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Sunday, March 26, 2000 -- Pipestem Resort State Park - Pipestem, WV
Pipestem Spring Challenge
Story by Matt Marcus, with photos by Jack Downs

[Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results] [Pic Set 1] [Pic Set 2] [Pic Set 3]

Pipestem Spring Challenge
Just another beautiful site at Pipestem
Even though traces of snow could still be found in the northern mountains, southern West Virginia had a perfect day for the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association season opening race. The 2000 West Virginia Points Series started up where it belongs in March...down south. Pipestem Resort State Park hosted the inaugural event, which is also the most southerly points race site this year.

Pipestem Lodge sits on top of a ridge overlooking the Bluestone River canyon with the race registration nearby. A cloudless spring day with temperatures near 70 degrees greeted a large field of 160 racers anxiously awaiting the afternoon start while spectators enjoyed the sun and the awesome views off of Knob Ridge along the top of the racecourse.

Trail conditions at Pipestem were mostly dry, with a few muddy spots, despite a heavy downpour on Saturday evening. Several steep climbs on the approximately 7 mile loop forced all but the elite racers to dismount and walk but the pain was soon forgotten on the numerous high speed white knuckle descents.

Pipestem Spring Challenge
Sue Haywood is back for another strong season
One of the unique aspects of the race was the LeMans style start. What is unique about this LeMans start? The race started at a lake, you left your bike on top of the dam but the sprint started at the bottom of the dam. You ran straight up the dam and then across a bridge over the spillway which was only wide enough for ONE AT A TIME! This created a real bottleneck where most racers had to wait in line to get to their bikes while the early leaders were riding away.

After a short climb out of the lake past the lodge came the super high speed "don't touch your brakes" downhill. You did have to use your brakes on at least a couple of turns or go over the edge into the Bluestone River gorge. The descent brought you to a high speed rolling section of doubletrack, which led into the long and progressively more technical climb back up over Knob Ridge.

Another unique part of the course was the shared use of horseback riding trails (no there weren't any horses on the course during the race). By race time on Sunday about the only way you could tell that they were equestrian trails were the short stutter bump sections that resembled a mini whoops motocross course.

Pipestem Spring Challenge
Just a little ride in the park...
After a small descent and bumpy section the course came back to the lake on a buff high speed relatively flat trail that followed the contour around the lake with banked 180 degree turns. Finally a short gravel climb led back to the finish.

In the three lap expert event the top two men battled it out bar to bar before Mongoose's Ryan O'Connor pulled away on the second lap to take the overall win at 1:33 over Trek's Joel Maynard of Blacksburg, VA at 1:36. The first lap duel paid off. O'Conner and Maynard had already gapped the field by nearly five minutes going into the second lap! The Blacksburg, Virginia contingent is a powerhouse with Chris Pohowsky rounding out the top three men.

Expert women saw five-time WV champ and West Virginia Tourism/Trek East Coast's Sue Haywood take the lead early in the first lap and never look back. Blacksburg's Amy Crawford, riding for Independent Fabrications, took second and first year expert Mandy Williams, proving that she's no sandbagger, took third.

Junior expert men's winner Nick Waite, riding for Speed Goat, battled briefly with second place finisher Eric McCumbers before going on to duke it out with the top seniors for an impressive overall placing. With a time of 1:45 the sixteen year old Waite beat everyone else in the large JR Expert field by over 10 minutes! Ryan Hobbs and Bret Hixson sprinted it out for third and fourth respectively.

1999 vet expert champ Dr. Steve Thaxton is back (he's a chiropractor...get it?) with a win but it wasn't easy with Pennsylvania's Matt Ross breathing down his neck taking second in another close finish at 1:54. After apparently getting caught behind at the start, James Critchley had a strong race catching and passing all the vets but Thaxton and Ross to finish third at 1:57.

Special thanks go to race director Mark Ashley and his crew from Ridge Rider and park superintendent Steve Bolar and his staff for making this a positive event.