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Sunday, August 15, 1999 -- Seneca Rocks, Franklin
Gnarly North Fork
Story and photos by Marty Lamp

[Coverage] [Pic Set 1] [Pic Set 2] [Pic Set 3] [Pic Set 4]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]

Gnarly North Fork
Benjie Klimas sets the early pace
The Gnarly North fork mountain bike race may have been a little different this year, but in many ways things stayed the same. Over 100 riders participated in this WVMBA points series mountain bike race that could never be described as a beginner course. With over 3700 feet of elevation gain and some of West Virginia's prime, bone-jarring singletrack on the North Fork Mountain Trail, most who made it to the finish were just happy to finish in one piece.

The course actually started in the city of Franklin. At 12:30pm, all riders took off and sprinted up a short 150 yard paved hill, and continued on pavement until meandering out of town. Soon it was off the road and across a dry creek bed for 100 yards, requiring a dismount for sure. Numerous smooth, basketball-size rocks made carrying the best option.

Gnarly North Fork
They told you it was gonna be "gnarly"
Next it was back on the gravel road leading to Mauzy Road, taking everyone out to Rt. 33. Racers would ride Rt. 33 for 4.2 miles and gain 2000 feet of elevation in the process. This climb took even the fastest riders close to an hour, and many were grinding much longer.

Once at the top of the mountain, 14 miles past the start, racers turned right onto the the North Fork Mountain Trail. Rough, boulder-strewn trails kept the mind flat-weary and and the body adrenalized for well over 11 miles. The trail never bombed left down the mountain as in years past, but stayed on the east side of the ridge. A long, arduous push-climb highlighted this section, while eventually, a gravel road was gained taking everyone downhill for 4 miles to the finish. Speeds of 40+ mph were reached on this loose, twisty, gravel road.

Gnarly North Fork
The first to hit the North Fork Trail
Up until shortly after the early dismount for the creek crossing, the racers were enveloped in one large pack. Once on Mauzy Road, things began to spread out. Leading most the way up Rt. 33 was Gunnar Shogren(2:10:00) and Jeremiah Bishop(2:03:57), but Chris Eatough(2:05:07) charged hard to enter the woods first. Kyle Dixon(2:32:39) joined Eatough, Bishop, and Shogren as the four pro/expert's raced close together until coming upon some unsuspecting horses (and riders). With some congenial warnings about the upcoming herd of mountain bikers, the four took off again.

After some long, rocky downhills and pounding singletrack, Eatough had opened up a slight lead. Then came the push climb; Eatough opted to dismount and while pushing, Bishop and Dixon cranked by, standing on the middle ring, hoping to open up a gap. Finally gravity won out as Bishop and Dixon dismounted, but Bishop still managed to run to the top. Bishop had the slight lead, and hammered his way to the win while trying to keep in front of Eatough.

"I knew this was my best chance to pass him (Eatough)", said Bishop. "I got a small lead, and I knew Chris would be coming on hard. I was hoping for the out of sight, out of mind thing". Bishop won his third race in three weeks, and walked away smiling with a $625 paycheck for the day.

Gnarly North Fork
Jennifer Shogren enjoying the singletrack
Dixon suffered a broken rear derailleur shortly after the push climb while trailing Bishop by no more than 45 seconds, and Eatough finished slightly over a minute behind Bishop for second place. Shogren finished third overall. George Willetts(2:14:30) finished fourth, and "Wild 100" winner Chris Scott(2:23:30) finished an impressive eighth overall.

In the Men's Junior Expert class, Jonathan Martin(2:19:55) took first place honors, and finished a fast 5th overall. He took home a new frame and shock for his racing efforts. Adam Childers(2:22:50) battled with Martin until the singletrack, and finished second in the class, while Kevin Leyh(2:29:00) finished third.

For the Men's Vet Expert class, Matt Marcus(2:22:48) was third off the pavement, but used his singletrack experience to move to the front, and finish first in his class. Chip Lortz(2:26:06) was less than 4 minutes behind for the second place finish, while Brocc Kaylor(2:28:15) took third.

In the Women's Expert class, Sue Haywood(5:39:37) had a sizeable lead on her competition at the start of the trail, but soon bad luck struck. Haywood flatted, fixed it, then had her skewer break while putting the wheel back on. Vivian Chwalinski(2:49:59) would finish to take the win in their class, while Haywood walked, ran, and drifted her way to the finish line, not settling for the DNF.

Gnarly North Fork
Buzz Johnson likes his action in "1" speed
Other winning finishes include Drew Morse(2:29:30) for the Men's Sports, Jennifer Shogren(3:08:28) for the Women's Sports, and Dowain Ford(2:49:16) for the Men's Sport Vet class. Vonda Underwood(5:23:45) finished first for the Women's Sport Vets.

For the Clydesdale's, Shawn Kennedy(2:46:12) won by over 13 minutes, while Rocco Mazzei(3:04:50) won the Men's Junior Sport class, and Bruce Wohleber(3:01:29) took first place honors for the Men's Masters. Mark Johnson(3:05:01) was the first Beginner class rider to finish, and Jason Blevins finished first for the Junior Beginners.

Thanks go out to the North Fork Fire Dept. for their generous help, to Glen Hofecker for all of his hard work, and to all the volunteers who helped out along the course.