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Saturday, May 19 - Sunday, May 20, 2007 -- Spencer, WV / Charles Fork Lake
Tour de Lake - WVMBA #4 (iPO Event Id#: 10025)

2007: [Photos] [Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results][Gunnar's Race Report]
Past Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001] [2002] [2003] [2004] [2005] [2006]

Story and photos by JR Petsko

Photo by JR Petsko
Putting some teeth in the climbs
This past Sunday it was once again time to head on over to Spencer, West Virginia for the annual Tour De Lake, and Round #4 of the WVMBA series at Charles Fork Lake. Charles Fork Lake is a multi-use area with over 25 miles of trails surrounding a mile long lake that sports excellent fishing, canoeing, and hiking. The trails were developed by local mountain biking enthusiasts. It's one of the most beautiful venues in the east. The trail system is mostly single-track that offers a rewarding experience for all levels of mountain bikers.

After a great night's sleep I awoke from my tent Sunday morning to a beautiful sunny sky and the side of Everclear being played over the loud speaker. What could have been more perfect then that? After wiping the sand from my eyes, I looked at my watch and saw that I had an hour before race time. So Anni and I decided to wash off in the cool water of Charles Fork Lake to get ready for the day. A few splashes of cold water on the face was just what I needed on this already warm morning.

With only fifteen minutes left before the start of the race, I decided to hike up the trail to find a spot to take photos. When I say I hiked up, it was UP! To spread out the field at the beginning of the race, the course's first quarter of a mile takes you right up the mountain side. This would prove to be great for me to take photos because everyone would not be in a pack early in the race, but I was sure this climb would test some riders right from the start.

Photo by JR Petsko
Chris Phillips sweats it out
As I sat just off the trail waiting for the first riders to make it to my position I could hear them hammering down the path. Andrew Wiedrich of Morgantown, WV was the first rider to pass by me. Wiedrich was flying in the big ring on the flat section of trail that followed the opening climb, but he was not alone. A host of other Pro/Expert riders were hot on his tail, the pack of riders included Steve Hill, Jason Cyr, Gunnar Shogren, Robert Spreng, Ben Klimas, and Evan Perrene to name just a few.

Oh, and Joey Riddle was also in the pack of riders and his position was being hotly contested by a large yellow lab that was following him along the course. But I do not think the dog was officially in the race because he didn't have a number plate. Just as fast as the leaders appeared they were gone from sight. As more and more of the field past me by it was clear by the look on their faces that the opening climb took a little bit out of them. When the last racer passed me by it was time to pack up and move across to the other side of the lake to catch the riders as they came though to finish their first lap.

On the other side I found a nice spot to take photos on a switch back down hill section. Just as I was getting ready, Gunnar Shogren (BWB WV 29er's) was full speed down the technical decent. Shogren was the first lap leader but Steve Hill (CHARLESTON BICYCLE CENTER) was right on his back wheel. Wiedrich (Pittsburgh Pro Bikes) lost his early lead to the two riders but didn't fall far as he was just a few seconds back in the third position.

Photo by JR Petsko
Samantha Ford representing for the High School ladies
As the first female rider came by, the battle for the lead was just as tight as the men. Kristy Lanier was leading but she had Betsy Shogren (BWB WV 29er's) stocking her from behind. Mandi Riddle (Vicious Cycles) was also in the mix just a few minutes back of the leaders. As the leaders headed out to do their second lap I could do nothing more but wait for their return around the lake.

I say second lap, but that's not completely correct. The races headed out on the same trail as the first lap but as the course followed around the lake it takes a much higher trail the second time out. As some racers stated, it's almost like a totally different race course on the second lap. That being said, the second lap flip flopped the overall men's field. First to the line was Hill who made his way past Shogren to take the overall victory (his second of the year) in a time of 1.34.57. Wiedrich was also able to improve on this position during the second lap by moving into second overall and crossing the line in 1.36.32, just beating Jason Cyr and Shogren by thirty seconds. Cry (BWB WV 29er's) would finish in 1.36.54 and Shogren in 1.36.56.

Joey Riddle (Vicious Cycles) put in a great ride coming home in 1.40.55 to take fifth overall. When I asked Joey about the lab he said, "The dog gave me some trouble on one of the downhill sections but he tired and I was able to beat him to the finish."

On the women's side of the event the second lap didn't change things all that much. Kristy Lanier was able to extend her lead on Betsy Shogren to take the women's overall victory in a time of 1.49.58. Shogren would come in second with a time of 1.53.11. It was the first time Shogren was unable to take the overall win this year. Mandi Riddle crossed the line in 2.08.45 to take third overall.

Photo by JR Petsko
Feeling the love at Tour de Lake
After the race I caught up with Shogren and here was Betsy's take on her race with Kristy, "I had Kristy in my sights for the entire first lap, through all the twisty, turny, up and downy. Kristy seemed to be riding very smooth, I was doing everything I could do keep her right in front of me. On the second lap, the toll of keeping up with the smooth-riding Kristy was a bit much and I blew-up a little. The climbs felt longer, and there seemed to be more of them. I rallied some on the second half of the second lap, but it was too late and I was dealing with a little more traffic by then, too. I was pleased with my first lap and a little bummed about the second. And that's the way that course can be."

Sometimes it hard a as a reporter to get the total feel of a race just covering it in certain spots. So this week Gunnar Shogren offers us his view of the race from the racers perspective.

Tour de Lake report from the Front (or as close as I could get)

Though listed as a lap race, the laps are NOT the same. They do utilize some of the same sections, but the overall flow and how the laps "feel" are different. And you can split up each lap into halves; they have their own feel and flow. So it's like you're racing four different sections.

First lap
Strong-man Benji (Klimas) gets the hole shot and pegs it up the first climb across the parking lot and up the hill. Somewhere along there Andy (Wiedrich) gets by and he's motoring. I'm behind Andy, and Benji, and Robbie (Loehr) and that's about it. Hear a whole lot of grunting from behind though. After the first climb it gets rolling faster and I get around Robbie and Benji soon enough. Andy is just slightly out of sight. Where's Steve Heeell and everyone else? Now the course starts following the contour lines, little ups and downs, and then towards the lake, away from the lake. Up, down, speeding all over. I'm reeling in Andy. Towards the end of the first half you drop down the hill and onto a field, cross the burned up bridge and go on a dirt road for a bit. Andy gaps me pretty good here as I am gear-limited.

Now we start the second half of the first lap by going up a real grinder. I'm off my bike running and Andy's riding. After the initial climby stuff you're more on a shelf. Real twisty turny, still up and down, still speeding all over. Andy's coming back again. And then Steve Hill's on me. We press on to Andy and then start thinking about when and how to pass him. Soon enough he gets a stick either stuck in his wheel or derailleur, so he's off to the side of the trail and Steve and I really peg it. Coming across the dam I'm actually leading, but we're really riding together.

Second lap
Up the hill, this time I am able to ride the whole thing, first lap I ran a little, but Steve is getting a little away from me as I grunt and groan. We crest, head on out the grassy roadway, then we start the new section, and up it goes. More grunt climbs. Two or three I'm forced off my bike, but for the most part I slug it out. At the bottoms of the big gas-line rollers I can see Steve, he's sitting and spinning. I am grunting still. This goes on for the most part of the first half, and then right before you start to descend to the field-bridge-road section my chain decides to abandon ship for no apparent reason. Perhaps it was tired. So I get the chain back on, check if there's a big reason it went AWOL and get rolling again, but I hear and then see Andy as he catches me. Crap. But we still have that second half of the lap to go. Same dealio, Andy gaps me pretty good going across the field, the bridge and then the road. Andy rides the first grunt climb, I do my best to keep running. Then the new section starts and it goes up some more. This is not what I need, and the climbs continue. The stiff climbs are taking their toll. I'm fading and can't see Andy anymore.

Before too long, teammie Jason C. is on me and passes me, I down as much liquid as I can and try to stick with him. Soon enough I am feeling better, but Jason's no slouch in this tight twisty stuff and I'm not feeling that confident in trying to get around him without possibly hurting myself or he. Now we're on the familiar section and it's not too long before the end. Still don't have the gas, Jason's not letting up and we're just freight training to the end. Down the final chute, he makes no mistake, I can't get around, we start coming across the dam, and I give my one-gear all I can, spinning like the frantic mad man that I am. It's no use, Jason's in the big ring, and walks away from me. Andy wasn't too far ahead, but as twisty as the course is he was just far enough away. Steve had plenty left after the climbs and kept riding strongly.

Thanks to everyone who was involved with putting on the race. It sure was a great time. Also thanks to the Riddle's and the Shogren's for their interviews. I would personally like to thank Steve for all his help and the food. I will be off covering a different event this weekend so everyone look for George to be holding the camera this weekend and say hi to him at Race the Trace.