- Associated Press - Saturday, April 14, 2018

VOLCANO, W.Va. (AP) - Although there was a slight chill in the air, people’s enthusiasm was hot last Sunday for the 2018 Challenge at Mountwood Mountain Bike Race.

There were 156 registered racers who competed across three classes with the Expert Class riding 22 miles, Sport Class riding 14 miles and the Beginner Class riding seven miles.

“Things went very well,” Race Director Shayne Brabham said. “We were hoping for a few more riders. We thought the weather forecast over the last week might have deterred some people from coming out.”

Initial forecasts were calling for around four inches of snow on the ground by Saturday. However, not as much fell locally and most of it had melted by Saturday afternoon. Temperatures reached the mid-40s by Sunday afternoon.

Brabham said many counties in northern Ohio, where a number of racers have come from, got several inches of snowfall over the weekend.

“I think that hurt us, but overall we are happy,” he said.

Despite heavy rainfall over the last week, freezing/thawing conditions and snow early Saturday, Brabham said the trails were in good shape Sunday.

Racers came in from as far as Cincinnati, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Akron and Cleveland, Brabham said.

“Many of those folks have never made the trip down here,” he said. “I have talked to several riders who this was their first time here.”

The race was part of the points series for the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship and the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association.

“It is a dual points race for both divisions,” Brabham said. “It counts toward their season championship.”

Kyran Leeper, 15, of the Grafton/Fairmont area, competed in the Beginner Class and completed the course in around 48 minutes.

“It was good,” he said. “It was a little muddy.”

Although he has ridden the trails at Mountwood before for fun, this was the first time he participated in the Challenge at Mountwood race.

“I like mountain biking,” he said.

Leeper said things flowed well out on the course for him.

“It was good and fun,” he said.

The annual race is sponsored by Marietta Brewing Co. and organized by the River Valley Mountain Bike Association.

Brabham, who is also part of the River Valley Mountain Bike Association, said a lot of work goes into the trails in the area by the association to make it somewhere people want to come to ride.

“We like to showcase the trails here at Mountwood Park and get people exposed to what we have here in Wood County,” he said. “That is a big part of it.

“The River Valley Mountain Bike Association promotes mountain biking in the area and does a lot of the trail work in the area. We like to show off our work; we are very proud.”

Chris Bennon of Marietta, who competed in the Sport Class, said the race went smoothly.

“As far as I could tell, everything went off without a hitch,” he said. “It looked like everyone was having a good time. I didn’t see much in the way of crashes out there.”

Bennon said the trails were in great shape, despite the recent rain.

“The trails were in surprising good shape,” he said. “We have a good group of people who take care of these trails. Their regular maintenance keeps them as good as they are.”

Bennon commented that there were new additions this year, including trail lines.

“Those are really nice to see,” he said. “It is the same race year after year, but it is different year after year, because they are always incorporating new sections of trail that didn’t exist the year before. That was a lot of fun today, seeing some of that for the first time.”

People within his class are competitive, but are still friendly toward one another.

“Everyone is a good sport,” Bennon said. “Everyone coming in today will have a big smile on their face. It is perfect. It couldn’t be any better than this right now.”

Jordan Villella of Imperial, Pa., who came in second in the Expert Class, was impressed with the trails at Mountwood Park. This was the first time he had ridden at the park. He is part of the Freddie Fu Cycling Team.

“The trails were amazing considering the weather we have had,” he said. “The topography here and everything. You could ride a variety of tires here and still had grip.”

Villella commended the park’s trail system for having a number of features many mountain bike riders like to see.

“There is a lot of pine needle stuff, there is a lot of rocky stuff and there is a diverse selection of trails,” he said. “I love the WVMBA series. It is an amazing series.”

Being a joint WVMBA and OMBC event, the race has pulled talent from the region.

“(Their class) has an amazing number of fast guys in it,” Villella said. “It is fun because we all know each other and we push each other to ride faster. The competition was supreme; it was great.”

West Virginia has a lot to offer for people interested in mountain biking.

“I think the scene in West Virginia for mountain biking is amazing,” Villella said. “I think there is so much support for it.”


Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), http://www.newsandsentinel.com

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