It was a warm Saturday a few years ago, July 27th, 2002 to be exact. The first day for me to line up for the start of a real-life mountain bike race! I was only 16 and had no idea what I was getting myself into?

Last week, three years (and many races) after that one Saturday, I ventured back to Rural Valley, PA to compete once again. The race is held during the Shannock Valley Community Festival, and although it is not one of the biggest races around, it is one of the most enjoyable.

This year I had my sights set on the podium ? preferably at the top. After previous top 10 finishes and age-class victories, I knew I had to step it up a notch this year. Only two problems stood in my way: Brad Kriley and Shane Gouldthread. Those two semi-pros took the top spots last year, but I had no intentions of giving up yet.

Shane Gouldthread climbing

As the clock neared 11:00, the racers took their places at the start line. (And the sun took its place in the sky, providing us with temperatures close to 90 degrees!) I lined up a couple rows back and got ready to go. I had hoped to start up front, but I wasn’t worried because I knew the pack would thin out soon enough.

[That’s Shane starting the last climb.]

After a short speech from the race director, we began our rolling start up the street. A group of 15-20 people took an early lead down the road to the first turn, which took us onto the grass but back to some more pavement. That?s where the road starts to point up… and up…

One kid took off and Shane followed on his wheel. I picked my way past a few more riders and got close to the front two. As we neared the top, Shane moved into 1st place and I immediately followed him onto the dirt. The other kid had underestimated that first hill climb and started to fade back.

It took about everything I had to keep Shane in sight through the rolling hills. I kept checking to see if anyone was behind me, and it wasn’t long before I could see Brad?s orange Speedgoat jersey in the distance. Then it wasn’t long before he caught me. I managed to hold him off for a while by keeping a fast pace on the climbs and going full-speed on the descents, but he got by me about halfway through the race.

Although I love climbing, it was starting to get to me, considering there are few (if any) flat sections on this course. The descents are worth it, though. They are steep, fast, twisty, and pretty smooth!

I settled into a good rhythm and didn’t worry too much about the riders behind me. Soon enough I exited the singletrack and began a long, open climb. I was kind of disheartened since I didn?t see Shane or Brad up ahead, meaning they had a pretty good lead on me. But the good news was that there was no sign of anyone behind me either!

Levi Bloom climbing

The next course marshal let me know that I was about 2 minutes off the leader. With only about 10 minutes of racing left (and the fact that I had a race planned for the next day!), I kept a steady pace for the remainder of the race. Just one long fire road climb and a fast descent back down the mountain to finish it out.

[That’s me on the last climb.]

Although my two rivals beat me to the line, it was a very satisfying race. I was in better shape than usual, but the course?s hills and the heat definitely took a toll!

Nick Pointon, the kid who led at the beginning, eventually finished in fifth place and Jim Sloane, Shane’s teammate from Ultimate Sports in Grove City, took fourth.

A big thanks goes out to Alan Scott and everyone else involved with the race, including the town! I can’t wait till the next one!

If you’re interested in fun for the whole family, check out the Shannock Valley site for more info.

1 Comment
  1. does sound like fun! fun story too.

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