Thursday, July 22, 2010

ben to west virgina

Anyone who knows me, knows that Canaan Valley in Davis WV is one of my all time favorite places. If you are expecting a fancy and foo foo resort town, forget it. If you want killer mountain bike trails, great xc skiing and downhill in the winter, and good people year around Davis is the place. Last Saturday night after work, Sarah and I loaded up the truck with the bikes and stand-up boards and left Annapolis bound for Davis and the West Virgina State Mountain Bike Championships.
We rolled in late and spent the night at the Davis Alpine Lodge. Now, if you look up the Alpine Lodge on- line, you will find reviews that say, horrible, disgusting, gross, so-forth and so on.
No question about it, the place is old and a little worse for wear, but for $69 a night, it is a place to sleep and take a hot shower. I have started and/or ended many epic days in that place, so no complaints here.

I woke up and walked across the street to the new Hypno Coffee and grabbed a couple of go cups to take back to the Lodge. Having only ridden my mountain bike once this year (not to mention my ongoing back problems) I was still not 100% sure I was really going to race. The first person I ran into at the coffee shop was Matt Marcus sporting the race T-shirt. The art work on the shirt is maybe one of the best since the '93 Jurassic Classic , and I decided I had to race just for the shirt!
Sarah and I went to The Bright Morning Inn for breakfast and met up with John and Beckie Manzione who had graciously invited us to stay with them in their home at Timberline Sunday night. Also present was former pro and friend Sue Haywood, her boyfriend Tim, Anne (whom I met later in the day) and Joel Gwadz of the Gwadzilla biking blog fame.
Eggs, pancakes, and bacon was just what I needed to start the day and get ready to race.

I signed up to do the 6 mile beginner race. I'm not a beginner mountain biker. I have ben riding those stupid things for almost 20 years. My first race was the Canaan Mountain Series Summer race in 1992 in Davis. A few years later in 1995 I did a bunch of races including a NORBA Nationals in Helen Georgia. I was placing in the middle of the beginner class, so I upgraded to sport. I found myself so far behind in the Sport class, I was just riding by myself. I still had fun riding the courses, but it definitely wasn't racing. Other than a bunch of 24 Hours races, I stopped racing bikes. I still went to races once in awhile to cheer for my friends, but my career as a bike racer was over.

Feeling somewhat guilty of "sand bagging" (racing in a class below your ability), I crossed the bridge and lined up with beginners. Looking around seeing most of the "beginners" on fancier bikes than my Trek Fuel, wearing team kits, and heart rate monitors, I no longer felt any guilt. Now I felt "Great, I'm going to get my ass kicked in the beginner class." 5, 4, 3,2,1, Go and we were off.

Bringing up the rear from the gun, I passed a couple riders on the road and a couple more on the prologue, before getting to the grassy single track. Cool, I had people in front of me and people behind me. I was passing people and I was getting passed.Racing!

This was way more fun than riding by myself, shit I was actually racing. I had moments of brilliance, and I had moments of stupidity, I rode some sections well, and I rode some sections poorly, but I was racing in West Virgina and having a blast. I wish the course had been just a little longer, but at the same time was stoked to see the finish line. I was happy not to ride the 17 and/or 27 miles loops of the sport and expert classes, but I really did miss getting to "walk" my bike over the moon rocks. I didn't miss Hoo Doo Rocks and some of the more technical sections of the long loop one bit, and my back thanked me for not riding the longer distance.
After the race there was a party behind Blackwater Bikes with plenty of free pizza from Sirianni's, and beer from the Blackwater Brewing company. It was fun to see my friends and I officially met Sue's friend Anne. Anne finished 2nd (her first mountain bike race ever), and by virtue of being the first finisher from WV, was crowned the Women's Beginner State Champ. Davis local Nick Waite won the men's pro/expert class, Sue took honors in the women's pro/expert, Joel won the Clydesdale class, and I finished somewhere in the middle of the beginner class.
Sue Haywood. No longer racing World Cup,
but still World Class!

Joel heading home for the Clydesdale win!

Nick won and set a new course record in the Pro/Expert Class.

After the party, Sarah (who had volunteered at the finish line) talked me in to climbing back on the bike for another loop. We stopped and took pictures, and not being in race mode, had time to think of Roger (Bird), Gunnar, Matt, Sue, Laird, and all the great people I've met riding and hanging out in Davis over the years. Really fun times and really great memories.

Post race ride

I'm not ready to come out of retirement and start racing on a regular basis, but I had a blast. Who knows, maybe I'll save my number plate just in case.


We spent Sunday night with John and Beckie (Boom Boom) in their house on the slopes of Timberline Ski area. We love T-Line in the winter, and being there in the summer was just another reminder of the epic 24 Hours of Canaan Races I did there many moons ago. So much fun, so many friends.
John and Beckie own three beautiful rental homes (Winterset #21, 22, &39) and we spent the morning touring their houses. If you ever need to rent a group house at Timberline these houses are unreal. I took a soak in the hot tub to get the kinks from Sunday out, then Sarah and I bid goodbye and headed back to Davis. We had taken our Stand-Up boards with us, and had planed on paddling Mt. Storm Lake. After an inspection of lake, we determined that it was too windy to paddle and spent the afternoon in Thomas, and then back over to Blackwater Falls State Park.

We had an early supper at Sirianni's before leaving for home.

My friends that have never been there, you should go. My friends that have not been there in a long time, you should go back. Give me a call, I will meet you there!

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