Even in South Florida there are peaks for enthusiasts to scale

There are enough man-made mountain biking trails at various South Florida parks to keep even the most hardcore mountain biker happy.
Victor Lavinsky misses the mountains of Brazil, where he grew up and fell in love with mountain biking.

When he moved to South Florida in 2001, he thought he was going to have to find another sport "because I knew there were no mountains in Florida."

But there are enough man-made mountain biking trails at various South Florida parks to keep even the most hardcore mountain biker happy, including Lavinsky, 30, of Boca Raton.

"Oh my God, there are nice mountains... beautiful mountains in Brazil, not like here," said Lavinsky, who puts in 120 - 130 miles of training per week. "The biggest difference is it's all open trail in Brazil. Everything here is single track. But I am not complaining, I am very happy with the mountain biking and the trails here. It is a crazy sport, much better than road biking."

Races draw riders

After a down year because of hurricane-damaged mountain bike trails -- including Quiet Waters Park, which remains closed at Deerfield Beach where Lavinsky and his Subaru/B&J Bicycles Racing Team used to train -- the sport is enjoying a resurgence.

While road bikes are the hottest sellers at local bike shops, mountain bikes are still popular -- largely because of several races held in South Florida. Sunday's Coconut Cup, the third event in a six-race series, begins at 8:30 a.m. at Markham Park in Sunrise and expects to attract a large field of adult and youth riders, much like last Saturday's 12 Hours of Oleta.

Lavinsky, one of the hottest riders in South Florida, is expected to be among the favorites at Sunday's race. Subaru/B&J Bicycles is one of the state's top mountain biking teams.

Vinnie Tamburello, owner of B&J Bicycles, said he noticed a drop off in mountain biking after Quiet Waters Park's trails were decimated by hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. Several cyclists didn't want to make the long commute to other mountain trail parks.

Optimistic interest

Jim Chiarello, owner of Jim's Bicycles in Deerfield Beach, is optimistic county officials will help to rebuild the mountain bike trails at Quiet Waters. A Jan. 24 meeting is scheduled to look at plans for newly designed trails and ask for volunteers to help rebuild it.

"The hurricanes killed the mountain bike trails at Quiet Waters," said Chiarello, whose store is across the street from the park. "There is not a day that doesn't go by I don't have someone coming in asking us when the trail is going to be re-opened. I must have fielded a thousand questions since last year. I'm optimistic about mountain biking, that it's ready to take off again."

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong had planned to compete in the Aug. 11 Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race in the Colorado Rockies but had a scheduling conflict.

"Mountain biking is picking up," Tamburello said. "Once they rebuild Quiet Waters and put it back in shape, you will see a lot more mountain bikers out there, but it's not doing so bad right now."

Sharon Robb can be reached at srobb@sun-sentinel.com. Copyright (c) 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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