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dSaturday, August 8, 1998 - Sunday, August 9, 1998 -- Snowshoe
Snowshoe NORBA American Mountain Bike Challenge
Story by Dave McKain with photos by Lew McGrath and Dave McKain.

[Trials/Slalom/Downhill Pics] [X-Country Pics]
[Trials/Slalom/Downhill Results] [X-Country Results]

Mountain bikers turned out in droves for the NORBA Snowshoe American Mountain Bike Challenge which took place on the slopes and trails of Snowshoe Mountain's Silver Creek Area. Spectators were treated to a varied show with events ranging from daring downhill races, a spectacular trials competition, a slippery dual slalom, a fun kids race and a grueling cross country race. While the skies did decide to open up during the downhill competition and chase most of the spectators to the comfort of the lodge, the rain provided a nice respite from the dry and dusty conditions brought on by the lack of precipitation over the last few weeks. Many XC riders may have prefered that Mother Nature had held off a day since the rain made for slippery conditions on the already difficult single track.

Chad Yesenosky attacks the downhill course

If you ever wondered what bobsledders do in the summertime (other than party) you should have been at the downhill MTB race at Snowshoe Mountain. If your life isn't exiting now (and you like to ride the lift) just get yourself a mountain bike, put a big shock on the front, get a 60 tooth big ring for the front crank, strap on a helmet and launch yourself from the top of a big hill. For some added exitement, throw in some vicious turns, a bunch of rocks, and a tree root or two. That is what downhill MTB racing is about.

For the downhill race, competitors were released in 1 minute intervals from the top of the slopes with one goal in mind, get to the bottom as fast as possible. Tight turns and gnarled roots impeded progress, at times even forced riders to retire early but those with sufficient skill and luck made it through unscathed hoping only to do so in less time than others in their class.

The fastest time to the bottom, 2 minutes 10 seconds, was recorded by Pro/Elite class winner Jay Humphrey (Intense Cycles) followed closely by Senior Expert Scott Fitzgerald (Fat Tire Farm) with a time of 2:13. Two riders, Jim Dechamp (Junior Expert, Fox White Bros) and Dan Kearns (Pro/Elite, Orbit) tied for the third fastest time at 2:18. Diane Blackburn (GT-Angus Beef/Snitger) won the Expert Senior Women's downhill with a time of 3:36 over Holly Kuhn (Blackwater Bikes/Tipsu) who recorded a 3:50.

A little finesse helps in the trials competition

Track conditions for the race varied significantly as, halfway through the event, rain began to pour down. This made some of the grassy upper sections of the track extremely slick as compared to the dry and tractive conditions which existed earlier due to little (if any) rain over the previous week.


The trials competition provided everyone with quite a display of what can be done on a bicycle. Competitors were asked to ride/hop/jump their bikes through several short but difficult courses containing rocks, railroad ties, pallets, wire spools, picnic benches and log ladders. While navigating each course, the riders were penalized one

"A man has got to know his limitations"
point for dabbing (putting a foot down) up to a maximum of five points per section and disqulified from any section where they strayed from the course bounds. The rain which fell prior to the event significantly reduced traction making the courses very difficult and providing some interesting water hazards.

Winners in the observed trials were Jason McLean (Nema/EWR) in the Expert/Modified class, Mike Stusek (Hai-Tek) in the Sport/Stock class, Matt Henderson and Ray Scharlott in the Junior and Senior Beginners classes respectively. Scoring from the event is a bit sketchy but we will try to sort out what happend and get it to you as soon as possible.

Dual Slalom

As the mist rolled over the slopes of Silver Creek, cyclists made their way to the top a short slope to compete head to head in the dual slalom event. While similar to skiing slalom races, riders did not have the luxury of nice soft snow to fall upon when performing unplanned dismounts. As with the other events, the recent rainfall made for some interesting conditions with wet grass claiming more than one victim on the upper portion of the course. This race was somewhat

Catching air under the lights on the dual slalom course
unique as the course was illuminated. Spectators lined the course, cheering on the racers with encouraging shouts and the occasional cowbell ringing, goading riders to "go for it" on the mid-course jump. While hard to resist the temptation, some riders did take on the challenge of the jump, paying the price in time (and sometimes blood) lost but definitely pleasing the crowd. Those in the "blue" lane definitely had to pay attention after passing through the finishing gate as the area provided for stopping the bikes was definitely a bit rough as many riders could attest to.

Winners in the Pro/Elite class were separated by a mere 16/100ths of a second as GT Bicycles' Peter Appell beat out Scott McClain (Schwinn/Troy Lee) with a time of 40.43 seconds. Senior Expert Joe Haley tied Appell for the second fastest time overall at 40.59 seconds winning his class while Greg McMillan (Armadillo/Cycleworks) was a close second with a time of 41.23 seconds. In the Senior Women's Class, Melissa Cavanaugh (Tally Ho's Race Team) finished first with a time of 51.22 seconds.

Joe Stevens sends another group of riders out to challenge Snowshoe's terrain

Cross Country

Sunday morning brought with it a welcome sight as the sun began to burn through the fog. Beginning riders barely had time to wipe the sleep out of their eyes and get some grub before facing a grueling climb to the top of the slopes. While the run along the primitive airport did provide some needed rest after the climb it definitely seemed much too short for many as they entered the difficult (and wet) singletrack. Roots snaking across and rocks strewn about the trail, slickened by the recent rain, made the going tough. The beginner racers, though, were spared a trip over the "Sticks and Stones" portion of the course which was part of the sport and expert class course. After passing through the singletrack the competitors were able to pick up some speed and make some passes as they traveled down a fire/access road to the bottom of the course but then had to face the daunting climb back to the finish. At least they could comfort themselves, knowing that this was their only lap while the sport would have to complete two laps and the expert/pro three.

The slippery singletrack claims another victim

Due to it's proximity to the lodge and parking area, many spectators chose to watch as the racers slowly made their way up the slopes, doggedly pedaling and pushing their bicycles up the steep incline.

In one of the closest races of the day, Senior Pro Elite rider Ryan O'Connor (Mongoose) was able to edge out Jeremiah Bishop (Bike Doctor/IF). O'Connor, who stayed in the lead or close to it was trailing Bishop by 20 seconds as they entered the last section of singletrack before heading out onto the fireroad. O'Connor (1:29:25) put the pedal down and was able to pass Bishop (1:29:25) at the bottom of the last climb. O'Connor said that he knew it would hurt as he pushed it close to the limit but obviously wanted the win. Another close race took place in the Men's Expert Junior class where Mark Asmussen (Woddy's Bicycles) nipped Jonathan Watts (Gary Fisher/Sun/Rimole) by 9 seconds with a finishing time of 1:41:20.

Track conditions worsen as the day goes on
In the Men's Senior Sport class, WVMBA Sport Class points leader Drew Smithberger captured a convincing win with a time of 1:08:33. The nearest competitor was Chris Caul at 1:11:27. Next year should see Drew moving up a level to find more suitable competition.

Missy Showman (Gary Fisher), who is vying for the lead in the WVMBA Women's Expert class was forced to drop out of the race due to a mechanical (rear derailleur) which left Julie Taylor (Klein/Bontrager) unopposed in her win with a time of 2:11:28.

WVOutside's Lew McGrath jumped out to an early lead in the Sport Veteran class but was hampered by some bad juju. It seems that the old tool pack decided to give up the ghost as it finally fell from under his seat. Lew, not wanting to loose the pack, tossed it to a nearby race volunteer and carried on only to flat at the end of his first lap. Undeterred, he then pushed/cajoled/carried his bike into the singletrack where his equipment bag lay, fixed his flat, and was able to careen through the rocks and roots to overtake his competitors until, alas, he sensed that his rear tire again was losing air. If you can't go fast down the fireroad you are surely doomed as our teammate knew but, against all odds, Lew carried on knowing he didn't have much of a chance. It would be nice to say that he got the lead and kept it but that was not to be, Lew ended up finishing in 6th place, about 6 minutes from the leader, but definitely got the respect of many for toughing it out and finishing the race.

Reporters Notes

WVOutside had a great time at Snowshoe Mountain Resort and definitely looks forward to coming back next year and hopes that everyone else had as much fun as we did. If you wondered where Gunnar Shogren was for the event, you weren't alone. It seems that while rain, sleet and dark of night can't stop Gunnar, the common cold combined with trying to keep up with all of the kids during the Mountain Bike Camp held the week before the XC race could. Marc Glass, who also helped with the camp, said that waking up in the am, feeling a little tired, and then seeing all of the kids riding around in circles waiting for the instructors could be a bit disheartening. You start to notice these things as you get older, I guess.

See you all next weekend, August 15-16 (Wild 100K on Saturday and Gnarly North Fork on Sunday).