Wednesday, March 16, 2016
28th Annual Tidewater Mountain Bike Challenge – Oct 24 & 25, 2015 The year of the Mechanical! Once again great weather and course conditions greeted racers for both days of competition at this year’s Tidewater Challenge. The weekend started off with the 5 Hour Marathon events and saw the return of Joe Fish to the top step of the Men’s Solo podium completing 17 laps in under 5 hours! Joel Nankman and Wes Watkinson took 2nd and 3rd with 16 laps each in a little over 5 hours. On the women’s side it would be Jessica Nankman taking the Women’s Solo Victory in her first appearance at Tidewater with 13 laps in 5 hours. She was followed by Laura Maple with 12 laps and Evelyn Cooper with 9 laps. The Team Marathon saw Adolfo Carrion & Keith Papamcolas take the win with 17 laps in 5:07:54 ahead of Marco Demartin & John Kromis 17 laps in 5:15:10 and followed in third by Dean Katsaros & Andrew Moore with 16 laps at 5:15:04. The STXC was up next and included a “Joker Lane” this year adding extra strategy and excitement to the mix for racers and spectators. The Joker Lane was a slightly longer section off of the main STXC lap that all riders were required to take on 1 of their 5 laps! The short course runs about 5 minutes per lap and is mostly on the Motocross sections with all its lumps, jumps and berms but also includes some fast flat twisty sections. 2014 Junior Short Track National Champion Adam Croft would grab the Holeshot but be passed early by Steve Nevins who would hold the lead for almost 2 of the 5 lap race as Croft and Matt Bailey chose to dive into the Joker Lane early. Croft would charge back to the front with Bailey nipping at his heals until a miscue in one of the berm turns would put Bailey down hard and give Croft an easy cruise to the finish. Bailey would pick himself up in time to hold off Nevins for 2nd. Sunday's events start with the Kids races which includes ages 3, 6, 10, 14 and under short course races. Winners were Lillyan Felmey, Joey Koch, Caleb Nevins and Tyler Corliss respectively. Caleb Nevins got a vine wrapped tightly around his cassette causing a severe chain skip requiring a quick pit stop to clear it out without losing the lead. Minor Mechanical #1. The Group 1 racers use the full course less one section for safety reasons, which cuts off about 45 seconds per lap. The Beginner Men saw Westyn Wilhelm dominate their 3 lap race with a very fast time of 49:00. Time to move up Westin! John Koch took 2nd at 55:41 and Richard Mays took 3rd at 58:48. The Beginner Women’s division saw 11 year old Autumn Bartels (2014 9-10 National Champion) take the victory in 42:10 over Amanda Moller 44:02 and Veronica Salazar 44:56. Adam Veneris improved his time and position from last year to take the victory ahead of Craig Hamilton and James Allman in the highly competitive Junior 18 & Under Open class. The Junior 14 and Under Open was the only class other than the Pro/Experts to ride the Prolog section to allow them to have a full lap (minus the 45 second piece). 9 year old Caleb Nevins would take the victory at 22:47 over longtime rival and friend Tyler Corliss and Camden Woodard. Group 2 was up next and included the return of Matt Bailey to the Single Speed line up and another Championship to his mantle as he completed the 5 lap race in 1:17:18 followed by Ethan Lindbloom at 1:25:19 and Zachary Griffin at 1:26:21. Michael Hosang would again take the 35+ title at 1:03:30 ahead of Cameron Holland at 1:05:38. Hosang had already begun to pull away when Cameron’s rear tire went down forcing him to run his bike in the last few sections. Mechanical #2. Cam was able to hold onto 2nd place ahead of Michael Phillips by 10 seconds. Once again one of the largest divisions of the weekend was the Master 45+ class which saw 2014 Champion Steve Nevins engaged in a seesaw battle with Darren Cox for the 2015 crown. Nevins off to a fast start would hold the lead until a chain drop and jam, Mechanical #3a, on a fast section on lap 2 of 4 would allow Cox to pass. Nevins would catch Cox’s wheel and hold it until Cox crashed in a sharp turn allowing Nevins to squeeze by and retake the lead for the rest of lap 3. Nevins would go down in a turn on lap 4 but quickly remount to maintain the lead with just a half lap to go. Nevins (who often jokes about being able to ride sections of the course with his eyes closed) would again make an uncharacteristic mistake clipping a tree and going down hard this time causing his hamstring to tighten up forcing him remount and spin slowly to avoid a lockup. Nevins would give Cox room to pass at the top of the next hill but then regain composer and once again grab Cox’s wheel setting the stage for a last half lap showdown. But alas the drama would end as Nevins would again drop his chain, Mechanical #3b, in a root garden allowing Darren Cox to open up enough of a gap to hang on for the win. Their times of 1:02:39 and 1:03:23 were the fastest of all the 4 lap races. Tidewater regular Clarke Tanner would come through in 3rd at 1:07:21. Group 3 saw Evan Lang take the win in the Sport Men’s class at 1:06:18 followed just 12 seconds later by Joseph Hoskins with Chris Puzan taking 3rd with a time of 1:09:04. Tony Watkinson decided to race the Senior 55+ class instead of the Single Speed division that he has raced for years and it paid off with a win ahead of Tidewater sponsor Barry Herneisey of Bikes Unlimited in Williamsburg. Jon Markiewicz would come across in 3rd. Larysa Stein was the winner and only finisher of 2 racers in the Sport Women’s division this year. The Women’s 40+ class saw 2 new entries this year but lost 2 of the regulars. Becky Borkett completed 4 laps in 1:32:17 ahead of Beneline Williams at 1:36:13 and Jean Troutman at 1:46:43. The Pro/Expert Men and Women were the grand finale of the weekend and would not disappoint the large crowd that had stayed to watch the action. The Prolog would be used again this year to allow the riders more time to spread out and give the spectators more time to see the close action before the riders head to the back of the course for the first of 6 laps. The Pro/Expert women only had 2 competitors this year as the CX season would draw several of the top ladies out of the region for the weekend. This would open the door for Mason Hopkins to take her first Tidewater crown ahead of Jessica Nankman who would take the Women’s Trifecta Title! The Pro/Expert Men would see Adam Croft grab another holeshot for the weekend with Jeremiah Bishop and Keck Baker in tow and the trio would begin to gap the field early. Not far into the race Matt Bailey ripped his cleat out of his shoe, Mechanical #4, and was thinking his day was done when race director Steve Nevins saw what had happened and quickly ran through the woods looking for a replacement pair of size 43 shoes. The 1st person he came upon was York River Mechanical Contracting’s Jeff Hellner, Tidewater’s new title sponsor for 2015, who said “I have a size 44”. Nevins got the shoes and dashed back through the woods and got Matt back into the race in a NASCAR style pit stop! Meanwhile the trio of Croft, Bishop and Baker were trading places and putting on one of the best races in years at Tidewater. The previous days Marathon Solo winner Joe Fish was all by himself in no man’s land between the top 3 and NICA standout Taylor Clarke in 5th. By the third lap the unrelenting pace of the seasoned Pro’s Bishop and Baker started to show on Croft as he started to loose contact with the leaders. All of the sudden a very fresh looking Joe Fish, who was still throwing whips off the jumps even after riding 17 laps the previous day, started looking like he may be able to bridge up to Croft. Meanwhile Bailey, who was last after the cleat incident had been steadily making up ground and closing on Clarke in 5th place. Fish finally caught Croft and it looked like he would be able to pull away as Croft appeared to be struggling, but the young gun found another gear and stuck right on Fish’s wheel. So the drama was set for the closing lap with 3 pairs of racers battling for 1st, 3rd and 5th! Matt Bailey’s come from behind ride would end just 13 seconds shy of Taylor Clarke who would take 5th. Joe Fish and Adam Croft would take their battle for 3rd right to the line in a sprint finish with Fish just nipping Croft across the line which may be the ride of 2015 considering he had just completed his 23rd lap of the weekend! This finish would also give Joe Fish the Men’s Tidewater Trifecta Title ahead of Matt Bailey and Joel Nankman. Ryan Cullen would finish in the money with a 7th at his first Tidewater Pro/Expert race followed by Eric Sjoerdsmal in 8th also in the money. Of note is the fact that 3 of the top 7 riders (Croft, Clarke, Cullen) are High School age and have been racing each other for years in the Virginia High School and NICA Series! The future is here! Multi time Tidewater Challenge Champion Jeremiah Bishop and 2014 Champion Keck Baker had never been more than a few bike links apart the entire race as they were heading for another final lap showdown. The anticipation was high as everyone expected the duo to come out of the woods together with only “Horseshoe Hill”, “Jerry’s Jump” and the run up to the Finish Line left. Bishop had other ideas beside a sprint finish and launched an attack going full Ninja gaining a 10 second lead with less than a half mile to the line. It appeared that Bishop’s strategy had worked to perfection except for it was the year of the what…. Mechanical…..#5! On one of the final significant rooty climbs of the day Bishop’s chain would let loose allowing Baker to pass and cruise in for the win successfully defending his #1 plate for 2015! Bishop was able to to run/coast it in to the line for 2nd and his first defeat at Tidewater Challenge in years. Bishop taking the events with true professional sportsmanship and no excuses merely stated “hey it happens”! What excitement will October 29-30, 2016 hold for next year’s Tidewater Challenge? Hopefully all the excitement and drama without the Mechanicals! Thanks to Title Sponsor York River Mechanical Contracting, Inc. who really can do it all for your home or business and would literally give you the shoes off their feet if need be! Our Platinum sponsors include Sports Williamsburg, Bikes Unlimited, BikeBeat, The Daily Grind, Village Bicycles, Howard Hanna Ted Evans Realtor, Red Barn Bicycles, East Coast Bicycles and Conte’s Bike Shop. Gold Sponsors include Scat Bicycles, Hawley, Glide Bikes, FreeRider, Inc., Wave Riding Vehicles, North End Cyclery and Bartlett & Spirn Attorney’s at Law. *Special Thanks to Anne Nevins, Ralph and Joanne Strojny, Tammy Gomez, Todd Cooke, Ralph and “J” Will and of course the Tidewater Challenge course which waits patiently each year for the last 24 years for the party to begin!