Share |

Sunday, August 6, 2006 -- Zaleski, OH
Race to the Hills - WVMBA # 9 (iPO Event Id#: 7329)

[Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results] [Results by Class] [Photos]

Story and photos by Julie Black

Photo by Julie Black
Enjoying all the park's anemities
This dual points race, part of the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship (OMBC) series and in the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association (WVMBA) series is hopefully just the start of more combo, super-size-me, Appalachian mountain bike events.

The race had 215 racers overall, of those, 81 racers were new and had not raced an OMBC event before. About 65 of those riders were members of WVMBA. Many were excited to have new challengers, WVMBA and OMBC combined has many talented riders. Set in Lake Hope State Park, its land is entirely within the 26,824-acre Zaleski State Forest in the valley of Big Sandy Run. Remnants of abandoned mining and iron producing industries amid the beautiful scenery provide interest and pleasure for any rider or spectator for that matter, not to mention the amazing trail system.

Photo by Julie Black
Thumbs up to Athens Bicycle Club and the OMBC
The trails are maintained extremely well by the folks of Athens Bicycle Club, a local cycling club that includes many members of Athens Bicycle's Racing Team. The legalization of the park's mountain bike trails began in 1988 with the blessing of park officials. Athens Bicycle store owner, Pete Kotses, and other dedicated local cyclists attended the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Trail building School and began to build single-track mountain bike trails at Lake Hope.

Now, some 18-years later, the park's extensive trail system still grows thanks to many of the same people. The newest edition, Yosemite, was blazed as part of the Pro/Expert section for the Race to the Hills. This sweet, single-track downhill is so freshly cut that it's not even on the Athens Bicycle Lake Hope State Park MTB trail map yet. As new as it is, it was in impeccable condition, a perfect ride for anyone who loves a good dirt-packed, fern growth, fast section.

Photo by Julie Black
Uphill in the heat to finish
To get to the park, one must weave in and out of winding roads and Wayne National Forest, the only National Forest in Ohio. About 2 5 minutes outside of Lake Hope State Park is the small town of Nelsonville, population 5,230. That's where I had the best cup of Joe this side of the west coast at The Coffee Cup Restaurant. I had to mention it, and yes it was that great of a place. It's well worth the drive.

The race start and finish was set up in the camping section, complete with swing sets, bike booths, and food, a very family friendly venue. I headed to a section of trail close to the beginning. A short winding downhill that intersected with another flat section before heading uphill again. Unlike West Virginia where much of the trails have a lot of rocks and roots, these Ohio trails were very rock-root free, and hard packed. I'm sure the WVMBA riders enjoyed the change. With shirt in tow, bathing suit top on, and wearing more bug spray than an Alaskan fisherman in June, I set up shop with the tree ants.

Photo by Julie Black
Platt proves himself in Ohio
Riders verbally pushed one another and some even took on the cowboy role and herded the "cattle" towards a creek crossing at the bottom of the hill. "Come on guys!" I heard one of them shout. I seemed to take many racers by surprise at the turn. I usually do, hidden in the brush motionless like mountain lion ready to pounce, most riders yell, "Critters!" when they see me thinking I'm sort of woodland animal most of the time.

The current leaders of both series, Dave Walker (OMBC), and T.J. Platt (WVMBA), jockeyed for the top spot from beginning to end. Walker lead in the beginning, but it was Platt who used the new downhill to his advantage to lead in the end by over a minute with a time of 2:05:50. Platt races for Dirty Harry's Bike Shop in PA. Ohio racer Walker claimed 2nd in 2:06:36. Also out of Ohio, Thomas Herman (2:11:32), rounded out the top 3. WV's Gunnar Shogren finished just 14 seconds behind Herman to take 1st in the single speed open.

Photo by Julie Black
Betsy Shogren's smiley race face
In a field of 9 Pro-Women, currently 3rd overall in the WVMBA Series, Betsy Shogren, rode her way to claim the top spot in 2:30:46. Visibly winded thanks to the extreme heat conditions, Shogren still kept ahead of Ohio's Tiffany Kenny (2:41:54) who finished 2nd. Mandi Riddle (2:47:20), 4th overall in WVMBA's Series, crossed for a strong 3rd place finish.

Top Expert Vet was Ohio's Chris Skinner (2:14:27), and Expert Master of the day was WVMBA's Matt Marcus (2:30:33). Expert Jr. from WV Morgan Miller took top honors in 2:27:46. Ten competitors showed for the Vet Women's class with Maryland's Audrey Kennedy on top in 1:35:46.

Photo by Julie Black
Ready for some good eats
The Sport Men's class was 29 strong with all 3 top spots going to Ohio riders. Duncan Oliver blazed in at 1:22:52. Eric Peters (1:23:59), and Robert Kranz (1:24:25) took home 2nd and 3rd. Sport Women's top finisher was WVMBA's Lori Ware dominating her field with a time of 1:45:59. The Sport Vet Men's class had 25 riders, and PA's Henry Jr Spreng lead the race in that category with a time of 1:23:36. He also leads the WVMBA Men's Sport Vet series race with 118 points so far. Bruce Williams, also of PA, finished 1st in the Sport Masters Men class in 1:27:27.

The top High School finishers were both from Ohio. For the women it was beginner Sydney Schulz with a time of 1:14:04, and for the men, Whitney Jones (1:23:43) of the sport class. Henry Spring of PA took home the top Jr. Men's prize with a time of 49:45.

Photo by Julie Black
Blood and sweat, but no tears
This race had more beginners than I've seen in a long time and that's a really great sight to see. How many to be exact? Well, 38 beginner riders combined in the Beginners Class, plus 12 other beginners in other categories. The top men and women beginners were from Ohio, with Jennifer Peters (1:02:25) finishing 1st for the women out of 8 bikers and Nick Devore (47:47) finished 1st out of a field of 30 beginner men.

All 30 beginner men completed the course with no bonks or DNFs, great job.

Afterwards, an excellent feast was provided, and racers took cover under anything they could. It was a hot, hot day, and I was happy to be prepared and offer any rider who needed extra water a swig from my bottle. The OMBC put on an awesome race, and it was great to have it as a part of the WVMBA series. The more cross-overs in the future, the better I say. Now, if we could just get some lower gas prices!