Mike Masters rides through a herd of goats during Sunday’s race on Virgin Gorda.

Twenty cyclists competed in the annual BVI Mountain Bike Club’s Mineshaft Challenge on Virgin Gorda Sunday morning.

The BVIMBC has held the race for the past 12 years on VG. Organisers say that the event is different from other races, especially those on sister islands, because of the terrain.

“This one is different because of the hills,” BVIMBC President Jim Cullimore said. “Virgin Gorda is not a flat place. The hills are definitely a challenge.”

The BVIMC president said it is a “training race” for a lot of the riders who want to do the Tour de Tortola race, which is schedule for May 19. The VG course provides a lot of the same terrain that will be present during the Tour de Tortola race, like the hills.

“If you are looking to do the Tour [de Tortola], this is a very good start,” Mr. Cullimore said.

Organisers are hoping for a big turnout for this year’s Tour de Tortola race. The event is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Ten cyclists from Puerto Rico are expected to compete in the race.

The VG race was about 15 miles, which started and finished at the Mineshaft Restaurant near Coppermine Point. The cyclists started the race by riding through Spanish Town then to Nail Bay and onto the North Sound Road past Gorda Peak and back to the finish.

“It is just a challenge to finish,” Mr. Cullimore said.  “It feels like 25 miles.”

The president added that it was one of the biggest turnouts  the VG race has had in the past six years.

“We are very pleased with the turnout,” Mr. Cullimore said.

The race is part of the championship series that cyclists earn points for competing in. The VG race is the third of 11 events in the series.

Philippe Leroy won Sunday’s race with a time of one hour and three mintues and 31 seconds, which was about eight minutes faster than last year’s time, according to Mr. Cullimore.

“Currently, he is very, very fit,” the president said. “He is the man to beat.”

It wasn’t only the regulars attending Sunday’s race, the event also attracted a couple of new riders and a few from overseas, according to the BVIMBC president.

“The participation will vary, but it is about plus 20 nearly every race now,” the president said.

In fact, some cyclists participated in the race for the sole reason of just completing the event, like Mark Jones. He finished in second to last place and started the race 25 minutes before everyone else.

Mike Masters is not a stranger to the race. However, he was the last finisher to cross the line. It was his second time competing in the event. He said he likes the VG race because of the scenery. Before crossing the finish line he had to ride through a herd of goats, but that was not his biggest challenge.

Compared to previous years, Mr. Masters said the race was a “little warmer, but the wind was in the [cyclists’] favour,” and it didn’t rain, like the previous year.

He was a little disappointed in himself because he had to get off his bike and walk, because his “legs gave out,” unlike last year when he was able to ride the entire course.

He added that a couple of the cyclists took wrong turns and lost about 10 minutes.

It was his second race of the season, but despite missing one race, he hopes to do all the races if his health holds up.

“It is really challenging,” Mr. Masters said. “One minute you are going downhill fast and then you are going straight up. You really don’t get a chance to get into a rhythm. You really have to be in control of what you are doing.”

Most times Mr. Masters finishes the races in last place, he said. But he has his reasons for competing.

“I try, it is a lot of fun,” he said. “I do it just for the fun and for my health. There is a lot of camaraderie here.”

For more information about the BVIMBC, e-mail: bvimtbclub@gmail.com or call Mr. Cullimore at 496-6846.

The next race in the series is May 5 on Anegada.