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