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Saturday, September 13, 2008 -- Bruceton Mills, WV / Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake MTB Ultra - WVVUS #7 (iPO Event Id#: 10579)

[Details] [Coverage] [Photos] [Overall Results] [Results by Class] [2007 Coverage]

Story and photos by Don Parks.

Mike Boyes
"You want me to ride 50 miles of THIS!?"
The rains passed before the start of the 2008 Big Bear Lake MTB Ultra but the moisture remained in the air. The racers would spend most of their time traveling through a fog over wet ground. On an already extremely technical 50-mile course these conditions were going to make it even more challenging.

Almost a third of the starters (11 out of 36) would not finish the complete course with nine DNFs and two not making the cutoff time for the fourth aid station. As advertised, "It is a mountain bike race that tests the participants' endurance and ability. Only well conditioned cyclists should attempt this event."

If you want a nice easy ultra I suggest the Shenandoah Mountain 100 (no offense to the SM100, I did it last year and had a blast and hope to do it again next year). Sure it boasts twice the actually distance as Big Bear but I'd wager that Big Bear has more technical single-track in the first 25 miles than the entire SM100.

I heard more than one rider mutter disparaging words regarding race director Mark Schooley for the brutal course (some of that should probably be directed at Schooley's co-conspirator in course creation, Benji Klimas). It's like Canaan's Revenge of the Rattlesnake, a course you just love to hate.

Hole Shot
Benji and Gunnar race for the hole shot
The race start provided a prologue of maybe a quarter-mile before heading into the woods. The battle for the hole-shot was between Klimas and Gunnar Shogren and soon after that it was no surprise that Klimas was leading the way on his home course (he lives just down the road from Big Bear).

I caught back up with the leaders as they headed through "The Pines" and aid station one, maybe eight miles in after almost an hour of racing. Klimas had built a sizable gap ahead of Andy Wiedrich who had a small gap on Jonathan Martin who had Shogren on his wheel.

The next time I'd see the leaders was at the bottom of the gnarliest, hand numbing, downhill on the course. This was roughly at the 35-mile mark, 3 1/2 hours into the race. It was no surprise to see Klimas still out in front but I didn't expect to see the next rider so soon.

I had heard reports from aid station two, about a third of the way through the course, that Klimas was far ahead. But at the bottom of the wicked descent Shogren was running a strong second less than three minutes back. The always sociable Shogren mentioned as he sped past that I had missed an excellent photo opportunity further up the hill. "I saw my life flash before my eyes!", he shouted referring to what I assume must have been an incredible crash narrowly avoided. Maybe it was an omen...

Marc Glass
Marc's fun would end with a broken frame
These two leaders had distanced themselves from the battle behind them with a gap of 20 minutes on Martin and Wiedrich. Martin was winning this battle as he had a gap of five minutes on Wiedrich. I would later learn that Wiedrich was leading until a flat let Martin get by. He managed to reel him back in and pass him again until a second flat allowed Martin to pass him again, this time for good.

I took some more pictures as the riders made their way to the bottom of the descent and as Betsy Shogren came past I let her know that she was running twelfth overall, "and first woman" I added in my best Captain Obvious voice. The always positive Mrs. Shogren retorted on my twelfth overall information, "I still have a lot of time to catch them!" Surely that was in jest, or was it?

I made my way back to the finish area where I learned that Klimas had already finished after leading the race wire-to-wire with a time of 4:53:43. The curious thing was that Martin had just finished as I arrived to take second place, almost a half hour behind Klimas, at 5:21:38. What happened to Shogren?

Betsy Shogren
Betsy makes her way through the foggy pines
I asked Martin if he had passed Gunnar and "No" was his reply. Wiedrich soon arrived to take third overall at 5:29:36. He, too, had not seen any sign of Shogren. Finally any worry was put to rest as Shogren eventually made his way to the finish at 6:10:13, in eleventh place.

Although Shogren had earlier seen his life flash before his eyes it seems he failed to see a turn out on the incredibly rough gravel/dirt road loop. His mistake added another twelve miles to his day and practically made his ride a metric century. He shrugged off his misfortune and suggested that he wanted to get in some extra miles.

Meanwhile Ms. Shogren had done her part to reel in riders as she had previously stated was her plan. She methodically moved up through the field to finish in seventh place overall in a time of 5:50:52. She almost had sixth overall but was edged at the line by Chris Phillips who was given a time of 5:50:51.

The last rider to complete the whole course was Holly Forsyth in a time of 8:02:24. Congratulations to her as the second female finisher giving the ladies a perfect record with no DNFs. And my apologies to her and my annoying camera flash while she was trying to negotiate the tricky trails. I really don't think this course needed any additional challenges.