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Sunday, September 24, 2000 -- Canaan Valley Resort State Park - Canaan Valley, WV
Mountain Dew Revenge of the Rattlesnake
Story by Sue Haywood, photos by Marty Lamp

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6]
[1998 Coverage] [1999 Coverage]

Revenge of the Rattlesnake 50K
Getting ready for a little ride
It was officially autumn this week and racers were treated to an early peek at the changing leaves in the Canaan Valley area. Weather for the kid's race was especially beautiful and warm on Saturday. However, it rained overnight and left the trails saturated and very technical for the conclusion of the WVMBA point series. It did truly prove to be a "championship course", with all the extreme terrain, mind-boggling mud bogs, numerous rocky creek crossings and the infamous "baby head" section. Racers barely even noticed the mist of a rain that fell all day, concentrating so hard on the piece of trail that lay just ahead. These wet and muddy riding conditions, as well as the longer than normal distances, tested the true tenacity of all the racers. Overall toughness seems to be a common trait in West Virginia Mountain bikers and they ate up the challenge of the course and many of us commented on how much of Canaan we literally did eat.

The Canaan Valley Resort hosted this year's finals called Revenge of the Rattlesnake 50K, continuing the long tradition of mountain bike racing in and around the mountain town of Davis. Race director Matt Marcus said that this was the 18th year of racing in Davis, originally started by Laird Knight who was there on hand to race the long course. While mountain biking might have been first "discovered" out in Marin County, California, I think hardcore mountain bike racing was invented in Davis.

Revenge of the Rattlesnake 50K
How 'bout a little mud?
The race started at Pendleton Point Overlook in Blackwater Falls State Park. Many took the free shuttle from Canaan State Park, leaving warm and dry clothes, where the finish would eventually be. Even though it was a mass start, racers lined up according to their class so they could see whom they were racing against. This was a very important race for many that were competing for the series, since this race was worth double points. Everybody was saying "anything can happen in this kind of race", no titles had been decided yet. There was a definite buzz in the peleton as Matt yelled, "go"!

The course proceeded on the park road for a mile before it turned off and took an old county road to Davis. In the bend before the bridge over the Blackwater, a racer went down hard and slid across the pavement. He was ok, but I knew it was going to be a day of crash and burn and bouts of frustration for everybody. I immediately started my dilemma for the day... ride through the mudpuddle or ride around the mudpuddle...through or around...around or through?

Revenge of the Rattlesnake 50K
Cassie Smith still smiling
The pack then started the 2-mile pavement climb up to the plantation trailhead. Even though the leaders started out fairly conservative, the climb was selective enough to cause a stringing out of the field. Three racers already changing flat tires greeted my arrival at the trailhead. I know the spot well. I flatted there in my preride and I've seen dozens of racers get flats there over the years. It is the first small ledge on the trail that hides a small pyramid shaped rock in the landing. The Plantation trail is a rock and roll section of technical singletrack with a couple run-ups on some tricky creek crossings. This stretch from Rt. 32 to Lindy Run is what I would consider the "easiest" of the day. One because it is a little drier than the rest and mostly all rideable.

Revenge of the Rattlesnake 50K
A tropical rain forest?
The course turned off of "technical, yet rideable" Plantation, to lower Lindy Run. Lindy Run is what I would call "extreme" riding. I've ridden this trail many times willingly and with exhilaration but today I rode it with fear, debating in my mind whether or not I was going to ride "the cliff". The "cliff" is a steep extended drop with three line choices that are all hairball. I road it well in my pre-ride, but today I was feeling like a chicken in the wet conditions. It was way too early in the race to get hurt and there were a couple of spectators that made me nervous. Lindy is 1.3 miles of non-stop line picking, wet pointy rocks, power moves and hair-raising drops. Not to mention bogs that could eat a race bike.

Beginners did not do lower Lindy. They were routed to upper Lindy, which is a long grind back to Loop Road. They proceed on to the 3 mile Allegheny trail that begins with the longest, deepest bog of the day and then turns into solid rock beds and eventually a nice downhill into Canaan State Park thus completing their 15 mile race. Joseph Stone(2:12:11) was the Men's Beginner winner and winner of the 30k overall. Danny Wilson (2:25:36) got second overall and won the Junior 14 and under class by a mere three minutes over Brandon Elkins (2:28:20). Lori Alechnewith (4:16:05) won the Women's Master's Class battling soley against the course.

Revenge of the Rattlesnake 50K
John Munhall wins the Sport class
After the grueling Lindy Run trail, a left on Canaan Loop road seemed a welcome change. A fast and muddy 3 miles on this gravel forest service road led to the separation of the next classes at the mountainside trailhead. Sport or 40k riders continued on the Loop road to the "backside" of Plantation.

Expert riders ventured down the most remote section of the course and wouldn't return to the Loop road for 6 more miles. Mountainside Trail is an old railroad grade that winds around the back of Canaan Mountain. We observed a large pile of Bear scat on our pre-ride and many have seen rattlesnakes on the sunny lower stretch. It has a hardly discernable downhill grade to it where racers battle against "planet of the babyheads". A long stretch of moving rocks that requires the smoothest of pedaling and a fluid relaxed body position. A slow suspension set up is useful, too. The trail babies relented and merged with 244 and became soft and swampy. The next trail marked the start of the most significant climb of the day. The 244A climb ran parallel to the Red Run canyon for about two miles before the course marshals turned us back on the Loop road for a big ring climb back up to the "backside" of Plantation.

Revenge of the Rattlesnake 50K
Mike Boyes after Lindy
I ate and drank and started passing all those guys who dropped me on Lindy. I knew exactly where I was and knew the hardest parts of the race were yet to come. I continued munching power foods and was mentally prepared for the cruelty of the backside. I knew a bonk would hurt badly. The backside of Plantation doesn't get ridden very much. It is a sustained gentle uphill grade with long mud pits and constant line choosing. The rhododendrons line the trail grabbing at handlebars. It can break you down mentally. I've seen many people lose their race face here. I knew when one racer asked how much longer to the finish that he was hurting. " Only seven more miles of this tough singletrack!" I said.

Revenge of the Rattlesnake 50K
Chris Eatough off the front
Men's sport series winner John Munhall (3:12:52) won the 40k group over the consistent Joey Riddle (3:15:58). The enthusiastic racer Louise Finger(4:07:50) edging out eventual series winner Laurie Johnston(4:26:12), won Women's Sport. Pittsburgh's Scott Root(3:28:06) won the Masters securing the title. Barnes Nugent(3:33:35) held off a hard charging Rick Elkins (3:34:13) to win the Sport Vet class. The Sport Junior winner was Darin Shriver(3:36:52) and second place was Matt McDonald(3:40:25). Also doing the 40k course were the Clydesdales, as Mark Sebben(4:55:18) won over eventual series winner Dannie " Wojo" Hillery(5:08:48), who by the way did the long course.

Revenge of the Rattlesnake 50K
Just another day for Sue Haywood
There was a very fast expert group containing NORBA pros, Chris Eatough (Trek), Ryan O'Connor (Mongoose) and Jeremiah Bishop (K2/Newsunn) with the latter two being in a hot chase for the series title. Bishop(3:30:37) flatted on "the rock" at the beginning of Plantation and suffered two more later to finish third. O'Connor(3:26:58) shined under the pressure finishing a strong second. Undisputedly the toughest guy out there was race winner, Chris Eatough(3:19:39) of Baldwin, Md. Even though he got lost on Saturday out on the course and rode for an extra 2 hours, he had the endurance to win on Sunday in a convincing style.

The Junior Expert class was won by local young wonder, Nick Waite(3:55:33) who beat out Brady Campbell(4:31:29).

Revenge of the Rattlesnake 50K
Matt Ross on Lindy
In the very competitive expert vet class, the lead changed hands many times, but winner Bob Vernon(3:59:38) even came back from a flat on "the rock" also. Matt Ross(4:00:12) was riding like a demon trying for the win, after some mechanical trouble left him a little behind, but to no avail. Homegirl Sue Haywood(3:55:45) won and got 9th overall, not-to-mention receiving her sixth series title. Practically a homegirl local also, Cassie Smith(4:45:26) cruised to second and Mandi Williams(5:28:00) persevered for third.

As people waited in line for the bike wash, they smiled and told tales of the mud Olympics, relieved that it is over, yet never regretting for a minute that they did the Revenge of the Rattlesnake. I have a feeling many a bike that did the race will need a complete overhaul and bodies were beat up, too. I see the chain on my bike has rusted over and my hamstrings are so tight. Only in Canaan can you get this muddy as an adult and not get in trouble for it. As I look outside today it is pouring rain and only 45 degrees and I know I am glad the race wasn't today.

Many kudos go to both Blackwater State Park and, Canaan State Park, especially John Northheimer, Matt Marcus, and also the U.S. Forest Service. Thanks to all the spectators and the race volunteers who stood out in the wet weather and gave cheers, water and direction. Thanks to WVMBA executive director, Dave McKain for a great banquet and a great race season.