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Sunday, April 30, 2000 -- New Castle, VA
Dragon's Back VII
Story by Sue Haywood with photos by Marty Lamp

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6]

Dragon's Back
Paul Buschi grabs the lead early
The 2000 East Coasters Virginia State Championship Series kicked off its 7th season with the infamous Dragon's Back. The dragon's name is Smaug and he terrorized the Catawba Valley many, many years ago until the locals buried him high atop North Mountain. The only fire breathing going on now is by the brave mountain bikers who rode with trepidation on his exposed, bony spine in hopes of glory at the finish line. That is making it to the finish line is glorious!

The course is an epic 18 miler for experts and sport men and about half that for beginners and sport women. It is a figure 8 course with the big climb done twice. The start was benign enough on FS road 224 for 2miles, then turned on to the GROUSE trail for a mere 1500ft of climbing on narrow switchback(many were unrideable) singletrack. The first time up GROUSE to the RIDGE trail a right was made at the top. For one long mile, riders got a sampling of the dragon's teases and tricks with dark, slippery soil, hidden rocks and a 4 inch wide sidehill trail.

Dragon's Back
Sue Haywood continues to set the standard
The DEER trail was a fast narrow downhill with very rideable switchbacks. On to the ring of fire which was a ceremonial homage to the mellow side of Smaug with one very tame mile of not much. Back to FS224 for a blistering two more miles back to GROUSE revisited. Just another 1500ft of vert to get back to the RIDGE trail. At the top, this time a left was made and the real tough stuff started. Imagine rocks of all sizes, and shapes (mostly razor sharp) jutting out at all angles mixed in with steep ups and rock drop-offs and that dark VA soil and well, you can get the flavor. Three miles of that and then you get to plunge another 1500ft on the very treacherous TURKEY trail.

TURKEY was super technical at the beginning with some big fat roots and rocks hidden under 5 inches of leaves. Oh and the trial is 4inches wide and the burnt bodies of Smaugs victims lay 1000 ft down in the holler. Add all the very hairball switchbacks and rock jumbles towards the bottom and smooth FS224 is a welcome change. A fast, yet painful couple of miles back to the finish and another biker outwits Smaug.

Dragon's Back
Racing down the Deer Trail
The cleverest of them all was Trek rider Paul Buschi who outwitted Smaug with lightning speed, breaking the 1999 course record by 8 minutes and getting stung by a bee high on the ridge. Joel Maynard(Trek/East Coasters) who got second plans on doing both the VA and WVMBA series this year. Third place rider was Robert Jeanframeau travelling through the area from Canada who disappeared after the race as quickly as he arrived.

The Vet Expert field was dominated by local nice guy Ed Dickerson (BlueRidge Bicycle Club), who definitely had home course advantage over 2nd place Russell Zellman, a road rider, and WV mountain goat Mike Boyes.

The Junior Expert field saw WV rider Nick Waite crush his comp and claim it to be the toughest race of the year so far. Ryan Hobbs finished very strong to nip third place finisher Matt Schlickenmaier, from Northern Virginia at the line, much to the delight of Mr. and Mrs. Hobbs.

Dragon's Back
Amy Crawford in the "Ring of Fire"
The women's expert field was small but contained the three fastest riders in the Virginias. WVTourism and Trek rider, Sue Haywood happily finished first. A battle between second place finisher Sue George(Headshock) and "gin blossom" Amy Crawford(Independent Fabrications) was settled the second time up Grouse trail.

Also in the women's sport, Laurie Johnston(OuterSports) rode smoothly to first place, while, Annie O'Neil, who plans on riding across the country this summer got second. The women's beginner class held the largest women's field in the race with nine women. Carrie Harman from Harrisonburg was the winner.


Dragon's Back
After 39 miles of crankin', Benjie Klimas deserves a break
The double xxc class is for people who feel 2 hour mountain bike races are just too darn short. The xxcers did a 39 mile variation of the regular xc course. The brainchild of sickos Kyle Inman, Jeff Chang and Rob Issum this class is truly for the hardcores. Kyle says," The xxc is not for everybody, but the people who dig it really, really dig it"

One of those people was XXC winner, Benjie Klimas(Cannondale). The powerful Klimas had trouble keeping the reigns on his pace, wanting to hammer off the gun, but found a steady pace and finished in an amazing 3hours and 50 minutes. Another WV hardcore got second, Dave Fleming, even after a flat tire. Endurance racer extraordonaire, Chris Scott put in a training ride to finish third. Nineteen riders participated and the next double xxc will be at Middle Mountain Momma May 21st. Kyle is trying to get Dos Equis to sponsor the XX for his series. Wouldn't that be nice?


Dragon's Back
Scott McDonald provides some inspiration for all
In today's world of dull, silly lap courses, the VA series is a breath of fresh air. All the courses are true mountain bike courses in absolutely beautiful and often very remote locations. Good folks like Kyle and Debbie Inman and Chris Lee with the support of East Coasters bike shop put on the Series. I asked all the winners what they thought of Kyle and his races. Unanimously, they all said that he is a tireless promoter with his heart and head in the right place, who consistently puts on fun races. Next year, Kyle says he would love to race, so if anyone is interested in putting on the race let him know. Paul Buschi summed it up,"I love the guy"

In Kyle's words, "It ain't classic, nor is it old school. It's absolutely mountain bike racing in the Virginia mountains" All racers were treated to delicious rice and beans immediately after the race. YUM!!

The hot equipment choice for the race was surely disc brakes. With those long, intensive downhills disc brakes were the only way to go. The winners in most classes were praising them and relishing the fact that their arms didn't get the usual brake pump.