When Drew Jordan of Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse decided last year to organize the first-ever mountain bike race held at the Forks Area Trail System — better known as FATS — located in Clarks Hill, S.C., he didn’t realize the commitment he was making.
“The reason we did the race last year was it was a fundraiser for some projects that the local mountain bike club, SORBA-CSRA, was working on to improve the Forks Area Trail System,” Jordan explained. “The trails are a little over 10 years old now and they started to show some age from Mother Nature’s work, so we wanted to help the club raise the money to get some tread work done out there. Basically, the surface was getting pretty eroded.”
Considering FATS is such a unique, local treasure located in Sumter National Forest, Jordan was more than happy to help.
He, along with the race’s co-director Paul Farrow, decided to call the mountain bike race the FATS Flow Master since the trail is known for its “flowy,” hard-packed Carolina clay track, Jordan explained.
“So, the original plan was to do the race once, raise the money and that was going to be it,” Jordan said, laughing. “But it’s kind of funny how you get sucked into it when people get excited about something. And, I’m proud to say, everybody had an absolute blast out there last year. The race went off without a hitch. So, immediately after the race was over, people were saying, ‘Please tell me you are going to do this again!’”
David Funk, the president of SORBA-CSRA, agreed that last year’s Flow Master couldn’t have gone any better.
“It was one of those funny things where Drew and Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse, they are not a bike race production company. They are not experienced at that, but I actually think because of their lack of experience they probably put more effort into making it a really good race because they didn’t want to miss anything,” Funk said. “They worked hard. And at the end of the day, it was one of the best-produced races I’ve been to. And I used to race quite a bit.”
For the past 35 years, Funk has been involved in cycling and mountain bike races across the nation, and he was blown away by last year’s Flow Master.
“It was just extremely well produced,” Funk said. “The courses were very well marked. The trails were in absolute pristine conditions for the race. We had beautiful weather and, by getting some of the local businesses out there, we had barbecue going on, good swag, a good venue, a lot of parking and a lot of space for running the race. It almost seemed like we had a little carnival going on up there.”
Funk was not at all surprised that Jordan was immediately asked to organize another Flow Master this year.
“Driving up to the race last year, it didn’t look like a general race. It looked like a real event,” Funk said. “It had the atmosphere of a pretty good-sized racing event. A lot of racers came out. We maxed it out, and I think the trails delivered a fast course. It was quite a blast.”
Making FATS Flow Master a success last year was definitely a group effort, Jordan said.
“We had some great volunteers, and I had an absolutely phenomenal race co-director with Paul (Farrow). We also had some incredible sponsors,” Jordan said. “The day went really well, especially considering that, up until last year, there had never been a mountain bike race at the Forks Area Trail System.”
The race was also a challenge because Jordan had to make sure that it followed all the guidelines established by the U.S. Forest Service.
“It’s a big event to plan, especially when you are working on U.S. Forest Service land,” Jordan said. “While there have been plenty of running races put on there, there had never been a mountain bike race at FATS, so that was a little bit of motivation to get it done well.”
Last year, the Flow Master managed to raise $6,400 to go directly back into maintaining FATS for future generations of mountain bike enthusiasts, Jordan said.
After the racers had so much fun and the event helped raise the necessary funds for the trail, Jordan said he couldn’t just walk away from organizing the Flow Master this year.
“I gave it some time for the dust to settle because it’s a lot of work putting on races like that,” Jordan said. “But it’s hard not to do it again when you see so many people having fun racing bikes in the woods. So here we are. Our second race will be on Saturday, Oct. 13.”
“But I’m still not calling it an annual event yet,” Jordan added, laughing. “I’m calling it Flow Master II.”
Once again, all proceeds from the race will go directly back into the local trails, he said.
“SORBA-CSRA is working on some other features for the trail’s parking lot, such as changing rooms and a new kiosk with maps on them and some new signage,” Jordan said. “We are also ramping it up to 150 people who can participate this year instead of the 125 limit we had last year.”
Flow Master participants can register at andyjordans.com. The registration deadline is Oct. 3, unless the max capacity for the race has already been met before that date, Jordan explained.
The entry fee is $50 plus a processing fee until Sept. 13, and it increases to $65 plus a processing fee for those registering from Sept. 14 through Oct. 3.
“The course, which includes Great Wall, Skinny and Brown Wave trails, is approximately 20 miles,” Jordan said. “It is essentially the same exact course as last year. And hopefully we will have the same weather we had last year, because it was awesome. October is a good time of a year for this area. It is usually a little bit drier and cooler, so it makes for good riding conditions as well.”
CROSSING THE FINISH LINE
Last year’s Flow Master winners, 27-year-old Dustin White and 32-year-old Carey Oberholtzer, thoroughly enjoyed competing on this familiar local trail.
“I spent a lot of long weekends practicing the race loop so that it wasn’t just that I generally knew what was coming up, but I’d know what turn was coming when and how much speed to carry through it,” White said, adding that he already knew how challenging FATS is to separate yourself from other competitors. “I just tried to completely optimize my approach to the race.”
White was also fully aware that he would be competing against his good friends who are equally familiar with the local trail system.
“Knowing that your friends are going to be the ones who are there racing against you and we all know each other’s tendencies because we all train on the trail system together, that was the tactical game that was hard to think about,” White said. “You had to ask yourself, ‘How am I going to separate from my friend, who he knows exactly what I may or may not do at any moment on this trail?’”
That fact challenged White to prepare extremely hard for the race and try to think more creatively about a good race strategy that might catch his friends off guard, he said.
White also wanted to make sure to proudly represent Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse
during the first-ever Flow Master last year.
After all, White serves as the MTB Race Ambassador for Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse to help promote local mountain bike racing.
“The reason I am so fond of racing for his shop is that it is a really good community of people,” White said. “And Drew goes out of his way to build the community of cycling in our area, and he goes out of his way to really focus on mountain biking, which I think is wonderful because that’s such a special group of people within the cycling community.”
White said wearing an Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse jersey while racing means a great deal to him.
“Last year, I wanted to try my best and put everything I had into it to give back to the community that Drew has helped create,” White said. “Obviously, I wanted to cross the finish line first, but when I went across the finish line wearing his brand — something that his father started in this community 40 years ago — on my chest, I knew that I had given everything. I had performed for him, the cause and that sense of community on a local trail with my friends. You can’t get better than that.”
Unfortunately, White will not be able to participate in this year’s Flow Master, but for good reason.
He is currently training for the Ironman Louisville triathlon — a grueling 140.6-mile swim, bike and run that makes up the competition — on Oct. 14.
So, White will not be in town on the day of the Flow Master on Oct. 13.
However, White will also be participating in Ironman 70.3 Augusta on Sept. 23.
“This year, I had some different commitments with work, and I was actually finishing up my master’s program at the University of South Carolina, so I couldn’t really do the full travel calendar for the mountain bike racing,” White said. “So I decided to try triathlons for the first time.”
COMPETING FOR A CAUSE
Not only did White begin training for triathlons, he also decided to do something positive to help another family from Louisville, Ky., in the process.
White has begun raising money for families of fallen law enforcement officers through a cause he calls “Black & Blue
“As soon as I signed up for the Augusta Half Ironman, it hit me that my really close friend lost a cousin who was an active duty police officer in Louisville named Nick Rodman,” White said. “His story was really tragic. He was 30 years old, and he had just returned to work after having a second child. He had a 2-year-old son and a 4-week-old daughter, and he went back to work and was killed in an incident with someone fleeing a crime scene. So he left behind a widow and two children who never really got to know him. It was so sad.”
On March 29, 2017, Louisville officers were pursuing a suspect who had been involved in a domestic violence incident in which shots were fired. As Rodman approached a nearby intersection, the suspect drove through the intersection at 78 mph striking Rodman’s patrol vehicle head-on.
Tragically, the cruiser went airborne, struck a wall and burst into flames, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
After the collision, officers were able to free Rodman from his burning patrol car and transported him to a local hospital. But he died the following afternoon.
“He was a brother and son to two fellow Louisville police officers, Andy and George Rodman,” White said. “I knew him pretty well in my teenage years, so there are very few things that hit you so hard that you just start crying, but hearing that news was one of those times for me.”
White decided to honor Nick Rodman by trying to raise funds for his family.
“I thought, why not try to raise awareness and money through doing what I love to give back to the people who allow me to do it?” White said. “So I talked to the family and got permission to share their story.”
As a result, White has created a Go Fund Me account to help raise money for Nick Rodman’s family. He plans to meet with the family when he travels to Kentucky for Ironman Louisville on Oct. 14. For more information, visit gofundme.com/black-and-blue-racing-pb-ajbw.
Jordan says he’s extremely proud to call White an ambassador for Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse.
“I met Dustin through another very grassroots race that I put on that’s called the Canal Crown,” Jordan said. “It is something we do in the summertime, but it’s very much a locals-only type of race. It’s on a Thursday night. It’s one lap, as fast as you can go around the canal’s single track trail by the pumping station.”
White had competed and won the Canal Crown in both 2016 and 2017.
“He is an extremely fast guy on a bike, but he’s also a really nice guy,” Jordan said. “He has always impressed me with just how approachable he is, and he is always willing to help people out if they have questions about things, so it was kind of a no-brainer to bring him on as one of our store’s ambassadors.”
In fact, Jordan said he’ll never forget a day earlier this year when he along with White and a few other friends were riding at FATS.
“He and I both were supposed to do a three-hour ride and we were at the halfway point about an hour and a half in and there was somebody in the parking lot who had found a lost dog,” Jordan said, explaining that White is also involved in rescuing dogs. “He immediately said, ‘I will take the dog home.’ He quit in the middle of his training ride to take the stray dog found in the woods home to foster and eventually get him placed in a good home.”
Jordan said he was floored by White’s kindness.
“A lot of guys who are at the level that he’s at, they would have said, ‘I’m sorry. I have to keep my training ride going. This is important,’” Jordan said. “But for Dustin to stop everything to help that dog, I think it spoke a lot about his character. He’s a super good guy.”
He’s also an incredible athlete, Jordan said.
“He’s not a one-trick pony,” Jordan said. “Dustin is a very good mountain biker and now he’s also doing some triathlons, as well as raising money for fallen law enforcement officers. Hopefully, he will meet his goal. I think he will. He is somebody who, when he sets his mind to something, he generally gets it done.”
EXCITEMENT OVER FLOW MASTER 2018
Last year’s female winner at the FATS Flow Master was 32-year-old Carey Oberholtzer, who recently moved to Kingsport, Tenn.
But that won’t keep her from competing in this year’s Flow Master.
“I will absolutely be competing this year,” Oberholtzer said. “I already have vacation blocked off to make sure I’m down in Augusta. I’ll be there.”
The amazing aspect about Oberholtzer’s win last year was that she had just recently taken up mountain biking.
“That was my first mountain bike race ever,” she said, laughing. “So it was really awesome to be able to pull that off. I definitely practiced hard, working on getting faster. I was really excited about that win.”
“No pressure for this year, huh?” she added, chuckling.
Oberholtzer said she fell in love with mountain biking after joining a local women’s riding group through Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse.
“Andy Jordan’s has a pretty big following of people who do a lot of mountain biking in the area and there’s a group of women who ride together pretty regularly,” she said. “We ride out at FATS a lot because it’s definitely one of the more fun set of trails around.”
She said the women’s Saturday group rides are extremely inviting to new participants and all of the riders learn a lot from one another.
“Joining the group, it made me bolder and got me to take more chances,” Oberholtzer said. “And on FATS, I think it’s unique because you can get a lot of speed and you can flow through it. It’s not as much effort in climbing as in some other places. It flows really well. And even the uphill is just fun.”
Jordan says he’s thrilled that so many people enjoyed last year’s Flow Master and he is looking forward to helping support the effort to maintain the local mountain biking trails.
“FATS was one of the first purpose-built mountain bike trails in our area,” Jordan said. “Therefore, the trails are built all around maintaining your momentum out there. That’s what people like about it. You are able to keep a higher rate of speed and there are sections where you don’t have to take a pedal stroke for several minutes.”
And the entire 37-mile trail system is absolutely stunning, Jordan said.
“Within the Sumter National Forest, you have sections where you are riding and there is nothing but pine trees and then you’ll pop out of the woods, cross a gravel road and all of a sudden there are a lot of hardwoods with ferns everywhere,” Jordan said. “It’s a dynamic forest out there that changes a lot throughout the different trails.”
The local mountain bike club, SORBA-CSRA, is extremely appreciative that Jordan and his team have agreed to help support FATS by putting on Flow Master for another year.
“We are really looking forward to this race,” Funk said. “They put on a stellar race last year, and I’m expecting it to be the same this year. If anything, it might even be better.”
For more information about the FATS Flow Master 2018, visit andyjordans.com/about/fats-flow-master-2018-pg522.htm.
To help support Dustin White’s “Black and Blue Racing” effort to raise funds for Nick Rodman’s family, visit gofundme.com/black-and-blue-racing-pb-ajbw.