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Sunday, August 5, 2007 -- Zaleski, OH / Lake Hope State Park
Race to the Hills - WVMBA #10/OMBC #7 (iPO Event Id#: 10031)

2007: [Photos] [Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results] [Results by Class]
[2006 Coverage]

Hill Dominates Race to the Hills, Ohio

Race to the Hills Photo by JR Petsko
Race to the Hills Spooky Hollow
Photo by JR Petsko

Story and photos by JR Petsko

The Race to the Hills was the second time this year that the West Virginia Mountain Bike Assoc.(WVMBA) and Ohio Mountain Bike Championship (OMBC) Series got together for a 'joint point' series event. In the first installment, it rained, and rained, and then rained some more. This past weekend the weather was no different. Once again, the rain poured buckets. Rain or not, it was time to go racing.

When the racers took off from the start a pack emergeed off the front including Steve Hill, Dave Walker, Thomas Herman, Brad Wilhelm, and Aron Yevuta. The slick conditions didn't do much to slow down the fast single-track that eastern Ohio has to offer. With very few rocks and roots to slow down the riders, it was going to be a hard charge to the finish.

I packed up my gear and headed out to a section of the course where I could catch the riders going out and coming back on the trail. By this time the rain was coming down harder than ever. While I was getting my equipment ready a familiar face came into view.

Meredith Erlewine, long time WVMBA series racer and Athens Bicycle shop owner, was at the event. Meredith has been missing from the mountain bike scene all year, but it was very clear why as soon as I saw her.

Race to the Hills MTB Photo by JR Petsko
Whas up everbody
Photo by JR Petsko
For those of you who don't know, Meredith has a baby on the way. She said, "It was fun to see all the familiar WVMBA faces because I've missed them all while sitting on the bench this season, but it was really fun to cheer on my team-mates! Especially since there were so many of them on the course." Congratulations to Pete and Meredith. I think there may be a new cycling superstar on the way with those genes!

Soon the leaders made their way towards us on the trail. The lead group was still all within a minute of each other, but Steve Hill was trying to get off the front. Not long after the men's leader went by Amanda Sproat came flying by, leading the women's Pro/expert class. She was followed by Christina Frentiu and April Levack. Also standing out from the crowed was WVMBA junior expert rider, Morgan Miller, who was putting on an excellent ride. Miller found himself in the top eleven overall in the combined series race.

Race to the Hills MTB Photo by JR Petsko
Intense on the slick trail
Photo by JR Petsko
The second lap riders dug down deep for whatever energy they had left over for the final lap. As the riders made their last trip past my location, Steve Hill was able to gap the rest of the field. Just like he did in the first point series race, Hill would take home the victory. Hill, who had never won a WVMBA overall until 2007, took his fifth win of the year and with it a solid lead in the series overall standings. He finished in a time of 2:04:59.

The battle for second and third was as tight as it could be. Dave Walker took second in 2:07:07, just one second over Thomas Herman in third. Brad Wilhelm took fourth in 2:07:30, and Aron Yevuta was fifth in 2:07:51.

For the women it was all Amanda Sproat. Sproat took the overall female win in a time of 2:38:42 followed in second by Christina Frentiu (2:48:10). April Levack was third in 3:24:05. For a complete list of the entire winner please the results page.

I would like to thank Athens Bicycle and everyone who came out for the event. Even with the rain it still was a great race. Hope to see these combined races back again in 2008!

More Race Commentary

By Mac Stricklen, Athens Bicycle team member and WVMBA Clydesdale Racer

Race to the Hills MTB Photo by JR Petsko
Athens Bicycle Team rides on
Photo by JR Petsko
As a Clydesdale on a singlespeed I was pretty surprised to find myself way off the front of my starting group right out of the gate. I was even more surprised to sustain that gap until after we got into the woods, but some kind of pre-evolutionary chase instinct had kicked in and I couldn't get myself to slow down despite the fact that my heart rate went through the roof and I knew I was in real danger of unraveling fast if I didn't get back in touch with my inner turtle.

It didn't take long for a few fast Sport Women with gears to catch and pass me, though, and pretty soon I was forced into a sane pace by the little mini-pack that had swallowed me. As we all settled into a groove, most everyone was just enjoying the great single-track that was rolling under us.

The rain that had me pondering packing for home in the hour before the start, turned out to be just the right amount to make a perfect day. The drizzle kept things from getting too warm, and with the exception of a few slick patches, the traction was ideal. Thanks to the last minute addition of a visor and a front fender, I ended up having a pretty nice day on the bike. Unfortunately, I don't know that everyone was having the same experience.

Over the last half of the course I was hearing lots of grinding gears and frustrated grumbling as handfuls of racers were forced to the side of the trail to wrestle with gritty drive trains. It was a real shame to see anyone experience such a bummer in what was otherwise a fine day in the woods! While I've got the mic, I'd like to give a big thanks to all the volunteers who worked hard and weathered the weather out there to help the rest of us have such a great time. I always appreciate the willingness to cheer--even for us mid-pack scrubs, as we roll through the intersections.