2013 Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic ready to race through Marquette County on Saturday

MARQUETTE – Every year, the Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic draws more participants.

Race director Scott Tuma thinks he knows why.

“It’s racer-friendly and people tell their friends about it,” he said. “(And) whatever the skill level or fitness level, bikers can fit in.

“It’s the kind of course that will challenge the pro biker, but one where everyone can ride.”

The 14th Annual O2S will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at Lakeview Arena in Marquette with the 10-mile Shore Rock.

As of early Thursday, a total of 2,091 people had registered for the event, according to race coordinator Nicole Dewald.

“I bet we’ll go over 2,500 (for the day),” she said.

Saturday will also sport the 28-mile Soft Rock and 48-mile Hard Rock before ending with the one-mile Little Rock.

The longer point-to-point races will begin in Negaunee and end in Marquette.

“The 28-mile race is the most popular,” said Tuma, who has been the race director from the start. Dewald said 968 riders in that event had registered as of Thursday.

“It’s challenging, but doable,” Tuma said. “There are a fair amount of downhill (miles) and something a bike path rider can do.

“The 48-mile event is where the pros compete. It’s more challenging and longer.”

Both require speed and endurance to complete, he added.

Defending men’s 48-mile Hard Rock champion Cole House of Oneida, Wis., is back this year, as is the rider he nipped for the title, 2012 winner Brian Matter of Sheboygan, Wis.

T.J. Woodruff of Prescott, Ariz., will also be on hand to challenge House and Matter, Dewald said.

Said Tuma: “The pros like to come to challenge each other.

For the women, top riders who have registered include Matter’s wife, Andrea; 2012 second-place finisher Jenna Rinehart of Mankato, Minn; Susan Stephens of Ontario, Canada; and Sara Kylander-Johnson of Duluth. Minn.

Tuma said the O2S course – on which he was helping to groom this week – looks to be in “great shape.”

“With the (recent) rain, there’s no dust. There are a few mud holes, but that’s what a bike race has,” he said.

New this year to the O2S is a fastest family category where the combined times from a family of three are tabulated to determine a winner.

“The whole point there is to get families training and riding together,” Tuma said.

He added more than 400 volunteers – each given a T-shirt for their assistance – will help stage the race.

Riders will be able to register for the O2S from 6-9 p.m. today at Lakeview Arena, Dewald said.