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Saturday, September 29, 2007 -- Davis, WV / Blackwater Bikes
Revenge of the Rattlesnake - WVVUS #6 Ultra Series Championship (iPO Event Id#: 10096)

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

Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001] [2002] [2003]

Read the 2007 Racer Report: Pedal, Catch, Pedal, Catch by Gunnar Shogren

The Snake Bites Back

Story and photos by J.R. Petsko

The Rattlesnake Gang-Photo by J.R. Petsko
The Rattlesnake Gang in Davis, WV
Photo by J.R. Petsko
Fifty miles of the hardest single track West Virginia has to offer is in Davis. Riders who thought they could handle a track that long entered the annual Revenge of the Rattlesnake this past week.

Formerly part of the Canaan Series, the first mountain bike racing series in existence, The Rattlesnake is one of the oldest venues of its type, getting its start in 1984. Full suspension bikes and 29- inch wheels have changed the sport drastically since then, but the difficulty of the rattlesnake trail hasn't changed a bit.

Racers took off from the front of the downtown Davis bike shop, Blackwater Bikes, and headed out to the Blackwater River Trail where they would join the trail called Dobbin House.

Dobbin's Trails starts with some great rolling single-track that descends down the mountain side though dense pine forests. For those who thought that this type of riding would continue they were unfortunately wrong.

Revenge of the Rattlesnake-Photo by J.R. Petsko
Revenge of the Rattlesnake
Photo by J.R. Petsko
The bottom of the trail took a sharp left, heading right back up the mountain over rocks and boulders that are hard to even just walk over. Waiting at the trail that would lead them out of Dobbin House, I hoped to see who would be out front after the ominous climb.

The leaders emerged as a group of three. Jason Cyr was leadthe way as Steve Hill and Benji Klimas rode his rear wheel. The trio headed up Route 32 headed to Plantation Trail.

Not too far behind the lead pack was Jonathan Martin followed by Sue Haywood and Aron Yevuta who were trying their hardest not to let the top three get too far away them.

Some time after that, Gunnar Shogren made his way to the intersection way off the top pace, but looking to get back to the front. Shogren suffered a flat tire on the Dobbin House Trail. I was doubtful that Shogren could catch the leaders with so much time between them, as well as they were riding.

Plantation Trail was the next photo stop on my list. This trail is known all over the country. People come from hundreds of miles away just to have a chance to say, "Yeah, I rode that."

Revenge of the Rattlesnake-Photo by J.R. Petsko
Revenge of the Rattlesnake
Photo by J.R. Petsko
Plantation is not what you would call a beginners mountain bike trail. Technical rock grounds, slick tree roots, and 3-foot drops are very common there. To get to the first race check-point the racers had to go right though the meat of it.

I missed the leader by just over a minute and before I could even get my camera out to get a picture of him, Shogren passed me by too. "No way!" I thought to myself. Shogren picked up handfuls of time on the technical meaty trail and was closing in on Hill, Cyr, and Klimas still out in front as the leaders.

Jonathan Martin came next to the check point next with Aron Yevuta right behind him. Mark Elsasser was next looking strong on his single speed. Sue Haywood was still cranking up front showing the men riders how to ride the gnarly Davis terrain, her home turf.

Things really started to get interesting at check-point 3. Klimas and Cyr were out in front with no sight of Steve Hill who was previously riding behind them. As the two jogged across the stream carrying their bike, they soon jumped back in the saddle and I heard brakes screeching heading towards me.

Benji Klimas-Photo by J.R. Petsko
Benji Klimas-Photo by J.R. Petsko
Just three seconds behind the pack of leaders was ... wait ... Hill and SHOGREN?! I couldn't believe my eyes. I was amazed that Shogren had worked his way back to the front, but with 25 more miles left I wondered if he had anything left in his 'tank' for the rest of the race.

The rest of the field dropped into the stream and not much in the running order had changed. But Haywood did pick up one more spot, steadily working her way closer and closer to the front.

Because the field really started to spread out over the miles there was no way I could make it to the next check point to the front of the racers after waiting to take a photo of the others. So, I decided to pick a great view point on the course just 12 or so miles from the finish.

Once again the first person to reach me was Klimas, grinding out the pedal strokes on his single speed. Just behind him was Hill, stalking Benji like a lion stalks a gazelle. Cyr and Shogren were nowhere in sight. Minutes pasted, then finally Shogren showed up on the scene. He didn't look too tired, but I wondered what happened after he worked so hard to get back to the front.

Next came Sue Haywood up the trail. Haywood just kept a steady pace all day continuing to gain ground over the entire field. By now ahs found herself in 4th overall.

Revenge of the Rattlesnake-Photo by J.R. Petsko
Revenge of the Rattlesnake
Photo by J.R. Petsko
Haywood did inform me about what happened to Jason Cyr. "He's headed up the hill pushing his bike with a flat." Just like she said, a few minutes later I saw Cyr walking up the trail. A tear in the side way of his tire destroyed three different tubes and ended his day abruptly. It was a long way back to the finish, so I offered Cyr a ride back to town and he accepted.

Before I headed out, Mark Elsasser came came into form once again, working his way back to the front pack. Not far behind rode Brocc Kaylor and Craig Watson. Both were still looking strong after 38- miles and on their way to a high finishing position.

Hill sprinted ahead of Klimas before the finish to take the overall win, finishing the torturous 50-mile ride in 5:09:12. He finished just seconds in front of Klimas whose time was 5:09:26.

The hard, steady work paid off for Sue Haywood. She cruised in to a 3rd overall finish in a time of 5:29:25. Shogren held on to 4th overall finishing in 5:41:11 over Brocc Kaylor who claimed fifth in 5:55:23.

Betsy Shogren took 2nd overall in the women's open class finishing in 6:40:50. In the single speed class Craig Watson and Mark Elsasser took 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Roger Lilly and Matt Marcus of Blackwater Bikes really know how to put on a great event. They always do an amazing job, making things run smooth every year for the West Virginia State Championship.

Being that I just spent the last two days riding the course and taking down the markers, I have great respect for everyone who took part in the race. Special thanks to East-West Printing and Sirianni's Cafe of Davis for the GREAT food and the Mountain State Brewing Company of Thomas for the beer!