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Sunday, September 24, 2006 -- Kanawha State Forest - Charleston, WV
2006 WVMBA Point Series Race
Black Bear Race - WVMBA #12 (iPO Event Id#: 7330)

[Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results] [Photos]

Past Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001] [2002] [2003] [2004] [2005]

Story and photos by JR Petsko

Photo by JR Petsko
Wet, wild, and wonderful West Virginia
Bikers from around the tri-state area headed to Charleston, West Virginia for round 12 of the WV Mountain Bike Series. Being the last event before the championship, racers came to get a tune up, and maybe to earn a few extra points before heading into the finale.

The Black Bear is well known throughout the mountain biking world as one of the best single-track courses that the series has to offer. It's also one of the most challenging courses, and that's on a sunny day.

What happens when you take a race course loaded with steep and technical single track and you add three days worth of rain? You get some heart pounding excitement and very muddy riders.

Thanks to all that rain, race officials had to make some changes to the course just 30 minutes before the race was about to being. With all this stacked against them, the bikers where still eager to take on the day of hard racing that lay before them. Five minutes to go, just before the start, the downpour quit dumping and gave us all a little hope that maybe the sun would come out.

They cranked off the line and to no ones surprise, Nick Waite was the first to make the turn off the hard road into the woods. A pack of riders followed close behind. Steve Hill, Joey Riddle, and Mike McAuley, all in the series championship hunt, all hungry for a win.

Photo by JR Petsko
Gunnar Shogren, in the singlespeed showdown for number one
Literally elbow-to-elbow while making the same turn, WVMBA women Mandi Riddle and Betsy Shogren, fought for the lead on the fire road. One second behind the battling duo was Meredith Erlewine.

As the last riders disappeared into the woods the rain began to pour down, again. It was just going to be one of those races. The deciding factor will not be speed on this day.

Cruising over to the famous Black Bear downhill to catch up with the riders, I noticed that the course was turning into a real mud fest. I even wondered if everyone would just call it a day and save what they had left for the championship. But then I remembered something. We're talking about mountain bikers, who, by their own nature, are a special breed. And as if on cue and in sync with my thoughts, there was Waite. Blazing down the trail like a bat outta Hell like it was a dry, sunny day.

A few minutes later Hill and Riddle made their way down the mountain. About a minute behind Riddle, McAuley found his way safely down the slick mountainside. Not far behind them came a train of riders, cranking though the woods. Gunnar Shogren, Steve Thaxton, and Rick Bowman were among them.

Photo by JR Petsko
The women's race to top points is tight
Betsy Shogren managed to get by Mandi Riddle and take over the women's lead. Still holding on in third was Erlawine. Before I headed out to catch the finish, single speed rider Greg Moore came through and asked a question.

"Was that the Black Bear?" he asked.

Volunteers passing out water to the riders replied to him that it was indeed. Moore then shouted back that he'd never seen it that easy before! Can anyone confirm that he must have crashed right before coming down it and hit his head? You the man, Greg! I was of to the finish line for me to see how this all would end.

Waite crossed first in a time of 1:39:09, taking home the male overall victory. With the win, Waite also takes over first place in the series point standings with 120 points, just two points ahead of T.J. Platt who has118.

Finishing the race in second place, Steve Hill, who had a time of 1:44:56. Rounding out the top three was Joey Riddle crossing the line in 1:51:05. Mike McAuley held on to fourth overall in the race finishing in 1:52:41.

Betsy Shogren took home the overall women's title in 2:16:50. Amazingly, her time (even though the course was much different) was exactly the same as last years to the very second. If you don't believe me, check out the 2005 results. Improving on her third place finish at this event from last year was Mandi Riddle coming a crossed the line in 2:29:38. Rounding out the top three overall women was Meredith Erlawine finish in 2:38:53.

Photo by JR Petsko
Mandi Riddle wears the war paint of the Bear
With the points they received from this race, it's going to be on heck of a show down at the championship. Waite now holds the series lead over T.J. Platt by just two points. Hill, Riddle, and McAuley are all in a dogfight, each rider is separated by just one point between each other and are in third, forth and fifth place respectively. Hill is in third position in the series with 108 points, Riddle in fourth with 107 points and McAuley in fifth with 106 points.

The points series for women's Pro/Expert class is just as tight. With Shogren's win the Bear, she narrows the gap on series point's leader Cassie Smith, by guess how much, two points. Mandi Riddle is holding down third overall with 110 points, but Meredith Erlewine is just two points back with 108 points.

Whoo! I can't wait to see how this all pans out.

See more of JR's photos on his web site
A Message From the Race Director

I hope this will work. I'm not the most computer savy gearmasher around. I would like to just say THANKS to All of the volunteers. A super BIG THANKS to Elisabeth Shaffer Lilly for her tireless effort to acquire the sponers for this race. To Phillip Poff for running sweep, to Gene Wells for running sweep, thank you ever so much. To my friends that come out and help with this, there is not enough Thanks to say how much I appreciate the help. Thanks to the sponsers and to Mike Haid for helping to flag the unknown race course. This years Black Bear was hard to do. The gas company is drilling new wells, cutting roads, dozing existing roads and throw in the rain from Mother Nature and the concerns of the Park to have me change the course 30 minutes from Start time. It's a miracle it went as well as it did. TV 8 FOX 11 and The Wolf96.1 were my primary sponsers. There were some very generous sponsers and this is what helped to make it so that I could pay the experts the money they deserve. Many Thanks to K.S.F for allowing us to have this race there. Thank You, John Henley.

But it is with a hard decision that I am stepping down as the Race Director/Promoter. I will not be able to devote the time and effort to run this honored event next year, so it is with hard decision that I'm stepping down and asking that someone else pick up this race. It is the longest running event of it's kind on the East Coast. So to all of the racers and their families and friends, thank you for allowing me and my co-promoter Melissa "Missi" Nicely to offer an event that has received such good reviews and participation.

Keep on spinning and keep on grinning.
Steve Marshall