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The mountain bikes begin to spread out early at the Tour de Lake
Sunday, July 26, 1998 -- Charles Fork Lake, Spencer
All Sport's Tour de Lake
Story and photos by Dave McKain.

[Coverage/Recap w/Pics]
[More Pics] [Results]
[Kids' Race Results]

Two Hundred and Sixty Four bikers, from the wee tykes in a grueling 200 yard race around the campground to the experts on their leisurely 30K race two-lapper. The riders turned out for a good time on two picture perfect days at the All-Sport Tour de Lake at Charles Fork Lake in Spencer, WV July 25-26. The highlights of the weekend's racing were Gunnar Shogren's record setting time (1:25:29) in the Expert Mens class, Brett Hexson nudging out Jonathan Martin by the knobbies on his front tire for a win in the Junior Mens class (1:38:28) and Melissa Showman's record shattering 1:38:10 in the Expert Womens class. In another close race, Junior Sport Morgan Wickline (55:22) nearly caught up with eventual winner Kevin Leyh (54:25) after breaking a chain early in the race.

Gunnar Shogren and Ryan O'Connor set the pace

Trail conditions for the race were excellent and contributed to the fast times. In short, the course surrounds Charles Fork Lake with the first half of the course containing mostly uphill with plenty of room to pass and a lot of fast singletrack over the second half. The course was extremely well marked which made it difficult to get lost with the exception of a few riders who may not have listened closely enough at the pre-race riders meeting. Support for the race was exceptional with local race volunteers making the gears turn smoothly.

The course at Spencer was created, and is maintained, by local mountain bikers Jeff Fetty and John Denbeigh with bountiful help from many unnamed others. Proceeds from the race in part go towards maintaining the course and providing support for the race (such as the pavillion on the dam which was built using funds from past races).

Cornering the tight singletrack

My First Race - OK, well, I've been able to cover a few of these here mountain bike races and the bug got me, I decided to get my butt in the saddle and see what it's like from the racers viewpoint. You might recognize me as the guy with the digital camera jumping out of the way or taking a picture as you pass on the trail (Thanks to those who show their smile and try to hot dog for the camera - sorry Ryan, didn't hit the button fast enough).

My first real lesson was in French ...... "Promenade" means "Climb this come back down so people can see you....OK, climb back up the hill." I wish I would have had time to pre-ride the course but needed to cover the Saturday Kid's Race so all but the first half-mile was new to me.

Racers try to get an angle in the dirt
Riding in the race definitely gives you a different perspective. I did pass (and was passed) by my share of people and got to see quite a few hanging out at trailside trying to catch their breath after the initial hill climbs. I heard a lot of heavy breathing, some cursing, a few "yee-ha's" and "oh-no's" as well as my share of "on your left!" and "on your right!". I even got to "crash and burn" one time (didn't clean up until after getting back to Morgantown so everyone could see my wounds and dried up blood trails). I save up enough energy to go fast across the dam to the finish line which always feels good whether it be a bike or running race.
No Derailleur? No problem!

Hanging out at the finsh line may be exiting for some but you definitely miss a lot. I have tried to get out on the trail when taking pictures and, if you can keep out of the way of the bikes, you definitely see a lot more action. I plan on covering a lot of races in the future and even participating when I can. Hope to see you all there. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to go out and enter my first race, rode a little slower when I was around, and gave out all of the free advice, I had a great time.