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Sunday, June 9, 2002 -- Flat Top, WV
Free Wheeling MTB Race - WVMBA Pts. #6 (iPO Event Id#: 4790)
Story and photos by Don Parks

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8] [Set 9]
[Set 10] [Set 11] [Set 12] [Set 13]
Past Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001]

Race Start
The three lap racers hit the trail
With big NORBA action coming to the region later in the month (well, Wisconsin and Snowshoe, anyway) it seemed many of the area's top riders headed to Winterplace Resort for some training and great racing. It was a long hot climb to start every lap, but the next five or six miles back to the start made it all seem worthwhile.

It seemed like a fine opportunity to introduce my girlfriend to the joys of racing on two wheels. Now, Heather is quite the accomplished runner, but her experience on a mountain bike was limited to mostly rail-trails and boardwalks at the beach. But I know her well enough to say that she's no pushover. A little challenge off the running circuit I thought would do her well (and plus she needed to test the skills she learned at Speedgoat's Women's Mountain Bike Clinic last month).

We made the trip to Southern West Virginia on Saturday to give the course a pre-ride. On the way I'd picked up a brand new 2002 Bianchi D.I.S.S. singlespeed from the Huntington Bicycle Center. This would be my first ride on the Winterplace course and my first ride on the new bike... not to mention my first ride on a singlespeed.

Heather Bury
Heather gives mountain bike racing a try
We hit the prologue loop early in the evening and headed up the first climb and around the wide open field that also serves as the finish for the final lap. Then it was on back past the MountainHouse and then straight up the mountain. At least there are switchbacks to try and make the climb more manageable, but it is still a beast.

It didn't take long for me to dismount the 1x1 and for Heather to begin questioning what she was getting herself into. I reassured her that even the top pros wouldn't be riding up some of the most severe grades, and they didn't.

I expected to do plenty of run-ups with the new bike, but my running companion kept muttering things like "this is stupid" and "I could run faster". Well, she's none too prissy and I told her the best was still ahead, and it was.

It's a nice ridable grade and some spectacular views as you reach the summit. Hitting this final section of the initial climb we both powered to the top feeling that burn in the legs that somehow makes exercise so satisfying.

Race Pic
Reaching the top deserves a cool drink
Heather was still wondering if she'd be pushing her bike more, or riding it more. The answer slowly came as her confidence built with each new section of technical downhill. Sure she (and I) had to walk a few of the short steep climbs, and choose (I, only if forced to by gravity) not to ride some of the nasty descents, but it was starting to get fun. Even the other long climb was a modest grade that inspired rather than discouraged.

The fun almost lasted all the way to to the finish, but then disaster struck. Heather had her first mechanical, chain suck that bent teeth on her granny chainring. I had gotten ahead, and when I went back to see the problem the feisty redhead was having a good old fit. "Lucky you got here, I was ready to throw this bike in the lake," she let me know.

I checked it out and got the chain back in line and let her know about the problem with the damaged chainring. It would be the middle ring from here on out, but the real hills were over. Once back in the saddle and off for the finish it was on to thoughts of negotiating the fun singletrack.

Race Pic
What goes up, must come down
"I'm only racing one lap tomorrow," I was told as we finished. She said this with the most serious of tone, but concealing the smile wasn't easy. And with the help of some friendly folks at Winterplace, who located a hammer, I had her bike fixed and ready for race day. It was now into the showers, out for some dinner, and back for a night of free camping at Winterplace.

Race day came and the crowds arrived. And to no surprise it was Jeremiah Bishop (1:47:48) once again putting the hammer down on the rest of the three-lap expert field. But taking second and third were two faces not seen on the WVMBA points scene so far this season. Ryan O'Connor (1:54:31) took a break from road racing to grab second while Jason Laxton (1:55:19), who now spends most of his time in North Carolina, took third.

For the expert women it was Missy Showman (2:30:35) taking the win ahead of Mandi Riddle (2:41:53).

Jonathan Martin
And ain't it fun!?
Whether it was one, two, or three laps, the prize table at the finish was ready to make winners out of a lot of folks. They even had a snowboard and skis there for the taking! Add in a beautiful sunny afternoon (okay, maybe the heat was a little much) and a big cookout on the deck, and you've got a mountain bike party, err... I mean race.

Oh, how did Heather do? First place in the beginner women. But the best part was hearing her share her race stories. Talking about the crash right in front of her at the start, her small-talk with other riders as she raced, and her ability to clear sections of trail she'd walked in the pre-ride. As she and her new friends shared their racing adventures, I saw no more hint of effort to hold back that smile. Yes, she'll be back for more.