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Sunday, August 1, 1999 -- Slatyfork
WV Fat Tire Festival
Story and photos by Marty Lamp

[Coverage] Pics: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]

Fat Tire 35K
Gil Willis giving out some last minute details
Nestled deep within the ancient Appalachian Mountains in the Monongahela National Forest, Slatyfork is home to some of the toughest mountain biking around. With mountains that top out around 4000 feet and gradients that could bring a mountain goat to his knees, it's no surprise that riding the cross country course at theWV Fat Tire Festival can bring a grimacing smile to any mountain biker's muddy face.

The 35K and 20K cross country race took place on Sunday, the 4th day of The Fat Tire Festival. Live music entertained the crowds each night, while everything from fly fishing demos to bike hockey and biking limbo contests filled the days. The beginner and intermediate trials were tough as ever, and the WV Brewing Co. beer tasting was no problem at all.

This was more than a WVMBA points series race, too, because Virginia State Championship points were up for grabs in this second of two shared points series races.

Fat Tire 35K
How low can you go?
All classes gathered roughly half way up Gauley Mountain on Forest Road 24 for the start. Many racers biked to the start from the Elk River Touring Center, which was about 5 miles away and 1000 feet closer to the sun. Beginners, first timers, and Womens Masters rode the 20K course, while all other classes pedaled 15K farther and got to enjoy a 5 mile descent on Prop's Run.

From the start, riders were pedaling uphill on gravel roads for 1.5 miles, before turning left onto the Tea Creek Trail. Although the trail was flat to rolling, it was tough. Wet roots, slick rocks, and mud bogs kept the heart pumping for 4-5 miles before Forest Road 135 was gained. The brakes got a break here as it was long gradual climbing on gravel roads for a while, giving way to rolling hills by the end of the 20K course.

Fat Tire 35K
Jeremiah Bishop and Charles Stanley keeping things clean
The extra 15K stayed on gravel roads until it was time for Prop's Run. Prop's is a dry stream bed covered with rocks and boulders, not to mention numerous tree crossings, that descends Gauley Mountain. Roughly 5 miles long, it leaves the forearms screaming and the back aching. If you can ride it without a dab, consider yourself lucky and good.

The final 1/3 mile of the course took racers from Prop's to steep, but short, muddy climbs and drops through wooded single track that ended right in front of the Elk River Touring Center.

The fastest rider on the trail this day was Pro/Expert rider Jeremiah Bishop(1:45:32). Bishop stayed on the heels of Charles Stanley(1:45:47) and Gunnar Shogren(1:53:34) up the gravel road start, but took the lead entering the Tea Creek Trail. Bishop's lead grew to about 4 minutes on Stanley and Shogren by the start of Prop's Run.

Fat Tire 35K
Business as usual for Sue Haywood
By the end of Prop's that lead had been cut to 30 seconds, but Bishop had plenty left to keep the lead until the finish. "I was just trying not to flat on Prop's, then I saw Charles coming hard", said Bishop afterwards.

"I knew I was gaining on him (Bishop), but when he looked back and saw me at he bottom, he took off", said Stanley. Stanley challenged Bishop alone at the end after Shogren flatted close to the bottom, fixed it without losing any position, then flatted again. "I was only prepared for one flat" Shogren said later. Bishop finished first, Stanley second, and the strong riding Paul Buschi(1:50:32) finished third overall.

For the Women Experts, Sue Haywood(2:05:11) took the lead from the beginning and stayed out in front finish first, and an impressive 21st overall. Melissa Showman(2:13:39) made sure Haywood didn't relax anywhere, and finished second in her class, and 36th overall. Susan George(2:43:21) rounded out the top three female finishers.

Fat Tire Fest
What could be more fun?
The Junior Experts were battling as hard as ever, and Adam Childers(2:00:55) finished on top, and 14th overall. Brett Hixson(2:04:18) was right behind to finish second, and Jonathan Martin(2:06:50). Hixson and Martin finished 19th and 23rd overall, respectively.

Steve Thaxton once again won the Men's Vet Expert Class, finishing 16th overall, while Matt Marcus(2:07:08) and Matt Ross(2:07:52) finished second and third in the class, and 24th and 25th overall, respectively.

Other class winners are Pablo Martinez(2:05:17) for the Men's Sports (22nd overall), Shawn Kennedy(2:16:02) for the Clydesdales, and Bill Lane(2:24:48) for the Men's masters.

Fat Tire Fest
Hey, slow down, wait for me!
Molly Whalen(2:45:22) took first place amongst the Women's Sport Class, and Joe Wharton(2:15:43) finished at the top of the growing Men's Sport Vet Class. It was a tight battle for the Women's Sport Vets Kathy Byers(3:25:06) holding off Nancy Devore(3:25:38) for the win.

The first Men's Beginner Under 30 to finish was Chad Matthews(1:30:15), while Kent Cornette(1:36:07) won the Men's Beginner Over 30. For the Women Beginners, Susannah Matthews(1:57:47) took the win.

In one of the most competitive classes of the year, Patty Hobbs(2:28:25) edged out Idress Gooden(2:32:24) for the win in the Women's Masters Class.

Thanks go out to Gil and Mary Willis for making such a fun event possible, and to the Great Dondo for getting us the results.