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Sunday, July 20, 2008 -- Fairmont, WV / Valley Falls State Park
Valley Falls Challenge - WVMBA #11 (iPO Event Id#: 10567)

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

Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001]

The Return of Valley Falls

Story by J.R. Petsko

Racer Meeting
Getting the low down on the new course at Valley Falls
For the first time since 2001 the WVMBA series made a stop at beautiful Valley Falls State Park. The return of the race brought with it a new course, new race director and a few new trails. Last year's Men's Sport series champion Jason Martin decided to try his hand at putting on a race instead of racing for this one.

The first year race director did a fantastic job with his first race. As the races showed up Sunday morning for registration they were welcome with free Star Bucks Coffee that the race offered to competitors and race fans. After the drive over from Davis a hot cup of Joe was a welcome site.

Even with gas prices up it couldn't keep over 90 racers away from Valley Falls. Though of us who remember the race from back in the day knew of the extremely long and fun downhills that awaited us and those who were new to the race were in for a treat. The new course that Jason Martin designed kept the great parts of races past and added some new and challenging trails to it.

At the start it would be the expert riders who got to go first. The beginning of the race would prove to be a real testament of what the riders would face all day. The first mile was straight up the black top road towards the Rangers station. It was a leg burner that divided the field early. First to the top hitting the single track was Johnny Martin on his single speed but Nick Waite was hot on his tail.

Race Start
Off and racing on a beautiful day in the park
Following the two leaders were some of the fastest mountain biker on the East Coast including Ben Ortt, Jason Cyr, Gunnar Shogren, Benji Klimas, Justin Pokrivka, the Rowand's and Andy Wiedrich. Even with those fast riders at the race it was clear that this race was going to be decided by who could climb the best. Look at my GPS info from the race and you will see why.

The expert riders are not the only people racing with tuff competition these days. The men's sport class has quickly become the class to watch in the past few weeks. With riders like Tim Bishop, Ryan Hobbs, Chet-Mun Liew, Donald Powers, and Aaron Shelmire all fighting for the series title racing has been tight and intense.

Once again I found myself with my WV Cannondale 29'ers kit on at the starting shoulder to shoulder with these fast guys. It's been fun and extremely painful at time but I still think there is no better way to report on the race.

So while I struggled with one of the many steep climbs out on the course the leader of the race started to lap me. Out front was Nick Waite, who finished 16th in the Pro class the day before at USA Cycling Nationals in Mount Snow, VT. All the climbing on the course really suited the strengths of Waite as he held over a six minute lead on the next rider.

Half way through the race Jason Cyr was holding down the second spot but Ben Ortt made the pass on Cyr and in Jason Cyr's own words, "He turned the screw on me and I just couldn't climb with him."

Chasing points in the WVMBA series
Waite would go on to win in a time of 1:57:53 and was the only rider to finish the race in less than two hours. Ben Ortt climbed his way to second crossing the line in 2:04:06.

Cyr was able to hold onto the third spot in the Pro/Expert class in 2:06:11. A hard charging Andy Wiedrich took fourth in the class with a 2:08:12. Thanks for the push Andy! Fifth went to Justin Pokrivka, who just the day before at nationals made the podium with a third place in his age category.

Seventh in the race went to Gunnar Shogren who had all kinds of bike problems at Nationals but was still able to come away with a 13th and a busted open leg. Thanks Klara for patching him up. Ninth went to Morgan Miller who raced against the best 17-18 year olds the country as to offer at Mount Snow and came away with a 7th place.

In the Expert Women's class things were wide open with Betsy Shogren taking the race off to nurse a sore thumb which see got in her two races at Nationals the day before. On a side note Betsy Shogren won the National Championship in the Women single speed class and on the same day was able to record a top 25 in the Women's Pro class.

So, with Betsy out for the day, the battle would be between Mandi Riddle and Ruth Cunningham. Riddle would end up crossing the line first in 2:59:06. Second went to Cunningham in 3:15:46. Cunningham also made the trip to Vermont to take part in the nationals and came away with a third place podium spot.

In the single speed class it was Benji Klimas putting the hammer down on all others. Klimas took the class win in 2:07:20. Chris McGill took second in 2:15:51. Like many other in the race McGill was at Nationals and still made the long drive home to take part in the WVMBA race.

Valley Falls
WVMBA make a triumphant return to Valley Falls
Mcgill took 7th in his class at Nationals on his single speed. One would wonder what he would have done on a geared bike. Third went to Robbie Loehr in 2:20:24. Sixth in the class went to Aron "LB" Yevuta who finished 13th the day before at nationals in a stacked single speed class.

The Expert Master win went to Matt Marcus in 2:25:06, Marcus also competed at National and finished in 7th place in his class for the second year in a row. At Valley Falls Marcus had the toughest race he has seen all year. Mike Boyes finished just 49 seconds behind Marcus to take second. Matt Ross was in third in 2:45:10.

For the Men's Sport class it was Aaron Shelmire taking the win in 1:26:11. Tim Bishop took second in 1:28:04 holding of Chet-Mun "Larry" liew who finished in 1:30:31.Fourth went to Dusty Arbogast in 1:36:46 and fifth was Mike Pavsek in 1:37:45.

In case you wonder I suffered my way to a fifth place finish out of five, but it was a lot of fun. I want to say that Jason Martin put on a first class event and hope he does it again in 2009. Next up one the calendar is a visit to Gary Morefield and the Little Beaver Chainring Challenge. See you all Sunday!