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Sunday, March 30, 2003 -- Pipestem Resort State Park - Pipestem, WV
Pipestem Spring Challenge - WVMBA Pts. #1 (iPO Event Id#: 5318)
Story by Matt Marcus with photos by Don Parks

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8] [Set 9]
Photo set 9 contributed by Dennis Blevins
Past Coverage: [1999] [2000] [2001]

DISCLAIMER: I was given this assignment after the race was over. I did not conduct any interviews nor have I seen the official results. This is my race from my perspective and I'll use as many French words as I want.

Race Pic
Kickin' up the snow at 2003's first WVMBA series race
Before I put on my chamois, I knew that this was going to be a memorable race. By the end of the two lap, sixteen mile expert slog, close to a foot of fresh powder had settled on the spring green grass and orange mud of the Pipestem State Park trails.

What should have been a power and fitness-testing course was transformed into a technical melee. What should have been mostly fast doubletrack was a virgin blanket of snow for the leaders on the first lap and a packed snow singletrack on the final lap.

The start was staged just down the final climb before the finish. Oh yeah, race director Gene Wells reversed the course from past years. We started on the County Line trail, crossed the main road by the lodge and dropped down below the lake on some new singletrack. Riding the loop clockwise results in a fully ridable course (when dry) with a rocky fun downhill.

Race Pic
Hammering the trails at Pipestem
I had gotten a good starting position and shouldered the bike up to the road then jumped on. Hey + I was in the lead and stayed there for what seemed like a mile or so. Then, West Virginia transplant, Mike Carpenter came flying by followed by Team West Virginia's Clay Evans. Where were all the other fast guys? They were sitting in right behind us, letting us burn energy -breaking trail".

Now I've -broken trail" cross-country skiing plenty of times but this was a first for me in a bike race! Their race strategy paid off as about 20-30 guys passed me on the long climb back to the nature center. In the fields before the road crossing there was a nice slow single-file hike-a-bike with the leaders still in sight struggling through the unbroken snow at the front of the line. Tired of the slow pace many racers suddenly broke ranks and ran through the field in shin deep snow to regain some positions before the technical downhill.

The crowded downhill was hectic with a lot of crashing, verbal dicing, feedback and a bonus vet vs. junior pushing and shoving match thrown in. Eventually, after rolling up and down for miles things seemed to string out as we climbed up to the finish of the first lap.

Race Pic
But the scenery was spectacular
I had been passed by most of the expert field and came through as the 6th place vet. I considered myself lucky at this point because this winter I had revamped my Fuel 98 with disc brakes and tubeless tires. It was then that I realized that I was using my brakes way too much and that I could hammer into rocks better than ever.

The course was suddenly faster and more ridable the second time around. I had to pass my competitors (many who had v-brakes) on or before the downhills if I wanted to beat any of them. The first vet to be caught was the victim of a mechanical and was running the last eight miles.

The next vet let me make a sketchy pass on the rocky downhill because I couldn't tell what those big lumps under the snow were that I was heading into. Thanks dude! The next vet I passed on a short run up because I couldn't get around him on the downhills. The last vet I passed was on the long rolling section.

Dreaming of XC skis
All of the sudden I was second in my class but the vet winner was three minutes up the trail and long gone. I've got to say that it is amazing that technology could make the difference between second and sixth place because it certainly wasn't my fitness or power. Luckily for our sport, and us, most races are still won by the strongest person - not the one with the trickest bike.

I feel lucky to have done so well. I feel so lucky to be here in WV racing bikes. Long live mountain biking and WVMBA. Bragging rights only last a week this time of year so enjoy them while you can! And we'll see you at Mountwood.