people racing bicycles

June 08, 2022

Catalyst Racing is back at SIU’s Touch of Nature

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Bike racing is returning to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center on June 25 as the Catalyst Race Series makes its third and final stop of the season on the scenic site. People of all ages can enter now.

Touch of Nature is partnering with the Shawnee Mountain Bike Association to present a new, improved Catalyst Race Series for 2022, highlighting the great mountain biking opportunities in the region. This final stop will showcase the fast, flowing, professionally designed trails that are part of the 12 miles already completed in the Touch of Nature Multiuse Trail System. It will eventually encompass about 30 miles of stacked loop trails, adult and children’s terrain parks, an event center space and other features.

“After an amazing 2021 race series, we’re so excited to see this race series grow, not only in numbers, but also to include so many incredible locations in Southern Illinois,” said Brian Croft, assistant director of outdoor education and recreation at Touch of Nature. “I think this goes to show that the region is really becoming a mountain biking destination. We’re especially proud of our premier facility here at Touch of Nature. We’ve already had people from all over the country riding our trails, and they’re impressed. Just wait until the system is complete!”

Register now, spectators welcome

Men and women are scored separately, and there are expert and sport divisions as well as junior and children’s categories. Prizes will be awarded within each class. Entry fees range from $25 to $55.

Sign up online now.

Racing action begins at 10 a.m. with staggered starts for the various classifications. Registration and check-in opens at 8 a.m.

Spectators are welcome to enjoy the racing action, too. Refreshments and drinks will be available for racers and spectators.

Beautiful and challenging track

Touch of Nature’s track was designed for speed and beauty, with views of the forest and water. Most of the trail is a fast-flowing single track, but it incorporates a few creek crossings and even a couple of small rocky areas.

Proceeds of this race will go toward maintenance and completion of the trail system, which is used for mountain biking and hiking. When finished, officials estimate it will draw 55,000 to 75,000 visitors annually to the facility, located about 8 miles south of Carbondale off Giant City Road. The trails are the only university-affiliated multiuse trail system of this scope in the country and also provide outdoor learning spaces for numerous SIU academic programs, including recreation professions, forestry and wildlife biology.