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Sunday, September 19, 2004 -- Rio Grande, OH
Bob Evans Farms Fall Festival Cross Country MTB (iPO Event Id#: 6480)
Story by Jon Burris of Ohio Valley Bicycle Club (OVBC)

[Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results]

The Ohio Valley Bicycle Club held its first annual "Farmhand 35K" Fall Festival Cross Country mountain bike race at Bob Evans Farm on Sunday September 19, 2004. Racers waited out the weekend storm from Hurricane Ivan and then headed for the Farm to enjoy a beautiful Sunday of biking Down on the Farm. Despite downpours the week before riders and spectators were treated to some great trail riding, prizes, and food. The riders were introduced to a 5-mile per lap racecourse that included wide open fields, knee buckling climbs and scenic views on single-track trails on the hills above the farm.

OVBC Race Director Jon Burris commented, "The course held up despite a few watering holes from the high water of nearby Racoon Creek. There was a eiry fog here on the Farm this morning, but we're glad Ivan gave us a break." Burris aded, "We worked hard on the course all week to get ready and we're happy with the turnout considering that many of the highways were blocked and some of the participants took several detours just to come to our event! We really appreciate that!" It was gratifying for Burris to see the large turn out and to be blessed with a warm, sunny day.

And a beautiful day it was...
Riders finished the day with Bob Evans Farm sausage sandwiches, smokey boys, beans, slaw and snacks as Farm Manager Ray McKinnis looked on. Club youngsters and Bruise Brothers Devon and Derrick Henry drew names for the prize drawing as awards were announced and everyone got to choose from the prize table. Folks chewed the food and the fat round the shelter house as they met up with old friends and swapped racing tales.

The Hunt for Overall...
Race action was in no short supply. Hurricane Ivan paled in comparison to New Jersey native Hurricane Rob Rohel who traveled from Morgantown, West Virginia to flounce the field taking the expert class and overall top honors on the day. Rohel set a scorching pace with average lap times of 28 minutes, setting the course record and sealing his name in the books as the first Farmhand Winner.

When asked to describe the course Rohel simply said, "It's Fast." Burris added, "I asked Rob why he traveled so far to come to our event when there were other races much closer to him and he said that he had never raced in Ohio and wanted to see what we had to offer." Burris was glad he and many like him came out because folks really got a good idea of what a skilled rider is capable of on fast single-track.

Also in the hunt was Mike Bowen (Huntington, WV), who set a speedy pace of his own not far behind Rohel to secure second place overall and top Vet 35 rider. Burris said of Bowen, "Mike mistakenly did one more lap before we could tell him he was finished. He went by us so fast I had to radio one of my checkpoints to inform him that he was finished. We should've given him the Ironman award for doing that extra lap up Rickabaugh Hill!" Burris was referring to the course's toughest climb named after Adam Rickabaugh, a Welsh settler who founded the area in the 1700s.

Third place overall and tops in mens Sport was Fred Dirkse (Columbus, OH), who fended off advances and held on to take the bronze just minutes from a hard-charging Joe Finch (Jackson, OH). Finch took the single speed class and fourth overall. Thad Haines (Jackson, OH), put down the hoops and picked up a helmet to take second place single speed.

Photo Finish of the Day...
The photo finish on the day for the top five overall came down to a sprint between top Vet 45 rider Jeff Leepard (Pt. Pleasant, WV), and Steve Means (Poca, WV), second place Vet 35. Means crossed the line with just one slide rule bike length between himslef and Leepard. Chris Wiley (Proctorville, OH), second in mens sport, prevailed in a high paced first and second lap battle with Sean Cavaluchy (Galloway, OH). Eric Pardue (Ripley, WV) took third and fourth respectively in sport class.

The top overall female racer award went to Deborah Moore (Point Pleasant, WV), who showed the men how to get it done. Russ Clarke (Gallipolis, OH) used cunning and good lines to take the masters. Diane Bruce (Gallipolis, OH), gave new meaning to the phrase, "I think I can." as she did that and more to take second place in the masters in her first cycle race ever. In the clydesdale class Jim Dowdy II (Ripley, WV), motored on with a busted shoulder to take the win from a dedicated Benny Means (St. Albans, WV), who finished second.

Patrick Holland (Point Pleasant, WV), put in a stellar performance to win the Junior class. Holland was hounded by Arlo Nichols (Gallipolis, OH), who suffered a broken crank ending his day. Tony Thorne (Jackson, OH), was tops in the beginner class as he put in a fast lap of 35 minutes to edge out local Jeff Hilbert (Point Pleasant, WV). Hilbert took second place just seconds ahead of third place Steve Petrie (Gallipolis, OH).

In the youth class were James Dowdy III and Christine Dowdy who rode the full racecourse along with the adults. Dowdy III set his own blistering pace of 1:10 minutes on the day besting some of the adults and later giving lessons on his Gameboy at the dinner table.

As the riders dispursed and the sun began to cast a shadow on the Farm preparations for next years Farmhand were already underway. In an exit interview with OVBC vice president J.T. Holland, the V.P. said, "We wanted our event to be laid back and fun. The racers already know that this is a competition." Holland added, "What we wanted was for people to come have some fun and bring their family to share the experience. We welcome everyone back next year and hope they will bring some friends. We're going to do our best to make this a ride worth coming to."

"Bob Evans Farms and the University of Rio Grande have opened this recreation to us and we are glad to be here." said Holland. And if the smokey boys weren't enough, just across the road is the old Bob Evans Restaurant and Homestead where it all began. Bob Evans, who still lives just a few miles away, shows up on occasion for a good home cooked meal.

About Ohio Valley Bicycle Club (OVBC): The Ohio Valley Bicycle Club (OVBC) is a non-profit organization formed for the purpose of promoting the activity of bicycling in a socially responsible and law-abiding manner. The Club is for anyone interested in cycling. The Club strives to bring awareness to the public of the physical health, mental, and social benefits that are associated with the activity of bicycling. The OVBC holds meetings, social gatherings, supports charities, and holds group cycle rides. The Club also promotes special activties and events that are open to Club members and the public. It is also a goal of the OVBC to work within our community to promote and encourage safe bicycling activities that create recreation and tourism in our local area and abroad. Visit them on the web at