Woods Hollow Race: Over The Hills, Through The Woods

November 13, 2018
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By Chris Rotolo |

MIDDLETOWN – For 11 years straight, Bob Kennelly has been the fastest mountain bike rider to cross the open fields, trails and woodlands of Tatum Park, finishing first at the annual Woods Hollow Mountain Bike Race. But on Saturday, his winning streak was broken.

This past year had been a hard one, Kennelly explained, straining him both physically and mentally, and regular riding had to take a back seat. He finished the race in 21st place, between by his two sons who also biked in the race, Andrew, 26, and Matt, 31.

“My fitness isn’t where it should be right now and I just didn’t have the motor I usually do out there,” said the 61-year old Lincroft resident.

The Woods Hollow Mountain Bike Race at Tatum Park in Middletown has become a family tradition for Andrew, left, Matt and Bob Kennelly, and the Nov. 3 outing was one that will hold a special place in their hearts. Photo by Chris Rotolo

According to his sons, the opening gun is normally the last moment the boys would see of their father in competitive races like the Woods Hollow event.

“Usually he just blasts past us and he’s gone,” said Andrew. “He’s usually so far ahead that by the time we finish, he’ll be on the sideline taking photos and video of us as we come across the finish line.”

Bob Kennelly said having his boys riding by his side through Tatum’s meadows and hills helped provide the energy and focus he needed to get to the finish.

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It’s key to get into the zone, Matt agreed. “As well as competitive racers, we’re also skateboarders. And when we’re out riding or doing tricks, everything you have going on outside that moment just melts away,” he said.

“You’re so focused on pedaling and battling through the wind gusts and getting blasted in the face by mud, and then something crazy like your chain falls off at one point or another,” Andrew said. “And you have to battle through all of this. There isn’t time to dwell on anything else. Riding has been helpful to us and I think it’s been helpful to him, too.”

Kennelly has been riding competitively since 1989 and his sons both began trail riding at 3 years old. It wasn’t long before their collective interest in cruising local bike paths forged this competitive family tradition at Tatum Park.

“He’s had better finishes and we’ve done better, but being able to share this with him was special,” Andrew said. “It’s a historic race for our family and one we’ll always remember.”

RESULTS

The 22nd Annual Woods Hollow Mountain Bike Race, organized by the Monmouth County Parks System, drew more than 100 participants to Tatum Park on Nov. 3. The top finishers were:

SPORTS RACE, Men: Rumson resident Donald Ritger, 31, was the overall winner (52:53.6), and was followed by David Taylor, 38, of Hazlet (53:55.2) and Michael Fennell, 40, of Middletown (54:43.4).

SPORTS RACE, Women: Keira Sciance, 33, of Middletown (1:06.31) finished atop the women’s field, while Lara Henrichs, 21, of Point Pleasant (1:23.40) placed second and Donna Ventura, 35, of Long Branch (1:27.39) finished third.

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KIDS RACE: Middletown’s Caroline Dodds, 9, was the gold medal winner in the kids race with a time of 7:35.1, while Conor DeSarno, 9, of Wall Township (8:02.8) finished second and Ella Drach, 12, of West Long Branch (8:56.1) rounded out the top three.


This article was first published in the Nov. 8-14, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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