June 30, 2002
2nd of 13 in Open B
The ninth installment of the MHSC series officially brought in the Dog
Days of Summer, with a spankin' new location near Newark. The
northwest corner of Missouri is a kinder, gentler place than the lower half
of the state, and with this new venue came brand new trails and
temperatures in the mid-90's. Gary Mittelberg & Co. laid out a 9.5-mile
course that was just about perfect, with a good combination of fast
woods, tight, technical stuff, and some open fields.
Matt and I drove up early (for us) and baked in the sun most of the
morning. Like my homeboy Nelly, it was gettin' hot in therre, so I took off
all my clothes. Actually it was just the shirt, but unaware spectators were
given no warning. The painful glare was too much for some who
inadvertently caught a glimpse of the effulgence (it's a word, really) that is
my pale, white chest. As I'm writing this nearly two weeks later, I'm still
peeling large, thin sheets of dead skin off my shoulders (note to self: next
time pack the sunblock, the thick stuff that spreads on like mayonnaise.
Or maybe just pack mayonnaise.).
The heat kept attendance down a bit, as evidenced by a relatively short
line for signup. We ran across fast-guy Lars Valin, who had recently
qualified for the International Six Days Enduro to be held in the Czech
Republic later this year. He's such a modest guy that his buddy had to
encourage him to tell us about this awesome news. While in line, we had
a clear view of the ATV's coming through the scoring trailer. Despite the
hot and dusty conditions, we saw many ATV's pass by plastered in mud,
further proof that in these parts you can be blinded by dust and swamp
mud, both in the same race.
The practice lap began with a quarter-mile of wet, sandy creek bed that
was already deteriorating from the few bikes that had passed through
ahead of us. Next up was an off-camber singletrack section that ended
with a short, steep climb that two guys were hung up on. The potential
bottlenecks were adding up, and we had barely gone a mile down the
trail. Since the course was completely new, we followed the arrows as
best we could but still got off the course many times. We saw a surprising
amount of sand and a couple more potential problem areas before
completing the course about 40 minutes after we started.
The race organizers recognized the nasty spots and did an excellent job
of re-routing and re-marking some of the trails. On the starting line, the
Open B class was placed several rows back, which gave me just enough
time to notice a hole in my fuel line. Not a big one, but just enough to wet
the line. The few minutes in which I contemplated my alternatives
reminded me of a comment from my buddy Bill Steele, after my clutch
perch bolt fell out approximately 30 seconds into the Jonesboro, Illinois
hare scramble in 2000: "Maybe you should come up with some sort of
pre-race maintenance routine." Note to self: add "Replace fuel line more
frequently than once every 5 years" to the pre-race maintenance routine.
I took my usual mid-pack position at the first turn and saw Matt jump out a
few places ahead of me. We immediately crossed a creek and did a
high-speed run through the pasture on the other side, and then dropped
back down in the creek. The worst of the creek section that we had
ridden on the practice lap had been removed, but enough remained I was
completely covered with sand by the time we exited that section. The
downside to wearing fully vented jerseys is that the sand goes right
through the mesh and slides down into my pants. That combined with a
gripper seat cover and my aversion to standing while I ride, sitting down
bare-assed on a belt sander is probably the best comparison I can offer.
I moved up a couple spots in the first half of the course and passed Matt
somewhere in there. The trail was now much better defined, and I had
little trouble navigating the course. Most of the terrain was a dry, light
loam that offered great traction throughout the woods. That traction was
very helpful on one hill that was the steepest I've seen in the MHSC
series this year. The hill was made even more challenging because of a
tree root lying across the trail just before the summit, which meant that
any lack of momentum would leave riders with rear tires spinning
helplessly on the root, followed by a lengthy slide back down the hill. I
made it each time, but others were less fortunate. The course contained
exactly one rock, about the size of a football, placed directly in the center
of an off-camber trail. Needless to say, I hit the darned thing every single
As usual, I had no idea what position I was in after the first lap, but I felt
good about my riding. Lap two was more of the same, with no major
mistakes but I began to feel the heat. About halfway into that lap I could
hear what sounded like an 80cc bike screaming behind me, which was
motivation enough to ignore the heat and keep riding hard. (the Junior
class winner, had he continued at his blistering pace for 4 laps, would
have beaten about half of guys in all of the B classes). I was surprisingly
consistent on the second and third laps and remained in 2nd place
(barely). On my fourth and final lap, I kept up the pace and finished
strong. Matt finished just a few minutes behind me in 4th place with his
strongest ride of the year.
Brandon Forrester was leading Steve Leivan by less than a bike length
when they lapped me near the end, and that's how they finished overall.
A pair of fast guys named Chris - Thiele and Nesbitt - were a couple
minutes off the pace and finished 3rd and 4th, respectively. Matt
Coffman, our soon-should-be A class guy, had no trouble spanking the
Open B class, with lap times 2 minutes quicker than mine. Overall, this
new location was fantastic and I hope to see it on the schedule next year.
July 14, 2002
3rd of 16 in Open B
So I was standing in the signup line at the Missouri speedway also known
as the Tebbetts race course, when I glanced down at what appeared to
be flat, white rocks. Except they weren't rocks, they were tombstones,
many from the 1850's. Scattered around the tombstones were
bones...seriously. Leg bones, vertebrae, and a nearly complete skull.
Animal bones, no doubt, but still Blair-Witch-creepy, man. How's a guy
supposed to focus on racing when you're stepping on dead people, huh?
Superstitions aside, the Tebbetts course is always fast, but last year was
slowed down a little with a couple miles of tight new singletrack. This
year, the singletrack was gone and the course was its old, insanely fast
self. The practice lap revealed many of the same trails as past years,
including a long, rocky creek bed and some wide open pasture sections,
along with some natural jumps that would make RC happy.
On the start, I was in the middle of the 16-rider pack going into the dusty
first turn. The first obstacle was a small ravine, where PizzaMan took an
inside line and got around me. That line seemed pretty rough on the
practice lap, and apparently the distraction of PizzaMan's skills through
that section caused me to stall the engine at the bottom of the ravine.
Hello, back of the pack. Last place, to be exact. I caught up quickly,
fought through some dust, and finally found PizzaMan in a section of
woods that had recently been logged. I managed to get around him and
kept working my way through the pack. For some reason the long, rocky
creek bed didn't give me any problems this year, and I was actually
passing people through that section (thank you, Scotts steering damper).
Near the end of the second lap, I pulled my roll-offs to clear my vision, felt
some resistance, pulled a little harder, and was left with the string
hanging in my hand. So much for clear vision. When we crossed the
gravel road next to the property entrance, I yanked off my goggles, threw
them in the grass, and fought the dust for the rest of the race. It wasn't
so bad in the woods, but the open areas were horrible with dust in my
eyes. On the third lap, I was following a couple of slower riders and
looking for a way to pass. I took a shortcut through some standing water
that was a bit deeper than I thought, and the huge splash completely
drenched me. Not sure if it was the shortcut or the distraction of a
whale-sized belly flop in the creek that got me around the guys I was
trying to pass, but the dust cleared from my eyes and I felt a whole lot
One of the highlights of the course has always been the terraces in the
pasture around the staging area, which double as motocross-sized
jumps. One set of terraces parallel to the gravel road had a drop-down,
then a quick jump that kicked the bike sideways in midair. Lots of fun in
4th gear and dust in my eyes. I did four 11-mile laps, each one in about
32-33 minutes. As always, third place at a course as fast as Tebbetts was
as good as a victory for me. Steve Leivan took the overall win with a
blistering pace, followed by Brandon Forrester.