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Bikers roar into Gunstock for annual HillClimb

A biker gets some air during the annual HillClimb at Gunstock last week. Danielle DeLisle. (click for larger version)
June 24, 2009
Motors, dirt and leather all come together at various Lakes Region locales during Bike Week each year, and the annual Gunstock Motorcycle HillClimb is no exception.

"Even before you get there you get butterflies in your stomach," said George Loring, of Upton, Mass. "Then once you start you don't notice anything or anybody."

Gunstock creates an uphill course with jumps for the participants, who bring a variety of machines to take on the challenge. Motorcycles from the 150 cc to the fast 750 cc try their luck, even snow machines and get in on the race. Loring said he has been doing the Gunstock race for the past six years.

"It wasn't too bad," Loring said. "It got really tough at the top. The jumps are what make it difficult; they're pretty close together."

Rachel Nadone, from Stafford, Conn., would agree with that. She took a tumble on her 200 cc bike into a hay bail on her first run, injuring her knee. She shook off the fall and made her next two runs with no incident. Nadone said that she has been racing for three years but has been around the circuit for a lot longer.

"My dad races," said Nadone. "I remember going with him to races all my life. I never wanted to try it then. Three years ago my dad convinced me to get on a bike, and I have been hooked ever since."

Her father races a 750 cc bike, which are much faster than then 200 cc and go last in the competition. Two lanes make up the racecourse and two riders go head to head trying to beat their opponent and the fastest time of the day in their class. The riders navigate the jumps on the way to the top, sometimes being launched ten feet into the air before landing in a cloud of dirt.

It was sunny and warm on race day, a break from the rain that had prevailed for most of Bike Week. Thousands turned out to cheer their favorites or just watch the races. Many brought cameras both video and digital to record all the action. An announcer filled the crowd in on times and the names of the riders while keeping the energy high so each rider could garner applause for their feats.

"You really get to know everyone on the circuit," said Nadone. "It's really just one big family."

The races at Gunstock took place in the middle of Bike Week and were one of the bigger draws, attracting most of the bikers who traveled from around the country to Gilford for the event.

Nadone said that she gets excited just before she goes out there and even a little nervous, but once she gets out on the course it's "just fun" for her. She said when she fell she tried to get up, but the staff was telling her to sit back down.

"I was shaking," she said. "I didn't realize for a minute or two. That's part of the whole sport, though. It makes you be careful out there."

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