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Sunday, May 6, 2007 -- Morgantown, WV / Coopers Rock State Forest
Henry Clay 30K - WVMBA #3 (iPO Event Id#: 10024)

2007: [Photos] [Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results]

Coverage: [1998] [1999] [2000] [2001] [2002] [2003] [2004] [2005] [2006]

Is it Cooper's Rock or Cooper's rocks?!

Article and photos by JR Petsko

Henry Clay 30K photo by JR Petsko
Henry Clay 30K photo by JR Petsko
Back in the day, let's say the late 1980's, when Mountain Biking started to become popular in West Virginia; Cooper's Rock was the place to ride for numerous riders. A lot has changed in the world of mountain biking since those days, like the innovations of front and rear shocks, 29" wheels, clip less pedals, camel packs, and carbon fiber just to name a few.

Even with all of the hi-tech changes to the sport, some things still remain the same. Spandex is still the preferred racing short (go figure.) Hills are still hard to climb, rock gardens will forever make your teeth chatter, and Cooper's Rock is still a killer place to ride.

Luckily, for those who never had the pleasure of experiencing these old school trails, the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association rolled into Morgantown for round #3 of the 13 race WVMBA series, The Henry Clay 30k hosted by Wamsley Cycles.

Being a Morgantown resident, I arrived on the scene early to find Chip and Colin from Wamsley's hard at work at the registration table. It didn't take long before the registration line grew from 10 to 20 to 30 people long.

Everyone in line that I talked to was pumped to race and ride since the weather was perfect. Saturday's rainy and chilly temperatures transformed to clear skies, sporting great spring weather in the comfortable, mid-sixties. Riders who pre-rode the course that morning were reporting that the trail was fast, fast, fast. Even "Mister Cannondale Himself," Rob Voorhees, could be overheard telling riders to run high pressure in their tires do to the dry, fast conditions.

Henry Clay 30K photo by JR Petsko
Henry Clay 30K photo by JR Petsko
About 5-minutes before the start I head over to the Scott's Run Trail to capture my first racing images of the day. I heard riders approaching my position halfway along the screaming downhill. Nick Waite, a KBS Pro Cycling Team road rider, emerged fast, almost too fast for me to get the shot. Gunnar Shogren of Team BWB-Cannondale WV 29er, was so close, and riding on his tail that the two could have banged bars right in front of me. Being the good sportsmen that they are, the two cleanly cleared the section past me and headed further down the hill with a host of other riders hot on their tails.

T.J. Platt, Jason Cyr, and Aron Yevnta were among the riders who were not going to let Waite and Shogren get away. Like a freight train, more and more riders made their way past my position in groups of up to 8 racers, wheel to wheel. It would have been complete pandemonium if any one of these riders grabbed just a little too much brake. I could just image the carnage that would have followed. Luckily that never happened and everyone safely navigated this section of the trail.

The next photo stop was the old Henry Clay Iron Furnace for which the race takes its name from. Built in 1834 and operated until the 1840's, the furnace was one of many iron furnaces in the area that capitalized on the availability of timber for fuel, iron ore on Chestnut Ridge, and river transportation on the Cheat River. Furnaces like these used to be found throughout the hills of West Virginia due to the small, workable iron veins that were discovered in many areas. Furnaces then were set up at these spots for smelting the ore and manufacturing bar iron for the pioneer blacksmiths. Ok, ok enough history back to racing.

Nick Waite photo by JR Petsko
Nick Waite photo by JR Petsko
The furnace was almost like a road sign. Once you saw it, riders knew they only had a 1-mile climb before the finish.

The first expert rider to pass by the furnace was 2006 series champion Nick Waite, putting just enough distance between himself and Shogren before the final climb up the last rocky hill. Waite would end up crossing the line in a time of 1:35.17 to take the overall win with Shogren putting in a great ride himself on his single-speed to take second overall in a time of 1:38.30.

After the race I asked Nick how he felt about the win. "Well, simply put, it was great to refresh my first season as a professional "roadie" with some flowing, rock and root-laden single track at Cooper's. It's my first mountain bike race this season so I'll admit I wasn't sure about how it would turn out. I was anxious to get to the front early so I could figure out how to access my mountain bike skills again. I found'em pretty quick with Gunnar harassing me for the first 15 minutes of the race! Strategically hitting the WVMBA series has become my secret weapon for staying fresh during the hectic race season and I plan to use it again this year."

Laurie Johnston photo by JR Petsko
Laurie Johnston photo by JR Petsko
Oh, by the way, speaking of Gunnar and Nick here's an interesting fact. Last year Gunnar was twice Nick's age (as far as "racing age" goes, that is how old you are at the end of that year). Nick was 22, Gunnar was 44. This year, Gunnar could be racing the Expert Master's Class (45+), Expert Vet's (35+), Pro/Expert, or Single-Speed. That's probably some sort of record. Rounding out the top three overall was T.J. Platt coming across the line in 1:39.27

For the Women's Expert Class, it was 2006 defending race champion Betsy Shogren of Team BWB-Cannondale WV 29er taking the overall victory in a time of 2:05:40. Betsy put on a dominating performance to make it 3 for 3 for the year of WVMBA series events, and she now holds a comfortable lead in the overall series standings. Shogren finished the 2006 series in second place, but with her performance in the early races this year she is looking to step into the series champion position. We will just have to wait over the next few months to see how this unfolds.

Finishing second overall for the women was Carol Clemons coming home in a time of 2:31.51 hold off the third place finisher Amanda Love who finished in 2:36.30.

It was a great day of racing action at Cooper's Rock. Between the course and the weather, things could not have been better. Thanks to everyone who helped put on this event and special thanks to the folks at Wamsley's Cycles and Rob Voorhees for all their hard work. Look for me at the Tour de Lake on May 20th.