• Larry Etgen of Dayton, N.J., slots through a saturated portion of the 22-mile Hills of Hell mountain bike race near Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area Sunday, Mar. 7, 2010.

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    Larry Etgen of Dayton, N.J., slots through a saturated portion of the 22-mile Hills of Hell mountain bike race near Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area Sunday, Mar. 7, 2010.

  • Bike riders braved 22 miles of mountain paths on a rain-soaked morning as Fort Sill's annual Hills of Hell mountain bike race was held Sunday, Mar. 7. The cold rain added a new measure of torture to one of the most challenging mountain bike courses in the area.

    Racing in the cold rain

    Bike riders braved 22 miles of mountain paths on a rain-soaked morning as Fort Sill's annual Hills of Hell mountain bike race was held Sunday, Mar. 7. The cold rain added a new measure of torture to one of the most challenging mountain bike courses in...

FORT SILL, Okla. - The heavens opened up and unleashed a windy, rainy day for the annual Hills of Hell mountain bike race near Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area here Sunday. This year slightly more than 120 men and women competed in the race, the 23rd installment of the ride this year through hell's muck and mire.

Shane Dunlevy, event coordinator, said riders, via the post-race survey, expressed their satisfaction with the longer nearly 22-mile course, more than double last year's abbreviated version.

"Obviously, the dreary weather precipitated a decline in entrants, but overall, it was a pretty good event," said Dunlevy. "We'll begin compiling data from the race at an after action review Friday to determine how we can make the 2011 race even better."

Cameron Chambers of Kansas City, Mo., sailed across the finish line first for the men with a time of 2:07:12. Betsy Silzer of Brimfield, Ill., finished 26th overall taking top honors for the ladies with a time of 3:20:04. Dodge Nily, 12, of Great Bend, Kan., again completed the circuit as the youngest rider, finishing with a time of 3:35:25 good for 28th place.

Zack Solomon claimed best time for a Fort Sill entrant. The major from the 95th Adjutant General Battalion double dipped on the weekend placing second in the road race then took 22nd in the mountain bike event with a time of 3:16:10. Solomon said the technical side of the race was enjoyable and that race organizers included a lot of great terrain in the course design.

Larry Etgen, of Dayton, N.J., traveled perhaps the furthest to attend the race; he's been to the last three. Although he expressed concern with some of the route markings confusing riders, he said the course was fantastic. "I enjoyed the challenge under these conditions, but that's what the Hills of Hell is all about," said Etgen, who competes in 20 to 30 amateur races each year. "This is the kind of layout where it's out in the open, you get beat by the sun when it's clear, get blown sideways when it's windy. It's technically challenging and keeps you honest as a rider.

Organizers again used the LETRA lodge as a backdrop for the start and finish line. Fort Sill's rocky terrain factored into the awards ceremony as top finishers each received a rock trophy about the size of a feed-a-family-of-eight canned ham.

The event again featured automatic timing; race results can be viewed at www.dgroadracing.com.

Fort Sill's rocky terrain was prominently featured throughout the race as downhill pitches clattered cyclists over natural debris fields and rocky drop-offs. Several uphill trails crested over bedrock.

Kyle Shipley of Edmond, and Craig Cormany from Oklahoma City, rode much of the race together and are HoH vets having rode in five to seven races here. The seasoned cyclists also happen to be geologists with oil companies so they each had more than casual interest in the difficult terrain. "I always like riding out here, it's the only place in Oklahoma you get this type of really technical riding," said Shipley, who finished sixth.

"This course really burns the legs out the calves, thighs and hamstrings. I know I'll be feeling this tomorrow," said a smiling Cormany who finished 10th. "We really try to make it here every year, because of the jagged rocky trails. They rank right up there with anything we've ridden in Colorado or New Mexico."

Saturday, 33 cyclists hit the blacktop for a 22-mile ride. Nick Vandam crossed the finish line first with a time of 59:38, Solomon was second, one minute behind at 1:00:39. Jennifer Waters' 1:14:36 circuit paced the ladies while Christina Hong took second with a time of 1:16:48.
Dunlevy again thanked all the volunteers who braved the elements to provide key support throughout the race.

Mountain bike race top finishers:
Men -1. Cameron Chambers, 2:07:12, Kansas City, Mo.; 2. Dwayne Ott, 2:28:43, Meunster, Texas; 3. Bill Clinesmith, 2:31:57, Cimarron, Kan.
Women - 1. Betsy Silzer, 3:20:04, Brimfield, Ill.; 2. Leslie Conrad, 3:50:17, Pennington, N.J.; 3. Karie Mueller, 4:17:19, Amarillo, Texas.

Page last updated Thu March 11th, 2010 at 16:41