Volunteers re-route Sylvan Island after floods cover mountain bike race course

MOLINE, Illinois – The Mississippi River is expected to crest at 20.5 feet Sunday, but that’s not stopping the annual Sylvan Island Stampede Mountain Bike Race.

From above, flood waters can be seen creeping up wooded Sylvan Island, but below Trail Steward Mike Riley and a team of volunteers are trying to go with the flow.

“When life gives you water, we just make a race out of it,” says Riley.

Since the flood waters started rising on the island it’s changed the course on race day tremendously forcing volunteers to re-route certain existing paths on the island picking up as much trail mileage as they can.

“You have a trail that’s amazing to ride on, but to get to it you can’t get to it,” says Riley. “Or you can get to it, but you can’t get off of it.”

The race has been going on for 14 years, and never have they seen waters levels like this.

“I know in the past they’ve had some issues, but never to this extent,” comments Race Director, Mandy Griesenbeck. “We lost over a half mile of trail.”

Rising waters are taking away the entire southwest chunk of the route and is now blending in with the flow of the Mississippi. The original route was 4.5 miles and is now only 3.1 miles long.

“It also comes up through the island like a sponge, so any low areas you’ll find those because the water is just coming up from the ground,” says Riley.

And as the flood waters continue to ripple through the island, they’ve had some major decisions.

“It’s kind of like life, you know?” says Riley. “You got two paths, but which one you want to take?”

But, no amount of water can stop bikers from hitting the new trails.

“We always said we aren’t going to cancel this race and we aren’t going to start today,” Riley comments.

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