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Sunday, June 27, 1999 -- Charleston
Black Bear 40K
Story and photos by Marty Lamp

Black Bear
Gunnar Shogren "takin' it easy" at Spectator Falls
Pics: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4]
[Results by Class] [Overall Results]

The Black Bear 40K has quite a notorious reputation, and after the race on Sunday, it's easy to see why. Steep, super-technical downhills, off-camber singletrack and one serious off-your-bike-and-push uphill made up a point-to-point course that is as tough as they come.

Intermittent storm clouds filled the sky, even a brief pre-race downpour tried to cool things off a little, but it wasn't going to happen. With temperatures in the 90's and the humidity even higher, it was an effort just trying to drink enough liquids to stay hydrated, much less make it through the demanding 17 mile course.

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Another wild ride on the Black Bear
The starting line was at the north entrance to Kanawha State Forest. From here racers pedaled up a gravel fire road, then bombed down the Tea Creek Trail with lots of switchbacks before once again riding a fireroad. After a short time on the fireroad, it was time for some more root and rock-laden singletrack, until another fireroad was gained taking the racers to their highest perch of the day.

This is where the real fun began for some. From the top of this ridge, it was down the Black Bear Trail and the always popular "Spectator Falls". This is a 150 foot section of trail with a triple black diamond gradient, filled with roots and softball-size rocks. Fans lined this section of trail, applauding all riders coming through, and cheering loudly when someone would successfully ride it without a dab.

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Melissa Showman enduring the Black Bear Trail
After Spectator Falls, it was on to a calf-burning push-climb that seemed to go on forever, then a fast downhill. This is where beginner classes finished, while everyone else had to climb back up the ridge they just came down. The long course ended with one last boulder-ridden singletrack to the bottom.

The fastest rider on the course this day was Gunnar Shogren(1:32:27). "I was takin' it easy on the downhills", Shogren said, " I had a little problem here last year". Shogren won the 1998 Black Bear despite crashing hard at Spectator Falls. Right behind Shogren was Mike Bowen(1:32:32). Bowen kept Shogren within sight the whole race, and would finish only 5 seconds behind. Mark Smith(1:34:17) finished third overall.

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Sue Haywood getting to know the Black Bear Trail
The first female to cross the finish line was Sue Haywood(1:47:34). Haywood crashed hard at Spectator Falls, but in typical "Sue Haywood" fashion, she wasted no time getting back on her bike, and finishing 1st in the Women's Pro Expert class, and 21st overall. Pro Expert rider Melissa Showman(1:55:19) finished second in her class, and 41st overall, while Sarah Crandell(2:08:06) finished third.

For the Junior Experts, Nick Waite(1:45:02) got the win, and Brett Hixson(1:46:49) and Ryan Hobbs(1:47:40) took 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

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Pablo Martinez jumps out to a quick lead
In the Men's Expert Vet Class, Broc Kaylor(1:44:29) took the checkered flag with Mike Boyes(1:46:09) and Allen Moore(1:47:11) right behind. Other class winners included Pablo Martinez(1:44:50) for the Men's Sport, and Mandi Williams(2:22:13) for the Women's Sport Class. Joe Wharton(1:57:08) was the first Men's Sport Vet to finish, and Gregg McWilliams(2:03:12) won the Men's Master Class. For the Clydesdales, it was John Barnette(1:59:14) earning the win.

Many thanks to Doug Atkins for making this race happen, and to Kanawha State Forest for letting it happen. If you haven't had a chance to be a part of the Black Bear race, make sure you check it out next year, you can bet WVOutside will be back for more.