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Saturday, August 1, 1998 - Sunday, August 2, 1998 -- Slatyfork
WV Fat Tire Festival
Story and photos by Dave McKain.

[Saturday Pics] [Sunday Pics]
[35K XC Results] [20K XC Results] [Kids Race Results]

Trials exhibition wows the crowd at the Fat Tire Festival
The weekend of August 1-2, WVOutside went to the Elk River Touring Center in Slatyfork to have some fun and cover the West Virginia Fat Tire Festival. The event certainly was a lot of fun with events such as the bike limbo, wheelie and bunny hop contests, log pull as well as a WVMBA Points Series Kids race and the 20/35K cross country race. In addition to the various contests and races, bikers were presented with opportunities to chat with representatives from Nashbar, GT, Kona, and Mavic, get their bikes repaired and checked out at the Trek mobile shop, attend clinics given by top WV mountain bikers, listen to some live music, play some mountain bike polo, sample beverages from the West Virginia Brewing Co., and generally have a good time hanging out with other bikers. More people than ever before attended the 1998 Fat Tire Festival and an informal survey saw license plates from Virginia, Michigan, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, DC, New York and West Virginia in the camping area. Mother Nature must like somebody at the festival as the weather for the event was gorgeous with moderate temps, lots of sun, and no rain over the weekend.

Drew Jones "hot doggin'" at the finish line
Kids Races

As with many WVMBA races this year, the Fat Tire Festival had a kids race in conjunction with the main XC race. Competitors in the kids races ranged from a tiny tyke on a big wheel to Garret Stout who decided that, after winning the 11/12 year old kids race, that he would enter the 20K XC race and wound up finishing 5th in the Junior Sport class. Highlights of the Kids races included Brittany Jones competing and finishing after only learning how to ride a couple weeks prior to the event and a spectacular "hot dog" finish by Drew Jones. Having as much fun as the kids, if not more, were the spectators and parents who cheered on the competitors as they raced around the course.

Bike Games

Gus Willis gets down to win the limbo competition
Following the Kids race was the bike limbo contest where competitors were asked "how low can you go." Since little if any rules (other than you had to wear a helmet and be riding a bike) were applied, many competitors worked to reduce their height by removing seat posts, removing bar ends, and going as far as borrowing bikes from the vertically challenged.

For the bunny hop competition, the competitors were asked "how high can you go," the opposite of the limbo riders. Participants started trying to clear the bar at a couple inches with the winner finally

Flying high to clear the bar in the bunny hop contest
For the bunny hop competition, the competitors were asked "how high can you go," the opposite of the limbo riders. Participants started trying to clear the bar at a couple inches with the winner finally stopping (long after the rest of the riders) clearing over two and a half feet. Style was definitely a must in this contest as many found that just pulling the bike straight up after getting some speed was inferior to approaching the bar at moderate to slow speed, lifting the front tire over the bar, then pulling the back up by throwing the bike forward. This is definitely a learned skill.

The log pull competition involved dragging a log, attached to your bike, the length of the polo field (about 125 feet) faster than anyone else. Riders were given three tries to achieve their best time. At the end of the contest (in which one competitor was left holding a broken chain) maintaining high revs and getting off the line on the first try proved to be the winning technique. In addition to the other contests, mountain bike trials were held in the dry bed of the Elk River with beginner and intermediate contestants attempting to follow predetermined routes without "dabbing" or straying from the boundaries of the course. While many competed in the aforementioned events, other riders decided to take advantage of the various guided mountain bike tours and clinics, or just catch a few winks prior to the evening's activities.

Sue Haywood discusses some of the finer point to riding singletrack during one of the weekends clinics

XC Races

The cross country races were held Sunday morning with the 1st Timer, Beginner and Junior Sport classes gathering at one trailhead for the 20K race and all others gathering at another trailhead for the 35K race. Since this was a point to point race, this reporter/photographer was relegated to hanging out on a picturesque portion of the Props Run trail, about 3K from the finish, waiting for the competitors to come down and either a) get off and carry their bikes over a two and a half foot high log or b) do something crazy like try to ride/climb/crash over it. It wasn't long before frontrunner Gunnar Shogren rode down the trail and (in cyclocross fashion) dismounted quickly and smoothly, ran over the log, and remounted his bike to continue down Props Run. About 30 seconds later, Huntington , WV's, Ryan O'Connor appeared and did the same. It wasn't long before the first to hop the log, Eric Dobratz, showed up and wowed the vultures hanging out to view the action.

Ryan O'Connor makes getting over large obstacles look easy
Sadly, a few minutes later, Gerry Phlugh was seen walking his bike down the trail with his arm strapped in his camelback to relieve the pain from his freshly broken collarbone. Apparently, he took a fall just above that section of the course and in the process took himself out of the race. Passing racers relayed news of the injury to the finish where arrangements for first aid personnel to meet Gerry further down the course were made, so he could be driven back to the Center for medical attention. In the meantime, the race continued with Props Run taking its toll on both bodies and equipment and definitely playing a role in outcome of the race. Others facing mechanical problems included Vet Expert Bryan Sterns, who rode much of the course with a broken derailleur cable, Ryan Oconnor who shattered a pedal on Props Run which may have cost him a second place finish, and Sue Haywood who managed to snap a seatpost early in the race. Over the last 3K of the race Eric Dobratz was able to take advantage of Ryan Oconnor's (3rd place) misfortune and use his excellent technical abilities to pull out a second place finish behind race winner Gunnar Shogren. On the Women's side, Sue Haywood and Melissa Showman finished in a tie for first place (Sue finished the race on a borrowed seatpost and, together with Melissa, agreed to split the points and prizes). Heather Lee finished the Womens Expert Class race in 3rd place. In the Veteran Expert class, EJ Sigety (1:51:30) took a convincing first place win over Broc Kaylor (1:55:48) and Allen Moore (2:00:00).

Smiles are few and far between after 34 kilometers of XC racing

A Few Notes from the Author

The Fat Tire Festival and XC race were quite a bit of fun and we hope that everyone enjoyed themselves, I definitely did. Sorry if I missed anything in the article but I'm still trying to learn how to act like a reporter and not a spectator. Due to the nature of a point-to-point mountain bike races, it is a little harder to follow the action than when covering a multiple loop race with 10 and 12 o'clock starts. The boss says that I can solicit comments from those involved in the race and addend them to the report so I am inviting any comments (within reason) and will addend them to the coverage to give readers a better feel for what happened and I encourage everyone who wants too to send comments on race's (and race coverage) to I guess that I could carry a tape recorder but...

WVOutside spoke with Gill and Mary Willis, organizers of the Festival and WVMBA representatives, about the status of the WVMBA Points Series standings and will do our best to make updated (unofficial) standings available. We will make the standings (official) as soon as they are confirmed by WVMBA.

Hope to see everyone at Snowshoe Mountain the weekend of August 8-9 where I will definitely be looking for you somewhere on the trails. BTW - There will be a big area available for free camping (with shower facilities) so plan to stay the whole weekend.