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Saturday, August 15, 1998 -- Slatyfork
Wild 100 and Back Country Race
Story and photos by Dave McKain and Don Parks.

Results: [By Name/Class] [By Elapsed Times] [By Split Times]
Pictures: [Check Pt. 3] [Check Pt. 6] [Start, More 6 and Finish]

At the Wild 100, you're lost from the start!
The third annual Wild 100 MTB Race at Slatyfork, WV lived up to its name on August 16th, with 100 riders covering a distance of about 100 kilometers (62 miles) over various terrain that included treacherous downhills and singletrack , brutal climbs, gravel roads, and even a few cow pastures. The race, put on by the Elk River Touring Center, Dirt Rag and others sponsors, tested the endurance and orienteering skills of all who entered. Racers gathered about the touring center at 8:00am with their bikes and bodies tuned up, water bottles and stomachs filled, packs overflowing with an assortment of power foods, and even one gent with a cooler strapped to his bike rack filled with some strange potable concoction. This wasn't to be one of those mamby-pamby 40k XC races with hundreds of water/food stops and bike traffic jams, this was the long haul where you had to have some provisions or surely you would bonk with no one around to save you. Riders would be receiving maps marked with six required checkpoints, food and water stops, a variety of trails, fire roads, and gravel roads, and a mission. Their mission, if they chose to accept it (and a few didn't!) was to travel to each checkpoint, in order, then return to the Elk River Touring Center in as little time as possible. By little, we mean before nightfall. However, for those who weren't sure just how long they'd be out exploring the Slatyfork wilderness, you could drop off a lighting system at the start and have it waiting for you out at checkpoint #5.

You're out there a long time, and Barry Dickerson knows you gotta eat
The start of the race was not the usual mass of wheels, gears and humanity dashing out to gain the early advantage. With none of the riders knowing before hand where the check points would be, it started with the distribution of course maps, and the request that everyone wait two minutes to allow everyone a chance to have a look. As soon as the first checkpoint was known, the racers picked their favorite (and hopefully fastest) route to the first checkpoint near the top of Props Run. Some chose the less rugged but definitely longer route over a gravel road to the top of Gauley Mountain where they would have to ride along mountain ridge before descending down to the first checkpoint. Other riders chose to brave crossing the raging (well, higher than during the Fat Tire Festival) Elk River and ascend to the checkpoint using Props Run. As can be seen from the results, using Props Run was much faster but may have caused mechanical problems less likely encountered on the relatively smooth gravel. After signing in at the first checkpoint, riders were then off to checkpoint #2 which, for those who just rode up the gravel road, must have been disheartening since it involved descending back down USFS 24 1200 feet in elevation. Then again, you could decide to head down Props Run and... well, here is where it becomes difficult since you could pick your own route as long as you stuck to just a few short connecting sections of paved highway.

Drew Smithberger entertains the cows while leading the race
This is what made the race wild. Choosing your own path, having to be able to read a trail map, knowing how to ride over the challenging trails, how to maintain both yourself and your bike, all requirements if you wanted to finish (not counting a little luck). While many riders spent the day concerned with how long it would take them to reach the finish, many others took covering the course and distance only as a personal challenge. If you get a hold of a Slatyfork Mountain Bike Trail Guide (available from the Touring Center at 304-572-3771, here is what the racers' assignment entailed:

Start: Elk River Touring Center
Checkpoint #1: Intersection of Props Run and Props Run extension
Checkpoint #2: Appx. 1 mile up USFS 24 from Rt. 219
Checkpoint #3: Appx. 3/4 mile west of Rt. 219 on the Scenic Highway
Food/Water: At bottom of Red Lick North Trail appx. 1/2 mile west of checkpoint #3
Checkpoint #4: Intersection of Red Run and Right Fork Trail
Checkpoint #5: Tea Creek Campground (Food/Water)
Checkpoint #6: Shelter on Tea Creek Trail appx 1/8 mile above Tea Creek Connector
Finish: Elk River Touring Center

At checkpoint #3, Mike Wolfe and Matt Fisher don't seem to be too anxious to get back to racing
So who won the race? Well, if you finished, or even had the courage to start, you certainly could claim a victory for the day. Most all the riders enjoyed the long day of riding and personal accomplishment, and more than one new friendship was struck up amongst the spirit of camaraderie that was so prevalent. So who claimed their victory in the shortest time? Okay, it was a tie, seriously. But, if you must know, based on a look at the results, and our own experience out there watching and photographing the riders, we will give you our take on how the fastest riders progressed through the day.

The first rider to reach checkpoint #1 was Bill Crank, in a time of 43 minutes. Not far behind were Damon Gilbert and Jason Poole, checking in at 44 minutes, Chris Scott and Michael Carpenter, checking in at 45 minutes, then another 5 riders checking in at 46 minutes. It was obvious, with many hours of racing still ahead, that a few minutes lead at the first checkpoint was not that significant.

Michael Carpenter, racing for the win, with Kevin Wetzel and Chris Scott in tow
The race to checkpoint #2 was lead by Chris Scott. He quickly charged ahead of all other racers to arrive at the checkpoint after only an hour and 16 minutes of riding, over 5 minutes faster than any other rider. Now chasing Chris was a group of 4 riders that included Carpenter, Crank, Gilbert and Poole, all checking in at 1:22. At least another 15 riders, still with hopes of being first back to the Touring Center that afternoon, reached the checkpoint in under an hour and a half.

At checkpoint #3, Scott's five minute advantage was gone and the group of lead riders went through several changes. Drew Smithberger, making an amazing charge to the front, cruised into checkpoint #3 a full 7 minutes ahead of the lead group. Smithberger had checked into station #2 with a time of 1:27, 11 minutes behind Scott and in no better than 10th place overall. The chase group now consisted of six riders: Scott, Carpenter, Chris Lenth, Joel Maynard, Ray Clark, and Kevin Wetzel. It seems that Lenth, Maynard, Clark and Wetzel found a way to bridge up to Scott and Carpenter while the group of Crank, Gilbert and Poole dropped back almost 30 minutes. Whether this was the result of powerful riding, the choice of routes, or decisions to take food and rest breaks is of no consequence, it is all part of the Wild 100 racing challenge.

Monica and Paul Adkins still manage a smile after almost 10 hours of racing
Althouth Smithberger had a nice lead out of checkpoint #3, the chase group caught up on the way to checkpoint #4. Now numbering seven, the lead group pulled into checkpoint #4 having amassed a 20-minute lead on the rest of the field.

Between checkpoints #4 and #5, the lead group spread out with Carpenter (5:02) checking in having taken a 5 minute lead over Scott (5:07). Closely following was Smithberger, Lenth, and Wetzel (5:09) with Maynard and Clark (5:10) in their shadows. But at over five hours of racing, there was still at least another hour and a half left until the finish.

Carpenter's lead vanished on the way to checkpoint #6 as he arrived at 6:26 with Scott. Still just moments behind were Lenth, Maynard and Clark. Our other two leaders, Smithberger and Wetzel, for whatever reason, paid heavily on their way to this final checkpoint. Smithberger spent much of the time tossing his cookies (or whatever he had been using for fuel) along the way and dropped almost 45 minutes off the lead. Wetzel paid even more dearly and lost well over an hour off the lead.

Come on Peter Weir, after over 6 hours of racing don't you guys ever give it a rest
The final blast down off the mountain to the Touring Center, which took most riders no more than 20 minutes, did little to change the outcome of the race. Arriving first were Scott and Carpenter, after 6 hours 40 minutes of racing, with Lenth and Maynard not far behind at 6:41. The last of the sub-seven hour group was Ray Clark at 6:43. The suffering Smithberger rolled in to take sixth overall, over 45 minutes off the lead with a time of 7:31. Our old friends Crank, Gilbert and Poole managed to make up time after checkpoint #3 to finish in positions seven through nine, at 7:54.

In the women's competition, Alice Vernon maintained a lead through through the first three checkpoints, taking a 15-minute lead into checkpoint #3. Alice's lead disappeared on the way to checkpoint #4 where she and Susan George arrived together at 5:41 into the race. By checkpoint #5 George had built an eight-minute lead and went on to finish first in a time of 9:21. Vernon finished second among the females in a time of 9:36.

Finally, we'd like to congratulate WVOutside's own rider, Brad Coffman. While he may not have been a threat to the leaders, he did finish the race in a respectable time of 10:35. What makes it most impressive is that it was his first ever mountain bike race! Like so many of the participants, he now has a few more friends, some fond memories, and a little better knowledge of just how far he can go.