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Sunday, April 18, 1999 -- Valley Falls State Park
Valley Falls Challenge
Story by Dave McKain with pictures by Marty Lamp and Lew McGrath.

[Coverage/Recap w/Pics] [Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8]

Valley Falls
Is this the start?
The words "Chain Suck!" were often heard after the completion of the Valley Falls Challenge. The course, which even in dry weather can be treacherous, turned into a quagmire following a week of wet weather. The course ran from the falls parking lot along the Tygart river to a moderately level dirt/mud/rock road along the river for a couple miles before heading up a rocky/muddy climb. The first climb, which took the racers about one half the way to the top, was followed by a level 1/2 mile trail which gave everyone time to catch their breath prior to a series of short climbs and fast level runs to the top. Once over the top, the course headed down an off-camber and extremely slick grassy (read muddy after 1 lap) section to the park headquarters before turning off into the woods and the singletrack. The downhill sections took the racers through several gulleys and back and forth through some rough switchbacks before depositing them on a semi-level trail back to the start/finish line. For those who didn't get a chance to pre-ride the course, the difficult downhill sections were well marked by spectators waiting in anticipation of traumatic crash and burns.

Valley Falls Start
"excuse me, pardon me, comin' through!!"
After one lap the uphill climbs, in places, were veritable rivers of mud while the downhill singletrack and its many switchbacks became more and more difficult to navigate with each rider. The muck, mud and wet leaves made riding rougher by clinging tenaciously to tires and other bike parts. The course was also tough on bikes as many of the starting field of almost 160 diminished to only 124 being able to complete their required laps.

E.J. Sigety moving quick through the mud
Competing over four laps (Expert/Pro and Expert/Vet), the old dogs of the Expert/Vet class showed that while getting up in the years, they must still be reckoned with. Veteran E.J. Sigety (2:43:05) crossed the finish line over 10 minutes ahead of Expert/Pros Ernesto Marenchin (2:53:11) and Tom Samples (2:54:26). A point that should be noted is Sigety rode his first three laps in a pack of three, with Doug Covington and Jason Laxton. At the downhill, on the third lap, Laxton broke his chain, fixed it, but it soon broke for good. At the bottom of the downhill, Covington caught a stick, and said goodbye to his rear dropout, leaving Sigety to say goodbye, and ride unbothered to the finish line. Expert/Pro Ben Klimas (3:02:30) fended off Expert/Vet Tim Willis (3:02:47) for fourth place overall and third in the Expert/Pro class. Willis' second place Expert/Vet finish put him in the WVMBA points lead while Steve Thaxton (3:05:37) was able to take third place in the class and sixth overall.

Valley Falls
Matt Marcus havin' no problems with the mud at Valley Falls
Expert/Junior Jonathon Martin (1:58:26) duked it out with the four lap crowd on the way to winning his class and posting the best time of all the three lap racers by over 12 minutes. Coming in second and third places in the Expert/Junior class were Eric McCumbers (2:10:27) and Brett Hixson (2:12:48). In the Mens Sport class, Andrew Lynn (2:13:59) bested Scott Clegg (2:15:29) and Kevin Leyh (2:17:17). In the Mens Sport/Vet class, Joe Wharton (2:17:53) took first, followed by Duane Adams (2:32:45) and Steve Marshall (2:33:22).

Charlie Brand (1:44:55) passed Rocco Mazzei (1:47:32) in the second half of the second lap to take 1st place in the Mens Sport/Junior class with Garrett Stout (1:51:18) taking 3rd. In the mens Master class, Greg McWilliams (1:29:41) took first followed by Denny Luvell (1:40:05) who outlasted Bruce Wholeber (1:40:22). In the heavyweight division, J.J. Smith blew away the competition by 20 minutes (2:01:30) with his nearest competitor, John Barnette, finishing at 2:21:48. The second largest class of the day was the mens beginner with 26 finishing the required two laps. Walter Ingram (1:41:54) took top honors in the class followed by Jonas Anderson (1:42:34). In a battle for third place, Mark Johnson (1:44:38) nipped Nick Walker (1:44:41).

Valley Falls
Easy off - easy on

Race volunteers manned food/water stations (great location - top of first grueling climb) and communications points spread around the course with 4 wheelers in case of emergencies as well as paramedics stationed at the start/finish line. Kudos to Expert/Vet Laird Knight for jumping into the fray to assist in timekeeping after flatting during the race.

Trophies and medals were given out at the conclusion of the race and, as would be expected, the sun finally did break through near the conclusion of the awards ceremony. Proceeds from the race went to support the Valley Falls Foundation.