MARQUETTE - When Spencer DenBeste takes to the trails Saturday for the 12th annual Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic in Marquette, he will be in good company.
For the third consecutive year, Spencer, 12, will be lining up at the starting line of the 28-mile race with his father, Dirk DenBeste.
"That's the nice thing about the Ore to Shore," Dirk DenBeste said. "It's a super community event and its really good for anybody that wants to get out."
Spencer DenBeste stands with other riders on a Thursday ride sponsored by Downwind Sports. (Photo courtesy of Downwind Sports and Michelle DenBeste)
Mountain biking is a family sport for the DenBestes and Spencer has been on the trails for more than half his life.
The family has competed in numerous races across the region and Spencer DenBeste spends a large part of his life on his bike. He said he touches his bike every day, but with hockey and golf and other activities, goes for longer rides less often.
"We try to go like once a week as a family," he said. "Me and my dad or me and my mom try to go out one other time each week."
Though he hasn't done any dedicated training for the Soft Rock, DenBeste said he has been aided by the fact that he runs; he has also attended two hockey camps this year. Additionally, the DenBestes have made a couple of 25-mile rides recently in preparation for the Soft Rock.
"(Mountain biking) is something we all started as a family and it's kind of grown," Dirk DenBeste said. "And it's something we all still do. It's just kind of a neat sport that you can all do as a family."
Spencer DenBeste will be taking part in the Ore to Shore for the fourth time - prior to his Soft Rock experience, he raced the 4-mile Junior Rock. In 2009, he completed the 28-mile course in two hours and 53 seconds. Last year, he bested that time by more than five minutes.
He is looking forward to the day when he can take part in the 48-mile Hard Rock race - competitors in that event must be 16 years old.
Heading into this year's Soft Rock, though, DenBeste has a couple of goals. Of course, he would like to top last year's time and have fun doing it.
But he would also like to beat his father.
"That's one of my other goals. I'm going to try to, yeah," he said. "I'm going to try not to kill myself, but I'm going to try to beat him."
For race coordinator Tom Bleau, that kind of fun competition is what the Ore to Shore is all about.
"It's a great family activity to get the kids out and do something physically active," he said. "Anybody who gets on a bike occasionally can get out and do this kind of activity."
Bleau said that, in total, more than 1,600 racers will line up for Saturday's six Ore to Shore events.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.