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‘Relentless Ride’ film documents Arkansas High Country Race


A new film by two Arkansas filmmakers that documents one of the most grueling endurance races in the world is now available to watch online. As it happens, that race takes place here in the Natural State.

The film, called “Relentless Ride,” documents two years of the Arkansas High Country Race, the 1,037-mile race that makes its way through some of the most challenging terrain on gravel roads throughout some of the state’s most remote areas.

The race got its start in 2019 with a course that follows a loop through areas of the northwest corner of the state into west-central Arkansas on roughly half paved and half gravel/dirt surfaces. The idea behind the event is to test the limits of what the human body can endure, and according to the website, less than half of those who start the race are able to finish it.

Local filmmakers Brian Hill and Adam Harbottle of Kombi Creative got the idea for the documentary after the 2020 event. That year, the start line for the race had been moved from Little Rock to Fayetteville, and former WorldTour cyclist Ted King entered the field, adding intrigue to the event.

“Adam and I are always looking for unique opportunities to use our cameras and see what kind of project comes from it,” Hill said. So Adam came to me and said he either wanted to film the race in 2021 or ride the race. Without hesitation, I knew the people that took on this challenge had to have interesting backstories.”

Photos: Nate Friend

“Relentless Ride” follows male and female riders competing in the 2021 race, documenting the athletes before, during, and after the competition. To begin, they contacted race director Chuck Campbell to get his blessing and discuss the dos and don’ts for covering the race. After getting the go-ahead from Craig, they began to seek out athletes to follow.

“With (Campbell’s) blessing and the blessing of Experience Fayetteville, we contacted every athlete that registered via email and asked if we could do a Zoom call with them to learn about their story,” Hill said. “We knew none of the athletes beforehand. Hours and hours of calls later, we started picking up our cameras and traveling to athletes to get their backstories.”

The race itself is brutal. Competitors ride at their own pace over several days, covering as much mileage as they can while also managing their supplies, sleeping when and wherever they can, often in a ditch on the side of the road for just a few hours at a time.

In addition to those challenges, the course includes over 80,000 feet of climbing on dirt roads, through wooded areas filled with wildlife and the occasional less-than-friendly dog: wind, rain, storms, and other elements factor in as well. Delirium due to lack of sleep, lack of nutrition, and loneliness also come into play.

“Covering the race was also extremely challenging,” Hill said.

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Dustin Bartholomew is the co-founder of Fayetteville Flyer, an online publication covering all things news, art and life in Fayetteville, Arkansas since 2007. A graduate of the Department of English at the University of Arkansas and a lifelong resident of the area, he still lives in east Fayetteville with his son Hudson, daughter Evelyn, his wife Brandy, and his two dogs Lily and Steve. On occasion, he tickles the ivories in a local band called The Good Fear.

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