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Saturday, October 6, 2001 -- Kasson, WV
Mountain Road Classic (iPO Event Id#: 4471)
Photos by Don Parks

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The long and winding road...
In the dawn hours on race day, race director Mike Holt was setting up race markers along the West Virginia country roads in a cold, driving rain. By race time the rain was gone and the sun was working its way out from behind the clouds, but the cool temperatures and gusty winds stayed. None-the-less, it was a beautiful fall day to attack the mountains in a race to determine the 2001 USCF WV State road champions.
By WV State Champion (age 45-49) Mark Pinson
Huntington, WV

On Saturday October 6, 2001 three Huntington riders drove up to Tucker county, specifically Kasson, to participate in the West Virginia Road Race Cycling Championship. The race course winds through Barbour and Tucker counties and features two climbs in excess of four miles long and three or four lesser climbs. The total course length was 53 miles and was covered by the race leaders in less than 2 and a half hours.

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O’Connor, Chapman, Cook and Waite break away early
Before the mass start at 11:15 a.m. the skies were cloudy and drizzly, but the front moved through and by the halfway point the sun was shining and the roads had dried up.

Ryan O’Connor, Kevin Chapman, and Mark Pinson were riding for Team Go Mart and training from Jeff’s Bike Shop here in Huntington. O’Connor’s stated goal before the race was to get Chapman to the finish line so he could win the sprint. For those of you who are not familiar with bike racing, drafting, a concept used in auto racing, also works in bicycle races. By staying close to the rider in front the following riders use only about 80% of the energy expended by the lead riders who are breaking through the wind for everyone else.

O’Connor was prepared to cover all attacks by other riders and let Chapman save his legs for the sprint finish. The field included other notable riders such as Greg Cook from Charleston, Nick Waite (Go Mart) a NORBA Junior National Champion, Sue Haywood (Trek), currently ranked 7th women’s mountain biker on the NORBA circuit, and Gunnar Shogren, a well known personality in the cycling world and former state champion in both mountain biking and road biking. (NORBA is the governing body for all National sanctioned mountain bike races in North America.)

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The clouds cleared for a great day of riding
At about the ten mile marker, and the top of the first long climb, O’Connor, Chapman, Cook and Nick Waite dropped the rest of field and were off on their own. Three chase groups immediately followed and were from one minute to four minutes from the lead group at the second turn, about the twenty mile mark. By the time the third turn came at the thirty five mile marker the lead had grown by another minute. (The course follows a rectangular route, counter clockwise, on Rt. 38, 72, 92 and 50.)

This is when the last big climb started and where Greg Cook made his move. With about a mile to go on the climb, Cook attacked and O’Connor followed. Chapman thought that the climb was much longer and let them go thinking that they would burn themselves out before the top of the climb. When Chapman realized the top was much closer than he thought he took off after them and managed to catch them on the descent. His legs paid dearly for this miscalculation. At the last turn and the 45 mile marker the three were still together, Nick Waite had dropped off on this final big climb.

With about eight miles to go O’Connor kept the pace high over the last short climbs. He could see that Chapman was suffering and wouldn’t be able to uncork his famous sprint. Greg Cook managed to stay on O’Connor’s wheel for most of the way but at the finish it was O’Connor, then Cook with Chapman just off the back. 1,2,3.

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Alone on the road to the finish
In the meantime, there were several other races going on within the race. In the women’s race, top seeded Sue Haywood had her hands full with Felicia Greer from Wheeling, W.V. Coming over the last major climb Felicia was leading by a few yards and on the decent they came back together. Mark Pinson and Craig Slaughter were also battling it out for the Masters title where they had come over the first climb dead even, but Slaughter had managed to get in a six man chase group before the second turn while Pinson was soloing about one minute behind. Not a fun place to be. By the second major climb Pinson had managed to bridge up to the group and ride through them with the two female contenders. Felicia had really ridden hard attempting to drop Sue but couldn’t quite manage a separation until the last turn. With about seven miles to go Sue Haywood dropped off her wheel.

Usually this would be a sure victory for Felicia, however, a strange set of circumstances began to unveil. Felicia asked Pinson if he would pull her to the finish which he agreed to do for a simple kiss. Now, Sue Haywood was not nationally ranked for nothing, she thought about her lone situation for a few minutes and then sat up and waited for the next chase group which was about 30 seconds behind. The three of them hooked up and began taking turns pulling in order to catch back up to Felicia and Pinson.

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A fine time to be racing in WV
Meanwhile, Gunnar Shogren was faltering and Pinson and Felicia caught him and managed to get about a two minute pull from Shogren before he sat up, which gave Pinson a well needed rest before the final climb and a one mile straight to the finish line. At that time the lead had managed to shrink to about 30-45 seconds for Pinson and Felicia. At the base of the climb Felicia announced that she was cooked. Pinson pondering the situation decided not to risk losing his chance at winning the Masters by helping Felicia to the finish line just for that possible kiss. His mind was foggy and he was not thinking straight so he hammered to the line for the Masters title.

Sue and Felicia came back together with about one mile to go to the finish. Shogren had also managed a final pull for Sue to get her back into contention. At the finish it was Sue by a few bike lengths.

Notably absent from this race, and state female championship contender, Jeannette Williams, was on vacation. Or it is possible that Huntington could have had another winner.