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Saturday, March 31, 2001 - Sunday, April 1, 2001 -- Oak Hill, WV
Ace Spring Bike Fest - WVMBA Point Series #2 (iPO Event Id#: 2619)
Story and photos by Dave McKain

[Details] [Coverage]
[DH Results] [XC Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [More XC Pics]

XC Coverage

Anguish at Arbuckle - Downhill the spectators wait for blood
Taking on the rocks and winning
Racers gathered at the ACE Adventure Center to test their downhill bike racing skills. While the course was not as technically challenging as some downhillers are used to, it still had some tricks up its sleeve. Riders had to keep on thinking about the next hairy section, how fast to come into it, and what line to take or they would lose precious time in a sport where a little time goes a long way. For the days race, scoring was based on the riders combined time from two runs.

One of the more challenging sections of the course was a short, rocky section followed by a quick, muddy S-turn. Those wathcing the racers pass through the section speculated on which lines the riders would take through the section and what would happen when they hit a particularly nasty rock about half way through. After the first few riders passed, the spectators forgot about the rock and started wondering if any of the racers would lose it in the muddy S-turn and say "Hi!" to a tree trunk.

Race Pic
Making a big splash at Ace
Especially troubling was the tendency of the riders to stick out their knee in the direction of the tree as they tried to direct their bikes through the section. Luckily, all the riders made it through the section - many without using their brakes. While some of the spectators may have been let down due to the lack of carnage, they did get to witness both the skill of the riders and the capabilities of downhill bikes with big tires and upwards of 7 inches of travel in the front and rear.In the first run, Pete Weir set the standard with a time of 2:20.2 followed by Than White (2:22.1) and Colin Lindberg (2:23.7).

In a sport where 1/10ths and even 1/100ths of a second make a big difference, Colin Lindberg was not in a comfortable position with Benji Klimas only 5/100ths of a second behind. Starting the second run, the riders knew they had to do as good as their first run just to maintain their position and even better to improve their standing. "I just knew I had to try and make it to the bottom without hitting my brakes" Benji Klimas said. While he still had to touch the brakes a couple times, Klimas improved his time by 3.4 seconds in his second run. In fifth after the first run, Butch Greene trimmed 3.7 seconds off his first run time while Lindberg only cut 1/2 second and, as a result, fell to 5th place behind Klimas (3rd) and Greene (4th). Than White, who would have to better his first run time by almost 2 seconds (or hope that first round leader Pete Weir would slow down) almost made it, cutting off 1.7 seconds. Even so, Weir cruised to the bottom almost a second faster on his final run to claim victory with a combined time of 4:39.7.

Lived to race again, in about 20 minutes.
Ouch! - Hardtail DH
The fastest female rider of the day was Amy Crawford, finishing with a combined time of 6:04.5 (19th overall) followed by Pat Schmidt at 7:25.7.

In the most improved category, Chris Gilbert shaved over 35 seconds off his first run time, Travis Hartsog went 31.6 seconds faster, and Carl Bush bettered his first run by 24.9 seconds to move from 16th to 13th place. The Ace staff, led by the venerable Tug Chamberlin, put on a fine event and, with the assistance of several of the days riders, promised a more technical course for their next event.

Minden Mud Fest - XC

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The start of a three hour + tour for some
It's race day. You get up in the morning and either load the car up for the trip, check out of the hotel room, or for the hardy souls among us, knock the dew off your tent flaps and roll out of your sleeping bag. Your best indicator of the weather is just feeling how cold it is and observing whether it is raining out (or overcast). Why do you check the weather - to see what gear you need to wear so you won't (a) cook yourself of (b) freeze your butt off. Race morning for the Minden Mudfest: It's an overcast morning and looks like it may drizzle, temps are around 50, not too bad. You might even opt to wear shorts, a long sleeve jersey and a vest. Doesn't look like full finger glove weather either. You have heard that a lot of the trail is fresh cut so you put the big knobbies on your bike. After registering, you head out to do a little warm up then head to the starting line. From the start, you jockey for position and try to set a good pace - checking to see where the competitiors in your class are so you can keep tabs on them.

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Diesel Powers on the move
Then, 5 minutes after the start, the rain starts to fall. "I can deal with this" you say. You've been in the mud before. You know that it will make things a lot rougher but hey, this is mountain biking. After reaching the top of the first hill your heart is racing along. Time to head down the hill. It's starting to get chilly but you figure that comes from going downhill and, with your next excertion, you'll warm right up. As you slog through the mud, your fingers and toes are getting a bit on the cold side. You can live with that but soon you notice that the wind has picked up and that it's not just the mud that is making you feel colder - the temperature has dropped down to the thirties. While the rain has let up, it has left a wasteland of mud as its aftermath. This isn't your ordinary mud, this is the kind that sticks to everything. A mixture of clay, decomposing (and fresh) leaves, and who knows what thrown in. Jumping off your bike to push through a bad section, you notice that your bike is both heavier and harder to push. You look back and your back tire is not moving right. A conglomerate of mud and leaves has collected around your rear brakes. After pushing/sliding your bike up the climb, you reach a place where the course levels out and jump on your bike to ride. Whoops, you left your bike in a big gear from the last downhill and, when you shift gears, horrific sounds emanate from your driveline as the chain jumps over all the crap that has built up around your cassette. Things are beginning to look grim but the worst hasn't hit yet.

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Still smiling
The mud is not just caking up on your bike, it is covering you. For a while you can keep it out of your eyes but, eventually, there just aren't any clean fingers/clothing that can do the job. If you are lucky and have only water in your bottle/hydration system, you can flush out your eyes - gatorade/cytomax mixes just don't do the trick. As you work your way around the course, the wind starts to pick up. Your fingers and feet aren't the only cold things now, you realize that you are starting to shiver. For the non-elite racers and clydesdale racers who are packing a little more insulation this isn't a problem but, for those not encumbered by body fat above 10%, this may be a real problem. You are only part way through your first lap and have a way to go. If you are an expert racer - the first lap may not be too bad - only a few racers were ahead of you and the trail hasn't really started to fall apart. The only problem is that if you didn't dress right you are going to have to do one or two more laps over a trail that is just a gooey mess and, to top that off, it has started to snow. West Virginia in April, you cannot predict anything about the weather except that it is unpredictable.

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Jeremiah Bishop pushes on his way to victory
At some point in the race, you have to make the decision "Am I going to continue on or stop this silliness?". For the hard core, you don't want to stop, you may have never dropped out of a race, even with a broken bike you have carried it to the finish. Your toughness may garner you additional points in the series - especially if some of the guys ahead of you are quitting. There are three things that can happen from this point forward: 1) Your body and bike hold up and you suffer, suffer to the finish line where refreshingly warm beverages, hot showers, food and dry clothes await; 2) Your bike gives up the ghost as your ceramic pads wear away, you can't shift anymore or, if you are really lucky, you break your frame; 3) Your body gives in to the cold with the beginnings of hypothermia.

The buzz around the start/finish line is starting to grow as parents and friends start to worry. "Has anyone seen...." is a predominant quesion. Reports come in over the radio that "yea, they passed here and looked okay" or "we've got them here and they're getting warmed up". Spectators wonder as the leaders approach. "Where did Ryan and Nick go? They were in the lead group." Jeremiah Bishop is up front, covered with mud as he pushes his bike up the hill, pursued by TJ Platt. Next come Benji Klimas and Justin Povrikova, racing neck and neck as they have from the start. Cassie Smith comes by. It may be cold and miserable but she's smiling. Does she know that she is the sole survivor in the womens pro/expert class?

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Safety in numbers
At the start/finish line, relieved racers pedal in, covered with mud, to finally finish the race. Shelly and Lori Ware push their bikes across the finish line together, running the last 100 yards to the cheers of the faithful. A worried husband is relieved to see his wife Mary Phillips emerge from the woods. Kids get a revised feeling about their mom as Judy Brand rides to the finish on a flat front tire in not-too-bad shape (Kids, don't forget to put your coat on). Every finisher is relieved, completing a race to remember and having a story to tell. Spectators have a renewed respect for those who took on the challenge. Those who dropped out (for whatever reason) wonder how their competition kept on going. All in all, the race is in the books and, thankfully, everyone comes out none the worse for wear.

Postscript: Monday morning, the sun was blazing to start a beautiful day in Oak Hill with the temperature heading up towards 60 degrees and nary a cloud in the sky. Maybe WVMBA should make a donation to Mother Natures favorite charity or something to get the weather schedule modified? They had to snake the shower drains at Ace to clear all of the mud out. No one will forget this one for a long time.

The following was submitted by Diesel Powers (you'll have to guess). Read and enjoy - we'll have have a full recap and results ASAP.

They do call this race the Minden Mud Fest, don't they?

Minden Mud Fest lives up to its name. And not just mud, throw in a cold rain and SNOW mix and you are at the WVMBA points series #2 at Ace adventure Center in Minden W.Va.
I started this race with a pre-ride on Thursday with the announcement to all my local riding buddies that I was going to Rule! I thoroughly believed this. Since I classified this as a climber's course, I felt I stood a good chance at a win in highly competitive Vet Expert class.

The descent to the alluvial plain started with unloading the SUV in the parking lot at Ace. This was where things started to go south. I discovered that my front wheel was two hours away, high and dry in my workshop - an omen? I asked around and got a loaner from Dave McKain - I was back in the race. During a good warm up of about 35 minutes, I was never really too cold. In addressing what I would wear during the race, I figured that since you produce more heat than you can actually deal with - I didn't need too put on too many layers.

The start for the Vet X's was thirty seconds after all the Three Lap Experts.
(ED - the Vet X's voted to race only 2 laps for the day)
All went well with the start, which was basically one long climb. I was there bumping wheels with Steve Thaxton, and Bob Vernon was watching me do it all the way. The course was definitely wet with the temperature hovering somewhere over the freezing point. After the climbs there is always the reward, with the gravity assist on the descent. This is where the spray (mud, water, who knows what) combined with the wind-chill factor started taking away from my peak heart rate. After the mudfest around the mound came the freezing descent into the gorge where the wind, snow and sleet put my mind to thinking of anything I could do to warm my body. This was available back at the SUV, I could swing in at the end of the first lap and get some arm warmers and a Gore-Tex vest in which to finish the race.

This was exactly my plan, and it was a good one. Except when I got there my body would not function the way it was supposed to, shivering cold to the core. I didn't realize until I tried to put on some more layers that my fingers were numb and not working properly, I was pulling out of the race. Into the truck to get warm, I got into dry clothes, I got some cola and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

At the club house I filled up on coffee with a hot chocolate chaser. Here I was not alone, some very familiar faces were there trying to recover from one lap. When some one asked me if I had quit, it was the first time quitting had been vocalized. Quitting a race when forth place points are on the line motivated me to round up some dry clothing, mix it with the wet/cold clothes I had come off the course with, and head out for a second and final lap of punishment. It was now just a matter of completing the race with a positive mind-set. Being one of the last ones on the course allowed me to be aware of my surroundings and appreciate the ability to put myself in this predicament.
On the course the scoop was that Steve Thaxton had broken his frame while leading the race and had dropped out. Then with the sighting of David Witt (3rd Vet-X), my pace quickened, there was nowhere near enough race course to catch him. The ever upbeat Bob Vernon kept the pace to finish second behind Danny Camden who came out of hiding to take his first Vet-X victory in a points series race.

With conditions at the extreme, everyone that returns to a warm bed, should consider themselves a survivor. Also, I would like to thank all the staff, volunteers and friends that assisted everyone throughout the course. This one is in the book.