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Saturday, August 19, 2000 -- Smoke Hole - Franklin, WV
Gnarly North Fork
Story and photos by Marty Lamp

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5]
[1998 Coverage][1999 Coverage]

Gnarly North Fork
Getting things started in Franklin
Although the 2000 version of the The Gnarly North Fork mountain bike race went nowhere near the famed North Fork trail, it was still quite gnarly, and just as popular with the racers. Due to reasons not always so clear, this classic West Virginia race wasn't allowed on the infamous North Fork Mountain Trail this year, forcing race director Glen Hofecker to round up some help and put down a new course in and around the small town of Franklin.

Coming off a week layoff from the WVMBA Points Series and with only three points series races left, the competition was sure to be fierce. For the first time this season, the biggest class in the race was the Men's Pro/Ex.

Gnarly North Fork
Chris Eatough finishes first
Even though the course may have been different, it started in the same place as years past, at the Franklin Fire House. After Glen started things off with a boom from his muzzle loader, everyone was greeted with pavement for the first few miles, then after coming out of town and crossing a low water bridge, it was time for a climb, and a unique course.

Once riders left the pavement, it was either cranking up steep hills, or descending the backside with some serious speed. Racers got a taste of every kind of terrain along the way, from fields and pastures, to very hazardous downhills and rocky dirt roads past some unlikely, and perhaps unsuspecting, spectators.

Gnarly North Fork
Cassie Smith on one of many climbs
While dropping down to a paved back road, riders had to contend with a wiley canine that would have liked nothing more than to be free from his leash and allowed to join in on the fun, but it wouldn't be. After descending at scary speeds on this paved road, everyone except beginners made a sharp right, and started their second lap with leg pumping climb through fresh terrain.

The word from the majority of the racers was that the second lap was much nicer after the first lap traffic cut in a solid and distiguishable path. The finish line lay at the bottom of the long paved descent, just inside Thorn Springs Park.

Gnarly North Fork
Nick Waite and Jay Duffy in pursuit
To the surprise of very few, it didn't take long for Chris Eatough(2:22:47) and Jeremiah Bishop(2:27:26) to separate themselves from the rest of the chasers. Coming into the beginning of the second lap, Eatough and Bishop had opened up about a 3 minute gap on the closest riders, Junior Ex standout Nick Waite(2:39:34) and Jay Duffy(2:35:03).

However, flat tires were all the rage this day, and at the very top of the last uphill, Bishop realized his back tire was losing air, and was hoping to gingerly descend the last downhill, and make it to the finish without a stop. But after hearing, and feeling, the sharp knock of rocks on his back rim, he lost sight of Eatough, and was forced to fix the flat. Eatough would cruise to the finish first, with Bishop coming in less than 5 minutes back, and Duffy over 12 minutes back of the lead

Mike Capraro(2:39:08) had very little trouble continuing his recent domination of the Men's Vet Ex class, finishing a strong 4th place overall, while holding off Nick Waite by less than 30 seconds, who finished first for the Men's Junior Ex's, and 5th overall.

Gnarly North Fork
You want me to climb this!
Coming back from the west side of the continent, the ever-amazing Sue Haywood(2:49:27) only seems to be getting stronger with each race. Haywood methodically picked her way through the field to easily get the Women's Pro/Ex win by 40 minutes, while finishing 9th overall!

Other class winners include Joey Riddle(3:16:34) for the Men's Sports, Bill Lane(3:25:47) for the Men's Masters, and Rick Elkins(3:01:42) for the Men's Vet Sports. Dannie Hillery(3:46:32) continued to lead the way for the Clydesdales, and Matt McDonald(3:38:51) took first place honors for the highly competitive Men's Junior Sports.

This classic race was just what one should expect from Glen Hofecker and his crew; a tough, surprising course that treats racers to a cross section of Appalachia, then rewards them with some outstanding food and cash/prizes afterwards. There was absolutely no reason for anyone to leave this race without a full belly and a big smile on their face.