality of our capacity that blanketed bike lanes and secure routes for pedestrians are a part of these plans,” says Quirk.