2001 Race Reports
July 1, 2001
St. Joe State Park
Park Hills, Missouri
5th of 16 in Open B
Three years ago, the annual March of Dimes hare scramble was my first
racing experience in Missouri.  Actually, up to that point I had never
ridden anyplace where a rock bigger than a baseball was anything but a
novelty.  Imagine my surprise.  After that day, I nearly packed up my
belongings and moved back to Kankakee, Illinois.  Since then I've
improved my rock-riding skills to the point where I can somewhat tolerate
the constant beating and the never-ending wonder of how soon my tires
will go flat from pinched tubes.  But that doesn't mean I enjoy it.

Besides a rough course, the other sure things at the March of Dimes race
are heat (has never been below 90 degrees), blinding dust kicked up by
the powdery-white sand, and park rangers enforcing rules to the letter of
the law.  Ride too fast in the staging area, pay a fine.  Drive your truck too
fast coming in and out of the park, pay a fine.  Take a leak in the bushes,
pay an even bigger fine.  But hey, I'm not complaining.  St. Joe State Park
is a great place and we should all feel fortunate to have it, so if that
means following their rules then it's an inconsequential price to pay.  This
year the motorcycle club was on probation because of last year's
100-mile grand prix, which started late and finished even later (some guys
rode for 6 hours!!).  The in-town start was nixed, as were the 16-mile laps
and a 100-mile total course.  Just a standard 2-hour hare scramble, which
was fine with me.

The course was set up so riders could take a full practice lap or do a
shorter 3-mile loop.  I did the shorter loop that covered the most open,
sandy, dusty part of the course.  As it would turn out, this short loop was
not very representative of the entire 11-mile loop.  Most of the course was
2nd and 3rd gear woods in nearly perfect condition, thanks to a rain
earlier in the week.

Matt and I lined up next to each other at the start, and at the first turn I
was running mid-pack with Pizza Man a couple spots ahead of me.  I
settled in on a decent pace and soon had one of the fast guys on my tail,
trying desperately to get around me.  After he ran over my foot with his
front wheel, I decided maybe it would be good to let him pass.  A couple
miles down the trail, I followed a bunch of riders under some yellow tape
and off the course and had to turn around.  Somehow I discovered our
error sooner than the rest of the group and gained a few places getting
back on the trail.  Pizza Man must have been part of that group, because
he was right behind me at the scoring trailer.  In the fast sand, the big
Pizza Thumper blew by me, even though I could hardly see him in the dust
(or figure out how the hell he could see anything going that fast).  I finally
caught up to him just before the second check in the woods and got
around as he spun out going up a hill.  After that, I cruised for two more
laps, fell over once, got lapped by the top two "AA" riders, and finished my
race.

Even though the race was hot, I didn't lose much stamina and rode solid
the whole way.  A fully vented jersey is something I should have tried
years ago - major cooling, to the point that I never really felt hot (tired and
sore, however...jersey technology still needs some improvement in that
area).  Pizza Man finished one position behind me, while Matt took 8th
place.  Nothing better than beating your friends and rivals, and coming
home with a healthy bike and body.

July 15, 2001
Tebbetts, Missouri
3rd of 15 in Open B
In the past two years, Tebbetts has not been kind to me.  The race is
always held in July, the month that most of Missouri attempts to recreate
life on the surface of the sun.  Actually, that's pretty much the whole
summer.  But Tebbetts can be brutal not only for the heat, but also for the
fast, pounding course that combines open, GNCC-type trails with lots of
opportunities to get big air. Many of the jumps are naturally occurring in
the woods, which means a slight miscalculation can give you an upfront
and personal encounter with a tree.

I vowed to make my third attempt at this race more successful than my
previous two tries, both 8th place finishes in the bottom third of my class
(
1999 race; 2000 race).  This year the weather decided to lend its
cooperation with sunny skies and slightly cooler temperatures. Rain
showers had passed through the area a few days before and the course
was in beautiful shape.  Matt and I talked to the property owner before the
race, and he mentioned that an adjoining landowner was allowing the club
to use 150 acres of woods on a trial basis this year.  On the practice lap I
was pleasantly surprised to see narrow, virgin trails cut through the new
acreage.  And the best part was that this 2-3 mile section replaced the
ridiculously narrow motocross track in the woods.  Picture it: a
10-foot-wide track with doubles and a tabletop thrown in.

At the start, PizzaMan lined up next to me with his big KTM 4-stroke and
jumped out ahead.  Funny how that electric starter works...the two-strokes
actually fire up more quickly, but once the thumper gets going, it just digs
in and powers its way to the front.  Matt also got a good jump on me, and
heading into the woods I assumed my familiar position in the middle of the
pack. Shortly into the first lap, PizzaMan crashed ahead of me and I
passed him, but then he caught up and passed me in an open grass
section.  He goes amazingly fast in the wide-open stuff with the big Pizza
Thumper.  About halfway into that same lap, I saw Matt standing next to
the trail with his bike on the ground, a victim of a tree confrontation (I
believe the tree won that battle).  I continued on, slowly moving up in the
pack and passing PizzaMan in the new woods section after he dumped
the bike, shearing some teeth off his front sprocket.

The course was basically run in reverse from the last two years, and I
liked that layout much better.  Even so, the creek section in reverse was
just as long and rocky as ever.  Definitely a place to either make up some
time, or lose a lot of time.  The previous week's rains caused a short
section of the creek to rise wheel-high, but that didn't stop guys from
plowing through it in third gear.

I never did see Matt or PizzaMan during the rest of the race, but based on
past experience I figured one (or both) of them was close behind.  
Somewhere in the third lap, I was following a guy on a KTM who appeared
to be slower than me.  I readied myself for a pass, taking a shorter route
around a corner that involved hopping over a small log that was almost
parallel to the direction I was heading.  We both exited the corner at the
same place and banged bars, so I let him go ahead.  He took off and I
never saw him again.

At the scoring gate, I heard what sounded like Matt cheering me on as I
began my fourth and final lap.  I could only assume that his day had
ended early.  About halfway into the lap, my bike started sounding
strange, and then it suddenly became insanely loud.  Imagine ten chain
saws surrounding your head, all wound up and ready to cut some serious
wood.  A couple miles later I stopped to check out what was going on and
saw that the silencer tube had broken off.  Guess that silencer really does
help quiet things down, because with the exhaust blowing straight out the
pipe, I surely was heard many miles away.  I think it was advantage in a
couple of ways.  The guys ahead of me got the crap scared out of them
from the noise and quickly moved out of my way, while the guys wanting
to pass had to keep their distance for fear of partial hearing loss.  Steve
Leivan, the overall winner, was the only brave soul who dared to pass me
during that time (Steve's quote after the race:  "Huh?"). When I came
through the final stretch before the finish, all eyes were on the loudest
bike in the land.

Matt told me I finished 5th or 6th, showed me his shattered rear fender
and red marks all over his body (from crash #3 on lap #1), so we packed
up and drove home.  That's the last time I trust him in tracking my results -
it was actually a 3rd place finish, and I could have picked up a trophy.  But
the feeling of finally conquering this place was all the reward I needed.  
And my ears are still ringing.
Park Hills, Missouri
Tebbetts, Missouri