300 riders raced for glory, fitness and fun: ‘People are more interested in this type of race because it’s more like a festival.’

Standing around a morning camp fire, Tony Ortega and Brandon Lawrence were wondering what to do. 

They had signed on to race the 12 Hours of Bradbury Mountain bike race as a three-man team, but their buddy tweaked his knee coming down off Mount Katahdin and was now out of the picture.

“He’s the one that got us into this,” said Ortega, of Blue Hill. “We have been laughing about this for weeks. Now reality is setting in.”

The two were hoping to find a third rider before the 8 a.m. start. It was now 7 a.m..

“He’s (Lawrence) 23 and I’m 54, so I think he’s good for eight hours and I’m good for four,” said Ortega.

Three hundred riders came to Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal for the race last weekend. The idea was to ride as many laps around a seven-mile course as you can over a 12-hour period. 


Some chose to ride in teams — four-man, three-man or two-man — which allows individuals to take a break after seven miles while their teammates hit the trail.

Others chose to fly solo. 

“It’s me, myself and I. I’m a three-man team that talks to myself,” said Dominic Ambrosi, of Worcester, Mass. 

“You just have to ignore the pain,” he added.

Eating is key, said Ambrosi. He figures most riders will need between 200 and 300 calories every hour to make it to the end. Through practice, Ambrosi has determined that he needs 150 to 250 calories an hour to keep from hitting the wall.

“I’ll eat something at every aid station even if I’m not hungry,” said Ambrosi. He filled a cooler next to the course with bananas, peanuts, dark chocolate and “tons of Mountain Dew.”


“Salty, carby, carbonated — stuff that’s easy to digest.” 

“You have to face everything today — your bike, your eating and your mental thoughts,” said Ambrosi. 

The 12 Hours of Bradbury Mountain started eight years ago with 65 riders, said event organizer Patrick Hackleman of Casco Bay Sports. A cap of 300 racers was set and the race has attracted that many since year three, said Hackleman. 

For a Maine state park to host an event of this magnitude is “very uncommon,” said Park Manager Fritz Appleby. “Mountain bikers are wonderful to work with. They really want to take care of their resource.”

Racers come from all over New England and parts of Canada. They start to fill up the campground three days before race day, and Appleby allows overflow camping on a recreational field. 

Tracy Sesselberg of Cape Elizabeth has raced in all eight Bradbury races. 


“People are more interested in this type of race because it’s more like a festival,” she said. 

A typical mountain bike race is two hours long, said Sesselberg. “By the time I drive two hours to get there, race two hours, wait for awards to be handed out and then drive two hours back home, it kills your day.”

But with the Bradbury Mountain endurance race, “My husband and kids will be here after they are finished with soccer. We get to spend time as a family with friends and have a good time,” she said.

“Today will kill the whole day as well, but in a better way.”

“Endurance events really appeal to a lot of riders,” said John Grenier, owner of Rainbow Bicycle in Lewiston. “I’m just amazed at how many do it.”

“In a short race so many things can go wrong,” said Grenier. “You have time to overcome a problem during a longer race.”


Riders at the 12 Hours of Bradbury, which ends at 8 p.m., have to have a light on for any lap that starts after 4:30 p.m. 

Riding after dark is nothing new for John Drew of Bethel. The engineering student at St. Michael’s College in Vermont goes to school, does his homework and then, usually after midnight, trains for races. “It’s the only time that I can find,” said Drew, who raced in the solo expert class. 

“Our light sales have increased five-fold in the last two years,” said Grenier. “There is crazy technology in lights.” 

Ortega and Lawrence did find a third rider to join their team. Andy Gagne filled in for their injured teammate. The “3 Amigos” called it quits about six hours into the 12-hour race. 

A three-man team from Bikeman bike shop in Woolwich won the overall, completing the most laps of any team or individual: 17, within the 12 hours. “A 12-hour race is much less stressful than a typical two-hour race,” said Bikeman teammate Forrest Carver. “It’s just a fun race.”

Alby King, of Rhode Island, was also racing for Bikeman and was the top solo competitor. He completed 15 laps in 11 hours and 46 seconds. 

“It’s like being a kid again,” said Eric Agren, of Auburn. Agren raced on a four-man team called “Gettin Gritty” with three buddies from Freeport. He said his team takes the race a bit more serious then when he first raced at Bradbury three years ago. But for the most part it’s a social event, said Agren.

“We are just here to have fun.”

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