September 30, 2001
Smithville Lake, Missouri
7th of 19 in Open B
Word to the wise: it is very helpful not only having directions to a race
you've never been to before, but also having the correct directions.
Especially when it's a four hour drive each way. In Missouri, there is a
slight difference between U.S. 69 and U.S. 169. One will get you to
Smithville Lake; the other will get you to Des Moines, which is where
we were headed before stopping at a gas station to get directions. Of
course, Matt and I only resort to stopping for directions after many,
many miles have passed. Fortunately we only drove 30 minutes or so
out of our way, but we arrived too late to do a practice lap.
On the start, I jumped out to my best first-corner position of the year,
settling in behind who I assumed were the two Open B class leaders.
A mile later I blew a turn and a couple guys got around me. Same
thing happened a few miles later, and another couple guys got
around me. Soon, Matt passed me, then PizzaMan. I felt
demoralized. The course was definitely not to my liking, with mostly
open grass tracks, very high speeds (numerous 5th gear WFO
pasture sections), and not enough tight woods. I lost the most time in
the grass tracks that weaved back and forth, some in pastures with
terraces that were fun to jump. The course was full of thorn trees that
made me look like a maximum security prison escapee after the race.
I was able to pass PizzaMan again and stayed ahead of him, but I
never saw Matt again until the end of the race. He finished about two
minutes ahead of me in 4th place, his best finish this year. I fell back
to 7th place despite riding hard the whole time but not being able to
master the grass tracks. A practice lap probably would have helped,
but Smithville felt like my Tebbetts of years past.
October 21, 2001
White City, Illinois
5th of 8 in Open B
Gotta hand it to the Cahokia Creek club. They know how to slowly,
steadily demoralize a person. Riding the White City enduro is like
attending an Al Gore public address: somewhat interesting and
moderately entertaining for the first half-hour, then you just want to
get it over with and go home. The Cahokia Creek guys still hold to
the "old school" philosophy that only the toughest, fastest guys
should finish an entire enduro course. Because of the weather, last
year's race was one of the more obscenely tough enduros I've ever
attempted. This year promised to be better but still difficult due to its
length. The route sheet showed 100 actual ground miles, the longest
I had ever seen. During the previous week I had spent a large
amount of time and effort getting moved into a house, so mentally I
wasn't as focused on the race as I would be normally. I got about as
much sleep the week before as those crazy people who compete in
The course began with 10 miles through the club grounds over very
familiar terrain (I've probably raced more times at Cahokia Creek than
at any other venue). From there, some country roads lead to woods
sections that roughly paralleled I-55. About 30 miles into the race,
the course jumped to the other side of I-55 via more country roads
and then began a 20-mile jaunt through the tightest woods in Illinois.
The bonus round, had I made it that far, was a repeat run through the
same 20 miles. After that, a few more miles of country roads linked
up with the club grounds and a final pass through the 10-mile section
on which the course began. Sounds easy, right?
Here's how the Cahokia Creek club makes this race such a mental
challenge. The club grounds that make up hare scrambles courses
can be some of the most enjoyable I've ever ridden, other than during
or immediately after rain, when they become as slick as snow-pack.
Naturally, the skies broke loose about 90 minutes before the race but
didn't hurt the course. In fact, the trails were tacky and I spent most
of the first 10 miles in 2nd and 3rd gear. I was on row 25 and the
"AA" guys (the pros) were a couple of minutes behind me. So I had a
few chances to see how it's supposed to be done. Jeff Fredette
passed me about 5 miles into the course and I admired his fluid style
for about 3 seconds before he disappeared ahead of me. The other
fast guys gradually caught up to me and I was able to do several
more 3-second evaluations as they sped by.
The second stage was where the mental challenge began. On the
road section following the club grounds, I missed a turn and went
about 3 miles before realizing my mistake. So that set me back 5
minutes, needlessly, and forced me to ride faster than I should have.
Plus, the woods got real tight real fast, making it tough to get any
kind of rhythm going. The first time-consuming problem was a deep
gully that became nearly impassable. There went 10 minutes. Then I
got stuck in a creek crossing...another 10 minutes lost. Plus, the
woods were mostly 1st and 2nd gear trails, the speed average was
24mph, and the checks were few and far between. A flawless ride
through this second section would have normally cost me 20-30
points from riding too darned slow, but my foul-ups caused me to
drop somewhere around 45 points in that section alone. Even a reset
and a long road section weren't enough to get me back on time
before the next check. During this stage, Lee Lankutis caught up to
me in the tight stuff and I attempted to let him by around a corner, but
he came into the corner hot and dropped his bike trying to avoid me.
I felt bad, but after we exited the section and crossed I-55, he was
pulled over on the road with an apparent mechanical problem.
Near the end of the second section, I noticed that my left handguard
had come unscrewed at the handlebar and was flopping uselessly.
Hmmm...wondered why my left fingers were so darned sore. The first
gas stop was at some random point along a country road, 40 miles
into the course. By this time I had been on the bike about 3 hours. I
found the van of the nice lady who had offered to transport my gas
container to the refueling spot. She offered me some food, but the
just the thought of eating made me feel ill. While filling my tank, I
learned a lesson in proper refueling technique: when your gloves are
caked with creek-bottom silt (from one of my bike excavations), it is
better to remove them before unscrewing the gas cap and guiding the
gas can nozzle into the tank. Evidently, it never occurred to me that
the silt would fall off my gloves and into the tank. I stared longingly at
the fuel filter on the bike parked nearby, wishing I ever had the
common sense to put one of those on my bike. Another racer
approached me and offered to let me use his spare handlebar insert
so that my hand guard would be functional again. He had broken a
clutch cable and was done for the afternoon, so his problem was my
The third stage consisted of a long stretch of woods, including the
area where I broke my ribs two years ago. I struggled through that
section, getting hung up a few more times before the trail
straightened out over some cornfields. Funny thing about the
cornfields...I was only counting 15 or 20 tire tracks ahead of me,
which suggested that the attrition rate was high once again. I finally
reached the culvert underpass that was very difficult last year. It was
full of water and silt, just like last year. Although I was able to
navigate my way through, the bike sunk wheel-deep at the exit. A
club guy was there to help pull me out, but he watched me struggle
for about 5 minutes before lending a hand. By that time, I was
confident that I would hour out at the next check, so I rode at a trail
rider pace for the next several miles.
A few miles before the final checkpoint (for me), I came upon a gully
about 3 feet deep and 6 feet across. The club had built a bridge, but
it had been destroyed during the race. Four other guys were already
there, trying to decide how to get across. None of us were brave
enough to attempt jumping the gap, so we each eased our bikes
down into the gully, one by one, and the team of us pushed, pulled,
cursed, heaved, cursed some more, and shoved the bikes up to the
other side. After doing that 5 times, I was dead tired and limped
along until the last check. Had I not houred out, I would have
repeated that whole 20-mile section and then headed back to the club
for the last 10 miles of woods. The group of us who had met at the
gully rode back to the club, where I changed clothes and took a long
nap in the truck. I couldn't even move, I was so tired. My stomach
was upset, and each time I would try to walk I felt nauseous. This
went on for a couple of hours. During one period of sleep the guy
who had lent me his handlebar insert came by and removed it from
my bike, but I never saw him or had a chance to say thanks.
Eventually I gathered enough strength to check my results and drive
home. I slept well and felt glad to be done with the racing season.
Some day, I will conquer the White City enduro.
All in all, it was a fairly successful year. I finished 3rd in the
MHSC Open B class series, which is quite an accomplishment
considering how poorly I rode in the rocks when I moved to
Missouri 3 years ago. Next year, I hope to do even better.
White City, Illinois