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Sunday, April 22, 2001 -- Valley Falls State Park, WV
First Exchange Bank Valley Falls Challenge - WVMBA Point Series #3 (iPO Event Id#: 2621)
Story by Dave McKain with photos by Julie Black and Diane Clothier

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8] [Set 9]
Past Coverage: 1998 1999 2000

Valley Falls Challenge
It's a close race to the finish at Valley Falls
Over 180 mountain bikers took on the trails of Valley Falls State Park in the First Exchange Bank Valley Falls Challenge. With a bit of trail maintenence and not too much rain in the previous week, the course was dry (compared to previous years) and relatively fast. Changes in the course from previous races included incorporating two fresh trails into the loop which, to the delight of many racers, eliminated a long section of road and parking lot riding. The temperature at race time was uncharateristically warm for April with forecasts calling for near 80 degree temps by mid-afternoon. Quite a change from the previous series race where, unfortunately, temps went from the low 50's to near freezing 30 minutes after the start of the race. Needlesss to say, by July, racers will be jonesing for cooler weather.

Valley Falls Challenge
While dry, the roots are still slippery
The course for the race started from the parking lot at the falls and worked its way downriver along a fire/access road for about a mile before turning away from water and starting to climb. The first set of climbs were over technical mixed single/double track trail before the course leveled out again for a half-mile recovery before assaulting the steep "triple climbs" to the summit. Once at the top, riders started to bomb down the grassy trail. While the section was fast and open, it was not without its perils, the worst of which being a dogleg/off-camber turn which took its toll on the unwary and unlucky. Fortunately, instead of rocks to stop their slide, a nice set of briers lay in wait to soften falls. After crossing the road, the riders then headed down Red Fox trail: A technical singletrack with several severe switchbacks to test both the skill and the courage of the riders. The trail descended over 500 ft back to the river through the twisty singletrack before depositing the riders on the Deer Trail and the gradual ascent to the finish line (or more for 2 and 3 lap racers). For the 2 and 3 lap racers, the end of the Deer Trail meant a descent into the fresh cut singletrack that incorporated several "optional" routes to avoid some significant but rideable obstacles. After crossing the picnic aread it was back to the singletrack for about 1/4 mile befreo heading back along the starting portion of the singletrack.

In the Expert/Pro class, it was Nick Waite and TJ Platt battling for the lead at the end of the first lap with Jason Laxton, Benji Klimas and Clay Evans not far behind. At the end of the second of lap, Waite and Platt were still duking it out at the front while Laxton continued his chase. Over the third lap, Waite picked up the pace and, in the process, built a lead on Platt which he would hold to the finish to take his first WVMBA Point Series Pro/Expert class win with a time of 1:41:57. Platt crossed the line in second at (1:43:08) while Laxton (1:46:18) and Klimas (1:47:25) rounded out the top 4.

Valley Falls Challenge
Say Ahhhhhhhh!
In the Junior Expert Class, Anthony Schwartz put the pedal down in the second lap to move from fourth place to 1st - putting almost two minutes on the chasing David Layman and Kevin Peters. Over the final lap, Peters faded while Layman kept up the chase. As they worked their way to the finish line, Layman pushed to close the gap as Schwartz kept looking over his shoulder. In the end, Layman was not able to close the gap, finishing 15 seconds back of Schwartz (2:07:00). Kevin Peters took third in the class at 2:13:11.

In the Vet Expert class, Steve Thaxton (Fresh off the red-eye from Las Vegas), rode his Jekyl to a win with a time of 2:00:58 while Bob Vernon (2:04:27) was able to overtake Mike Boyes (2:05:05 - 3rd Place) in the third lap to take second place. In the Womens Expert class, Cassie Smith (2:16:52) took first place honors while Mandi Riddle (2:24:06) and Laurie Johnston (2:52:04) took second and third respectively.

Steve Barbe (1:16:53 - 2 Laps) led the sport class followed by Joseph Stone (1:17:41) and Ian Custer (1:19:20). The Sport Veterans didn't slouch - with Patrick Kildow (1:20:10) and Ed Lustic (1:20:12) racing in a sprint finish with the fourth and fifth best times of the two-lap racers. Matt McDonald (1:26:45) held off Danny Wilson (1:27:03) to take top honors in the Jr. Sport class. In other 2-lap classes, Bruce Wohleber (1:28:52) took the Masters win, Don Waterhouse (1:35:24) edged Shandon Hime (1:35:36) in the Mens Clydesdale, and Stacey Levendorf (1:52:16) won the Womens Sport class.

In the 1 Lap race, Eric Serdoz (44:21) took first place honors overall and in the Junior (14-under) class. Tim Andrew (45:29) and Bruce Williams (47:07) took first and second respectively in the Mens Beginner class while Angela Shoemaker (54:59) and Nichole Custer (55:48) finished first and second in the Womens Beginner class.

Valley Falls Challenge
Karen Jones lovin' that singletrack
Although the results took a while (I'll take Bob Vernons advice for the next time), the race was a great success, raising over $2000 for the Valley Falls Foundation through a sponsorship from the First Exchange Bank and exposing many new riders to the mountain biking opportunities at the park. Kudos to all the volunteers who helped pull the race off including Marianne Moran of the Fairmont CVB, Ron Faucet (Park Superintendent) who had to deal with a search/recovery mission at the falls for 2 weeks prior to the race, Denny Martin and the rest of the foundation members, Benji Klimas and Jonathan Martin who assisted with course marking and trail maintenence/construction, and Mark Schooley (Big Bear MTB Race Promoter) who assisted with scoring and rode a "sweep" lap after the race. It takes a lot of people and a lot of effort to pull off a successfull race and I certainly neglected to mention some of their names - that doesn't mean that their assistance was not greatly appreciated. To everyone involved, (racers, volunteers, parents and spouses)
Thanks