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Sunday, June 4, 2000 -- Waverly, WV
Challenge at Mountwood
Story and photos by Matt Marcus

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6]

Challenge at Mountwood
Ryan O'Connor, no worse for wear...
Have you ever had the feeling that something is trying to hold you back? Junior expert rider Nick Waite must be wondering about who or what is out to slow him down. Last week on a training ride on a lonely stretch of pavement in Tucker County, Waite was confronted by a pack of snarling dogs that refused to let him pass. Alone, Waite was forced to shoulder his road bike and detour through fields and woods to avoid the canine roadblock.

Fast forward to Sunday at Mountwood Park. Racing his mountain bike on the buff four-wheeler and singletrack trails, Nick wasn't expecting to be delayed again. After the start of the race through the grassy park lands the trail suddenly went vertical, up a series of switchbacks that forced many riders caught in traffic to dismount. At the top of the first climb, before the first road crossing, three riders had established a lead. Mongoose pro Ryan O'Connor(2:12:59) was followed closely by Sobe Headshok's semi-pro John MacInnis(2:14:25) and Nick Waite(2:21:16), riding for Granny Gear Productions.

Challenge at Mountwood
Kevin Leyh flies by on the fast singletrack
Slowly but surely this trio pulled away from a strong group of experts that included Jason Beckley(2:20:14), Benjie Klimas(2:22:58), Mike Bowen(2:25:58), George Willetts(2:24:43), Jason Laxton(2:25:57), Junior-Ex Brett Hixson(2:28:17) and the veteran Gunnar Shogren(2:21:08) (no he's not racing vet class yet!). At the beginning of the second full lap these three were still together and had several minutes on Beckley who had several minutes on everyone else.

On the third and last lap in the 40K event O'Connor pulled away on a hill and gapped MacInnis and Waite. The twists and turns on this fast course are frequent and once a gap of over 20 seconds is established you lose sight of the person in front of you. MacInnis could hear Waites labored breathing behind him on the climbs and decided it was time to attack. With only three miles left to the finish the three leaders were separated and riding alone.

Challenge at Mountwood
Eric McCumbers enjoying some post-race shade
That's when it happened. Just before the race started there had been a power failure and one of the substations was located next to the course. Waite, alone in third place, came up on the substation and a big, obese man stepped out on the racecourse and held out his hand. "Stop, your life is in danger if we have an explosion." What is a sixteen-year-old going to do in this situation? Stop and wait.

Two and a half long minutes later Jason Beckley arrived and rolled to a halt. Thirty seconds later the riders were allowed to continue. "I think he was bonking", Beckley said referring to Waite. Waite later confirmed this and said the three minute delay may have actually helped him recover but it didn't help his overall finish as the top expert riders passed him just before the finish moving him back several spots.

Challenge at Mountwood
Greg Moore in the hills
Waite still won the Junior Expert field followed by a strong Brett Hixson. The cards got shuffled in the Vet Expert class as Allen Moore(2:34:27) came from fourth to first at the end in a hotly contested battle with Brocc Kaylor(2:37:04), Matt Ross(2:35:57) and Steve Thaxton(2:38:34). Despite crashing, chatting and flatting Women's Expert winner Sue Haywood(3:07:47)took the big money followed by WVMBA Point Series leader Mandi Williams(3:22:53) followed by no one leaving good money on the table. Where are the Expert Women!?!

Scott Root(1:34:03) setting up some exciting points racing in the future dethroned Masters untouchable Greg McWilliams(1:40:58).

The race promoters and Park management have created an incredible trail system that was described by racers as "thrilling" and "exciting". If you are ever passing through on Route 50 it is definitely worth stopping to check out. Despite the power problem the race was well organized and top three places in expert classes got to share the generous $2000 cash purse.

Ryan O'Connor improved his time from last year by ten minutes, which is good for him since there were five other guys who also beat last year's winning time. The competition level in the men's field was definitely up a notch from the past and that is a good thing for racing in West Virginia.