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Sunday, March 30, 2008 -- Pipestem, WV / Pipestem Resort State Park WV
Pipestem Challenge - WVMBA #1 (iPO Event Id#: 10557)

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WVMBA Delivers, Through Snow, Wind, Rain...

Article by Don Parks, photos by Drew Smithberger

Prologue Loop
Fighting for position during the prologue loop
Springtime racing at Pipestem Resort State Park returned to the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association (WVMBA) series for 2008. In the past the race has been plagued with early spring cold weather, snow, and/or mud. But leading up to this year's race the ground was dry and the forecast promised nice weather. And then came race day...

March in Appalachia is certainly a time when, to borrow from Will Rogers, "If you don't like the weather, just wait and it will change." I suppose this applies to forecasts as well, and in the case that you actually like the weather.

Sunday came after a night of cold rain and as the riders were being called to the 12:30 pre-race meeting the temperature was hovering around 33 degrees F in overcast skies. The once dry course had quickly changed to many sections of mud, but at least it wasn't snowing.

Spring Colors
Breaking out the colors for spring racing
The riders were dressed for the occasion and the enthusiasm to get out racing again was obvious. There were even a nice group of first time XC racers out to give competitive mountain biking a try. Among them was eleven year-old Zen Clements with his dad as coach and videographer and the not so young David Rainey with his wife and daughters there as his personal cheering section. Always good to see new faces at the races.

After a prologue loop it was one 7-mile lap for the beginners, two for the intermediate classes, and a total of three for the experts. So the first to see the finish line after just 57 minutes of racing was the Men's Beginner class winner Ryan Claeys followed by the only other sub-hour racer in Ben Clarks who scored second in 59:46.

Other one lap class winners included the impressive eleven year-old Clements in the Men 14 & Under who was the fourth of the ten one lap racers in 1:07:23. He'll be twelve in April and looks to have a nice racing career in front of him if that's what he decides to do with his talents. Props, too, for Amy Webb the only women's beginner who finished in 1:22:46.

Whatever the weather, we'll whether the weather, with a smile
In the two lap divisions the race to the finish was dominated by Men's Sport riders Derek Dotson and Scott Cardwell. They battled to the finish well ahead of the rest of the field with Dotson (1:25:53) edging out Cardwell (1:25:57). For their efforts they were jeered at the awards for potential sandbagging. We'll wait for some bigger races before we declare this designation legitimate.

The third overall two-lap finisher arrived a little over thirteen minutes later. That was the well represented Men's High School class winner Kevin Deal (1:39:19). Fifth overall was Men's Sport Masters winner Steven Thorne (1:46:00) with the Men's Sport Vet winner, Stephan Harp (1:50:04), finishing eighth overall.

For the women it was Anne Gray (1:53:21) taking the Sport win. And for the big boys it was Jim Hampton (2:06:52) rolling across the line for the Clydesdale victory.

In the three-lap expert field defending WVMBA Series champion Steve Hill was out to start his title defense sporting the yellow (or gold some would say) #1 number plate. Despite the impressive bling his lack of winter training left him chasing the leaders and finishing fourth at 1:58:22. His penance for not being quite up to form was extra work helping set up and take down the race course. This was much appreciated by race director Joe Blair.

On the prowl
Keeping a close eye on the rider ahead
Showing better form was the expert field winner, Aaron Snyder (1:51:31), sporting his Virginia Tech racing outfit. Not far behind was Shawn Altizer (1:53:09) for second and Matt Miller (1:55:51) in third.

The Spreng family was back flexing their cardiovascular muscles with Henry Spreng Sr. winning the Expert Vet class in 2:02:15 with Henry Spreng Jr. winning Expert Junior in 2:07:31. It looks like the father son battle is getting pretty close this year.

Matt Marcus took a strong start to defending his Expert Masters title winning the class in 2:20:16. The first Women's Expert win of the year went to Sara Bresnick-Zocchi in 2:22:09.

Out of 64 starters only four didn't complete their races as a light rain began to fall at the end of the racing. However, the temperature did warm up to almost forty degrees. Andrew Walker was the last to finish at just over three hours with several stops to try and warm his hands. Just finishing the race still earned him 12 series points in the Expert Men's field and that was all the motivation he needed.

Aaron Snyder
Expert winner Aaron Snyder sneaks a peek over his shoulder
Finish fast, finish last, or just show up at the race and you earned a fabulous catered meal of lasagna with all the fixings. You also helped raise $1,300.00 for the race beneficiary, the Mercer County Spay Association.

All this goodness wouldn't be possible without the generosity of the event sponsors, Adventures Bike Shop, Veterinary Associates, Marshall Miller and Associates, Cole Honda Nissan Subaru Kia, First Century Bank, Crichton Wealth Management of Wachovia Securities, Nestle Purina, Butler Animal Health, N.L.S. Animal Health, and Merial.

A big thanks goes out to Gary Moorefield for all his help supporting first time race director Joe Blair. Joe also was fortunate to have Lisa Huff helping out with water stations, and Jill Ryan and Jordann Foreman for helping out with registration and at the finish line. Thanks to all these volunteers and the good natured racers, Dr. Blair is ready to do it all again next year.