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Sunday, April 29, 2001 -- Roanoke - Catawba, VA
Dragons Back Race (iPO Event Id#: 3000)
Story and photos by Dana Harshberger

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7]

Link to XXC post-race report from Diesel Powers

Race Pic
They're Off!
The first race in the Virginia State Championship Series was held this past Sunday in the quaint Catawba Valley of VA. An overwhelming number of participants at registration made the start of the race a bit delayed. Earlier in the day a staggering 30 riders started off in the XXC category! Was it the fine spring day, or Mr. Kyle Inman's great course that accounted for the incredible numbers?

In the XXC end of things: The race appeared to be, well, a race! While waiting for the start of the regular XC, the hot rods at the front went racing by at quite a clip. In the front was Cannondale rider Benji Klimas and not far off his wheel, Mike Capraro, riding for Nantucket Nectars. Both appeared to be fresh and still raring to go. Thirty-four miles later, defending his title from last year, was Mr. Klimas (3:46:40), who happily even managed to beat his time from last year. Capraro pulled in second (3:48:12) followed by another sub-4 hour finisher Ray Clark (3:52:33). When Mike was asked about why he chose to do the XXC, rather than his usual XC, made mention of the fun factor, and wanting to do a "big epic ride". Another XXC participant, Tim Richardson, said that "It's better than going to church!" For the women's action in the XXC, Susan Musante pulled in well within her personal goal of the 8-hour limit, with a time of 5:23:26. Ms. Musante other goals for the year include trying to beat her last year's time at this year's Shenandoah Mountain 100, and is including as many XXC events in her training as possible, in order to increase her mileage. Pulling in a strong second was Louise Finger, with her ponytail flying in the breeze.

Race Pic
Bonus style points for the t-shirt and shades
In the regular cross country: For the Pro men it was a clean sweep on the Trek front, with East Coast Factory member Paul Buschi (1:49:23), like Klimas, defending his first place finish of last year. Sadly, he didn't manage to break the course record he set last year but, considering he was planning on taking a break from racing this weekend, not a bad deal. Trek grassroots riders Jeremy Wimpey (1:53:24) and Adam Childres (1:53:34) filled in the podium spots.

With the Pro Women we saw tight action with Kristie Manz, Sue George and Theresa Richardson taking the top three.

Master rider Fred Whittwer continues to tear it up, clocking times that rival riders that are younger than him! Overheard by this reporter while Fred was climbing the Grouse Trail for the second time "I die outside". Hey Fred, I like it better when you say "I smile outside!" and ham it up for the camera.

Mark Lattanzi grabbed the first place finish in the Vet Sport category, following up his first place finish of last year in the Beginner Category, which was his first mountain bike race ever. Not a bad follow up with jumping up a category, and a winning finish!! He enjoyed the punishment of the course, and said of his win, "it almost makes all the bruises worth it-almost!"

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Team Trek is having fun
After being convinced to race and in a mad scramble to gather equipment, Erin Johnston in her first race ever, flew to the finish. She was riding a "Demo" Trek Fuel, which was graciously loaned to her by Trek rep and super nice guy Rick Bartels, who was at the race with the Trek Demo Tour! Erin, who was not only not planning on racing, but wasn't even planning on coming, showed some fine form after she managed to ignore all of the advice from her well meaning friends who pushed her to compete. Erin found racing to be "super fun" and will definitely do it again! You go girl!

Racers were greeted at the finish line with a spaghetti meal and fine tunes over the loudspeaker. And lolling in the spring sunshine just couldn't be beat. As always, Kyle and Debbie Inman put on a fine race, in a spectacular venue. Be sure you turn out for the next race in the series, Middle Mountain Momma, on May 20, which is billed as 'the finest course in the world'.

Report from the XXC Racer "Diesel Powers"

I left my home state of West Virginia Friday right after work for New Castle, Virginia, to ride and race the Dragons Back. We camped in the Jefferson National Forest six miles out on a dirt forest road. I rode the course on Saturday, an 18 miles figure eight with over 4000 feet of climbing. I had all intentions of competing in the VetX points series. When nerves work me up at three in the morning I decided at that time I would switch classes and race the Double X class that started at nine the next morning. The XX is a track that is twice as long as the Expert course, the only exception is it basically one big loop. This covered about 15 miles on the ridge of North Mountain, on what is known as the Dragons Back, a very rocky ridge that goes up and down and, in spots, may only be ten feet wide with a trail running down the middle. Talk about scenic panoramas! Views as far as the eye could see from this 4000 foot plus mountain.

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Benji Klimas wins his second XXC
The race started with the front runners (Dave Fleming, Benji Klimas, and others) taking off like bats from hell! I made the statement that I wasn't getting caught up in that and set a pace at a predetermined heart rate. Five miles of dirt road led to the first single-track climb on the Deer Trail, which is an 18 inch side hill trail that, on one side, is straight up, and the other side straight down. The only chance to get around anyone is maybe on one of the nine switchbacks on the half-hour 2000 vertical foot ascent. This really was not a big deal with the 29 other competitors in my class. After the long climb along the start of the ridge I tried to keep my speed but my heart rate would not stay in check. I was having trouble picking lines and could not focus on riding the course as it demands. I stopped my bike and put my foot on a log. I sat on my bike and adjusted my clothing so that I was more comfortable, took a big drink of Gatorade and within a minute and a half I was rolling with my heart rate stabilized. I was able to concentrate further ahead on the trail and pull my bike around and over the rock gardens and use them to keep my momentum rather than struggle through them. Towards the end of the ridge, by keeping a steady pace I had moved thru about seven riders, the last being fellow West Virginian, Joey Riddle. I tried to drop him but it only motivated him to grab on to my wheel. As I led him down the ultra-fast, tight descent, I knew I was in a groove since he would normally pull away from me on the downhill's. We hit Broad Run Road and I let the bike roll as I waited to work together on the nine mile dirt road to the first check point at the start/finish line. We had just started moving smoothly together when I over shifted my big chainring, lodging my chain into the crankarm, I would have to stop to for a quick repair job.

Normally this could be done fast enough to bridge any gap that would open, but upon inspection of the chain I discovered that it had separated. The first attempt at repair with my chain tool failed to engage the pin with inner part of the link. It would have to broken back apart and redone if it was to hold. I decided rather than break it apart manually I would pedal as long as I could till it came apart on its own. All the while, I counted eight more racers go by. A smooth pedal stroke and a peanut butter sandwich carried me along the road to first check point. It was 11:30 and time for the start for the hundred or so XC racers, As I put the hammer down to get ahead of the pack my chain hit the ground. After maybe four minutes my chain was repaired successfully and I was racing again. I found myself running with the Junior riders behind all the age classes, female, sport, clydsedales, and experts.

Back up North Mountain, this time on the Grouse Trail, which is deja-vu of the first climb. Along with a junior rider that I hooked up with, we managed to pass twenty or so riders on that tight trail, some with some grace. I must admit that there was a little more elbowing, gouging, and kicking involved (not something I was particularly proud of) but testosterone can be an ugly thing. My apologies to any that were offended. Along part of the ridge in the opposite direction, my body had become immune to pain as I grinded the steep climbs then threw myself and my bike down the switchbacks, moving through the sport class. Approaching four hours on the bike, it had become part of me. I found I was clearing more obstacles by just letting the bike flow.

For some the Double XX is an opportunity to compete with others (my hat goes off to repeat champion Benji Klimas) but for some, the class is about competiting against oneself and testing personal limits. For myself I like to think that I conquered The Dragons Back itself. I moved over that mountain in a sense of awe, in an endorphin released high, that is so rare at most mountain biking venues. I finished with a smile on my face. What more could one ask for?