BROOKSVILLE — The Suncoast Trail Blazers is just one of many clubs across the state that organizes events for the Florida Trail Riders tour.
In its 36th year, the Tampa-based organization has used grounds off Mondon Hill Road near Brooksville to stage its Coyote Hare Scramble for the past four years. And with each event, the competition grows more popular.
With the winter season in full swing and national events around the corner, top competitors use Florida as a training ground to get ready for the professional motocross season. The better courses can attract some talented riders if they are properly maintained, and that's something in which the local club takes a great deal of pride.
"We started walking the course about eight weeks before the event," club official Danny Kittell said. "We had to clear out any debris and mark it."
Suncoast Trail Blazers is a family organization, and members work together to put on events. There are about 60 members in the organization, with family members who usually join in. The shifts to prepare for the Coyote Hare, which took place Jan. 8 and 9, were handled by 15- to 30-person groups, and the work paid off.
"We drew some big names (last) weekend," Kittell said. "The event has gotten so popular."
One of those big names was top winner Charlie Mullins. The Ohio native won the Double-A Class with a time of 1 hour, 38 minutes and 31 seconds in four laps of the 11.2-mile course. Riding his KTM model bike, Mullins was the No. 2-ranked motocross rider in the nation last season. He won a national crown at the Indiana Muddobber Enduro in October.
Mullins was one of five out-of-state riders to win class titles over the weekend on a course that has improved every year. The closed course at Mondon Hill has been marked off to include more woods and less farmland so riders drive over more hard surfaces, and it was well received.
"We definitely got feedback," Kittell said. "The path was more in the woods than in the cow pastures, and that definitely enhanced the motocross side this year. They all loved it. Our event has become the premier event of the FTR series."
There were four locals who came away with class crowns at Mondon Hill. In the A 250cc Class, Alex Spade of Brooksville took first with a time of 1:50.28. Roland Lyons Jr. of Brooksville (Golden Masters A) and Paul Ladouceur of Spring Hill (Quad Veterans) both won their classes. The only local woman to win was Brooksville's Shannon Brening in the Quad Women Class.
"I was last place coming off the line and had to pass everyone," Ladouceur said. "I felt like I had a good race, and it's always nice to pick up a win."
Ladouceur seemed even more proud of the work he did on the track before the event as a member of the Suncoast Trail Blazers. He estimates he worked with fellow club member Rob Swan about 20 to 25 hours on a 3.5-mile stretch of the course.
The big names that showed up weren't just on dirt bikes. Top ATV riders like Adam McGill and Chris Borich were both in the field.
"After all that work, it was very gratifying to see how many people were saying how much they liked it," Ladouceur said.
The cost is nominal as well. For FTR members, the fee to enter the Hare Scramble is only $50. Some of the better riders have sponsors to help offset maintenance costs on their equipment, but generally the entrants pay for upkeep to their own motorcycles and four-wheelers.
In addition to hosting this event for the past four years, Suncoast also helped put on a Hare Scramble at Barthle Brothers Ranch in Dade City last April to help out another club that had an open date on the schedule. It was the first time an FTR event was held at the ranch in Pasco County, and it went off without a hitch.
"We are all about promoting safe, responsible motorcycling," Kittell said. "Any chance we get to do that, we want to be a part of it."