An increasingly popular sporting event is coming to Sevier County for the first time. Mountain bicycle riding and racing will make its debut April 21 and 22 in Richfield.

The event will be highlighted with the Hog's Mountain Bike Race April 22, according to Chuck Hawley and Tracy Nielson, co-chairmen of the Richfield Reaper-sponsored event. The 25-mile course will feature racing on pavement, dirt roads and mountain trails.The race will begin at 10 a.m. at the Richfield City Park, go south on Main Street to the I-70 access road, southwest to Flat Canyon, north along the mountain foothills to Cottonwood Canyon, down the Forest Service CCC Road and back to the park. Hawley said Main Street and the I-70 access road will be closed to traffic during the first few minutes of the race.

A get-acquainted and fun ride are planned April 21 at 2 p.m. Nielson will escort racers over the course to be used the following day while Hawley will lead bikers on a ride in other areas of Sevier Valley.

"Pre-registration is not required and we hope to have racers from throughout Utah and the surrounding states," Hawley said. "We plan to make it an annual event."

The event has the support of local merchants and government officials as well as officials of the Bureau of Land Management and Fishlake National Forest. The area offers some of the best mountain biking in Utah, the co-chairmen said. The Forest Service is marking mountain bike trails and will offer maps in the future that will help mountain bikers locate and enjoy trails.

Professional and amateur racing, the latter in several age group categories, will be featured in the Hog's Back Race. Professionals will get cash awards, based on the amount received from entry fees. Amateurs will receive trophies.

Five divisions are planned for amateurs, including 18 years of age and under, 19 through 29, 30 through 39, 40 through 49 and over 49. A mountain bike valued at $500 will be given away by drawing to one of the participants.

Mountain biking has become one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. More bicycles are now being sold to adults than to children. Most are for mountain biking.

"A mountain bike is designed so that it can be used off-road," Nielson said. It is geared lower than a conventional 10-speed bike.