Sunday, August 6, 2000 -- Slatyfork, WV
WV Fat Tire Festival
Story and photos by Marty Lamp
Recent rains have turned the trails into a maze of rocks, roots, and
oh yes, lots of mud. No worries, though, this is the Fat Tire
Festival, and these are mountain bikers, they don't complain about
what Mother Nature hands them, they just ride through it.
These guys, and one very tough woman, are about to head out on some
70K of the harshest mountain biking West Virginia can throw down. At
about 9:45 am they embark on their day's journey. I am not envious of
what lies ahead of them, and I smile with admiration as each rider
The start of a race is always a real cool time. The collective energy
of 150 racers minutes before the start is extremely contagious. If
you're not racing, you are talking about when you did, or about the
loved one you are here to watch. Everyone is out here for their own
reason, but they all have the same goal... get to the finish as fast
as their body will allow.
My best chance for getting pictures of everyone on a course like this dictates that I go to the finish and travel the trail backwards. After receiving lot's of friendly advice on the best place to get pictures, I head to the finish and hit the trail.
I decide to walk until I run into a racer, and along the way, my
attention is diverted. I don't know why, but when I have a camera in
my hand, I find myself chasing butterflies. Maybe it's their silence,
or the fact that their life is so temporary. It could be that they
never stay in the same place for long.
I turn and there is Chris
Scott(3:57:46) blazing by. I know this guy is super fast, and
he's won the last three Wild 100's, so he know's this terrain very
well, but I really didn't expect to see him so soon. I tell myself to
quit being a goofball and chasing butterflies. I keep walking.
I keep walking and a few minutes later I pass Kevin
Wetzel(4:14:00). He has that far away gaze of exhaustion, but he's
right there, grabbing second for the XXC. A young but determined
Danny Wilson(2:14:07) comes pedaling by. He's gonna win his
class, too. I am continually coming up on the 20K racers, and am a
little surprised not to see the speedsters yet. It must be a really
rough course, I think to myself.
I finally make it to some of the heinous singletrack, and after being goaded for water and/or food by every racer that passes by, I see Scott Young(3:07:33), with George Willetts(3:09:02), and Bob Vernon(3:07:15) chasing hard less than 50 yards back. This is where I get the news.
The lead pack took a wrong turn some two miles into the race. No markers, no course marshalls, nothing except a fork in the trail and a 50/50 guess. Young, Willetts, and Vernon have quite a bit of biking experience in Slatyfork, and the three stopped at the unmarked fork and weighed their options, and decided to go with their gut feelings, which kept them on the right course.
Vernon would go on to get the overall win, and when asked if he had
anything to say afterwards, he said goodnaturedly, "When you come to
Slatyfork, you had better check the trailmap!"
As the remainder of the racers come streaming by, I am constantly asked the same questions; "How far to the finish", and " Do you have any water?" I look at my watch and realize that it has been almost 5 hours since the start, and still a great number of people are out.
How many racers got lost? I don't know. Why were there no water stops? I don't know. Is it that hard to make sure a course is at least minimally marked? No, it isn't. Will finding whoever is responsible and beating them to a pulp make it better? Nope. Does it suck when something like this happens? Oh yes.
Will you get back on your bike and ride? Undoubtedly. Will you look back and laugh (if you haven't already)? Yep. It's a bike race, nothing more, nothing less. For some, it's how they make their living, but for most, it's how they spend it. So get on your bike and be the butterfly... just riding in the wind.