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Sunday, April 13, 2003 -- Big Bear Lake - Bruceton Mills, WV
Big Bear Lake MTB - WVMBA Pts. #3 (iPO Event Id#: 5320)
Story and photos by Don Parks

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8] [Set 9]
[Set 10] [Set 11] [Set 12] [Set 13] [Set 14]
Past Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001] [2002]

One Specialized clydesdale,
comin' at ya
Beauty day to be outside enjoying the singletrack at Big Bear Lake... or to be punished by it. The WVMBA series completed race #3, and both the expert men's and women's fields had new winners atop the finish boards.

Rumor had it that Gunnar Shogren was at the venue during registration. Was he here to defend his title from last fall's Big Bear?

Sure enough a car parked next to the registration entrance had an older model Diamondback Team Issue strapped to the roof. It was definitely Gunnar's bike, but where was Gunnar?

Checking inside with race director Bob Vernon, he tells us he hasn't seen Gunnar. But then went on to say they had talked on the phone the previous night and the topic was this race.

Kids Race
Even the kids weren't afraid of Big Bear
Next a check with Bob's son Jesse, who was helping register riders. Nope, not registered. But what's up with the bike, the yellow DBR Team Issue, we continue to inquire. Now Jesse had an answer, it was his bike! As it turns out he had bought it from Gunnar a while back. So the old-timer was a no-show.

Never mind Gunnar, he was missing out, and all the regular fun-hogs were certainly up for the task. A fast road start and then a ton of relentless singletrack for a total 15 mile loop for experts and sports. Beginners and a few others did a modified loop that was shorter and faster with less single track and more gravel road. The lucky experts were sent out to complete the beginner loop after finishing the long loop.

With last week's pro/expert men's winner, Jonathan Martin (Specialized), losing his rear derailleur early, it looked to be another duel between Clay Evans (WV MTB Team) and TJ Platt (Dirty Harrys / Team OST2). But that was only until Evans flatted and eventually was forced out of the race. (Kudos to Martin who rigged his bike into a single-speed and still managed to finish the race.)

Race Pic
Things got a little technical out there
Platt still found plenty of company at the front as Shawn Altizer was back and hungry after his disappointing DNF the week before. Then there was that pesky junior expert Bryan Fawley (WV MTB Team) who surged up with Platt and the leaders early, even after having to make up 30 seconds as a results of the staggered start.

When it was all sorted out, Platt revealed he was feeling good this day, and that showed as he took the win over Altizer, 1:55:14 to 1:55:41. Fawley was impressive in grabbing third overall, and the jr. expert win, hammering to a 1:59:33.

Benji Klimas came through at 2:02:15 to claim fourth overall and third in pro/expert, his best finish this year. But the rumors that Dave Flemming was running in fourth for the expert men, could not be confirmed. [Ed. Note: It's official, he didn't get fourth.]

For the women, we asked Mandi Riddle before the race if she was going to three-peat after her wins in this year's first two WVMBA series events. Before she could answer, Cassie Smith spoke up and stated, "I sure hope not!" Smith was just hoping not to repeat as Riddle's runner-up, as had happened the previous week at Mountwood.

Cassie Smith goes on a mission
Smith's jovial mood for the morning translated into a good day on the bike as she kept pushing the pace the whole race for a dominating 2:24:02 win. Joey Riddle took the blame for his wife Mandi maybe not being at her best, even though she finished second at 2:32:14.

Mr. Riddle was involved in a brutal crash at Mountwood that laid him up for most of the week. He confided, while watching the racing from the sidelines this week, that his wife spent a lot of time taking good care of him, when she could have been on her bike or getting some rest. But he's looking to be back to racing in two weeks at ACE, and he'll be glad to be back off the sidelines (and the wife will be glad he is, too).

For those that did get out at Black Bear, all sorts of awards for all the various class winners awaited (too numerous to mention them all). And everyone enjoyed plenty of fruit, drinks, Clif Bars, and even a pasta feast after the race. Throw it all together with a day of sunshine, and it was nothing less than another fine day on the 2003 WVMBA series tour. And there's a whole lot more waiting where this came from!