The Big Bear Lake Trail Center in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, was the host of the first West Virginia Mountain Bike Association (WVMBA) race for the 2020 XC season. Originally scheduled as the fifth race in the WVMBA XC Series, it ended up being the kickoff event due to COVID-19 related race cancellations. The event drew close to 200 riders all eager to race again. Many precautionary changes were implemented to satisfy the Return to Racing guidance offered by USA Cycling as well as state and local agencies. All in all, everybody appreciated being able to line up at the starting line and by now were accustomed to wearing face coverings and remaining socially distant as much as possible. Lets hope we see other race promoters and land managers follow suit because we all need a bit of normalcy in our lives while helping to keep COVID-19 from spreading.
The course for the Big Bear XC Classic 2020 was the same 6-ish mile lap that had been used in 2019 – to honor the fact that the UCI World Cup Finals was taking place at Snowshoe, West Virginia. We like this spectator friendly lap format and after rave course reviews in 2019 we decided to stick with this course. There are plenty of technical bits and features but not a ton of elevation gain or loss. The Pro/ex Division did 3 laps, Sport Division did 2 laps, and the Beginner Division completed 1 lap.
The weather had been very dry over the days before the race and somewhat warm. The venue area sits right around the 3,000 foot elevation mark and therefore is subject to changing weather. After all the pre-riding Saturday, the course was running very fast and everybody was very pumped on the conditions. The weather forecast for Sunday was 50% chance of scattered showers and “cooler”. As I awoke Sunday the radar appeared to indicate that the rain would be later in the day but as they say in West Virginia, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes”, and as fate would have it the rain started about an hour before the race and the temps were in the high 40’s. Perfect weather to add a little spice to the race!
The start was down the gravel road leading up to the venue area and then racers dove into the woods on singletrack trail. To avoid a mass gathering, we implemented an interval wave start format to keep groups to 25 or less. The first group to go was the Pro/ex Division with the Men Open and Women Open sprinting out of the gate.
Scott Mcgill, from Fallston MD, was the overall winner in the Men’s Pro/ex Division. A 2019 graduate of Brevard College and a USAC road cycling National Champion, Scott mentioned that he has a history with racing at Big Bear. He wrote, “My dad used to do the 24 Hours of Big Bear when I was a little kid and I would go with my family. It was where I first started getting into mountain biking. I actually competed in the 24 Hours of Big Bear when I was 10 on a team”. Scott currently rides for the Aevolo u23 professional road team and he finished the 18 mile course in 1 hour and 41 minutes.
Ending up in second place overall in the Men’s Pro/ex Division riding for Cycle-Smart and sponsored by the Guerrilla Trail Coalition and New River Bikes was Ian McDonald from Oak Hill, West Virginia. Ian is a recent high school graduate and will be heading off to Leas McCrae College (Banner Elk, North Carolina) later this year where he will be a member of the cycling team. Our third place overall finisher in the Men’s Pro/ex Division and first place finisher in the Singlespeed Class was Jim Litzinger (Syndicate Cycling, Pittsburgh Pro Bike + Run) out of Chippewa, Pennsylvania.
In the Women’s Pro/ex Division, riding for Pathfinder of WV, the overall winner was local racer Cassie Smith. Cassie is no stranger to the top step of the podium with multiple WVMBA XC Series State Championships as well as multiple USAC age group National Championships. She finished the 18 mile course in 2 hours and 12 minutes. Cassie is also the Director and Founder of the West Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League (NICA). The success of this youth league has helped shuffle the demographics of who we see attending these grassroots regional races. Parents and kids are showing up and this group is the fastest growing demographic on the local race scene. Great job Cassie Smith and team!
In what sounded like the race of the day, we had Mandi Riddle (Joey’s Bike Shop) and Justine Pagenhardt (Pathfinder of WV) battling it out for second and thrid place overall in the Women’s Pro/ex Division. In the end, Mandi was able to pass Justine on Fern Trail in the last mile of the race to claim second place. That was a great battle and both ladies complimented each other at the finish line.
For the complete results from the Big Bear XC Classic 2020 CLICK HERE
For all of the photos taken by Boyce McCoy of Mountainburst CLICK HERE
We witnessed a lot of smiling faces at the finish line across all three of the divisions and the multiple classes. I was very impressed by the sportsmanship displayed and compliments being offered to our younger riders by the veterans. This was a challenging course and the added rain made it even more difficult. Mountain bike racing is alive and well in the Mountain State. Keep an eye on some of these kids over the years as i’m sure goals will be achieved and greatness will be earned.
The team at the Big Bear Lake Trail Center would like to thank our sponsors Stans NoTubes, Pathfinder of WV, and Shane Myers with Sporttech Sales. We would also like to thank WVMBA and USA Cycling for partnering with us to provide something that people have missed and badly needed. Thank you to the WVMBA timing staff, Jessica Layne, Doug Wayne, and Annie Simcoe for all of your help on the course and beyond. We hope to see you all at another WVMBA race real soon. Stay safe and stay active!
Big Bear XC Classic Race Promotor
Written by Jeff Simcoe
All photos taken by Boyce McCoy of Mountainburst