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Sunday, July 21, 2002 -- Kanawha State Forest - Charleston, WV
Black Bear Mountain Bike Race - WVMBA Pts. #8 (iPO Event Id#: 4793)
Story and photos by Don Parks

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7]
Past Black Bear Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001]

Race Pic
Fat tires take on the Black Bear
West Virginia's Kanawha State Forest was at its best for the 2002 version of the Black Bear mountain bike race. The conditions were excellent, even if the heat was seasonal for mid-July, and it included a full helping of nasty singletrack downhills (the kind the hardcore mountain bikers love) with everything else thrown in.

The expert classes got the early start and a little extra prologue added to their course. Hammering off the front early was Huntington's Mike Carpenter, but Pennsylvania's TJ Platt and local rider Clay Evans were keeping him in sight.

Carpenter couldn't keep up his early intensity on the long course and soon it was Evans leading with Platt in close pursuit. But the problems for the new leader would not come just from the competition. Racing on a new set of tubeless tires, Evans day would end with the misfortune of an irreparable flat tire. After the race the Worldwide Chiropractic rider admitted, "I had problems testing these tires out the other day and I should have known not to race them today."

Race Pic
Jason Means fights the Bear with a cross bike
Taking full advantage of the situation, Dirty Harry's Platt cruised on to a big win with the only sub two-hour time at 1:55:44. "I trained recently with three centuries in one week, and it all came together for me today," he revealed after his second win on the 2002 WVMBA Points Series. He's certainly starting to like this course having now one the race two years in a row.

Also putting in an impressive ride was the Fairmont phenom, Johnathan Martin. He only seemed to get stronger as the race went on and used the final hike-a-bike to shed Carpenter and take second overall at 2:03:25. Carpenter did manage to hold on for third at 2:06:20 with Ben Klimas closing fast for fourth at 2:06:57.

On the expert women's side, Sarah Crandall-Fletcher flexed her muscles and cruised to another win at 2:27:07, while her competition was fighting it out for second. Melissa Showman hung with Mandi Riddle for most of the race, but was also dropped on the final hike-a-bike. Riddle took second at 2:37:36 followed by Showman at 2:41:32 for third.

Race Pic
Sweating down the gnarly singletrack
Even though they raced shorter courses, the sport and beginner classes couldn't escape the heat. Handling the challenging course and energy zapping weather the best was Sport Men's Rick Bowman who completed the intermediate course in 1:46:42. Not far back in second was Clay Jarrett at 1:47:37.

At the beginner distance, and having the good fortune of skirting the final hike-a-bike, Brian Hilbert took the win at 1:43:36 with no one close behind. It was almost ten minutes later that second place finisher Jeff Spradling (1:53:13) found the line followed closely by third place Daniel Toney (1:54:18). Then almost another 15 minutes later came fourth overall on the short course, Under 14 Junior class winner Cale DeVall who finished at 2:07:41.

It would still be over another two hours before the final weary riders made it to the finish in the hot afternoon sun. Luckily there was plenty of shade lining the finish area as well as tents with plenty of cool refreshments (and lots of free pizza at the awards!) While they don't recommend this race for riders under 14, more experienced riders were all talking about how great it is to ride the Black Bear.