June 22, 2003
Knob Noster, Missouri
8th of 10 in Vet
I am an angry KTM owner.
In my garage sits an engine-less '02 300MXC, ridden for barely 6 months,
victim of a factory assembler in a hurry. The same inattention to
threadlock that brought about the Steve Crews last second pass at
Marshfield also appears to have caused the premature end of my day at
Knob Noster. Except this time, it wasn't my fault. No, really. I swear. A bolt,
a simple 10-cent part, backed its way out of the shift drum and left me
stuck in second gear. I should understand and accept these things, for I
own a KTM, with its quirks and oddities generating some of the most
active KTM-specific internet message boards in the motorcycle
cyber-world. Online support groups, more or less, for those who bleed
The day started out well enough.
I picked up Matt in the morning and drove to the beautiful, rock-deficient
race site near Knob Noster. The MHSC apparently decided that
Warrensburg is a more user-friendly name for this venue, as it had been
shown on past schedules as Knob Noster. The property is about halfway
between the two towns, and I can only assume that the promoters grew
weary of phone calls and e-mails from racers wanting to know where they
could find Bald Costas and other variations of town that is home to the
B-2 Stealth Bomber. Those tiresome conversations, not unlike the one I
am currently hearing between two coworkers discussing a golf ball
shanked into a sand trap, must have prompted the name change to
Warrensburg. I prefer Knob Noster, and this is my story, so that is what it
shall be called. [author's note: Yes, I sometimes write these reports at
work...nothing produces creativity like analyzing how many dead cows it
takes to make a truckload of dog food.]
The Knob Noster course was 8-9 miles of bike-only singletrack, and was
laid out in reverse, more or less, of last October's hare scramble. On the
practice lap I liked what I saw, although the trails were slightly drier and
choppier than the Fall '02 race. Matt and I caught up to The Holeshot
King, #4 Doug Stone, as he did a lazy trail ride around the course. While
my practice lap was designed to get a feel for the course at near-race
speeds, Doug's primary objective was to scout for passing opportunities.
Turns out we were both able to accomplish our goals while riding at about
the same speed.
The previous Friday I had officially entered the digital age with the
purchase of a digital camera, and I handed off this pricey electronic toy to
my buddy Jeff Smith who came along for the ride with Open B racer Mike
Goforth. My instructions to Jeff were simple: make me look good. He
positioned himself at the far end of a relatively small starting area and
took some excellent shots of The Holeshot King beating the rest of the
Pro class to the first corner. When the board dropped for the Vet class
start, I got a reasonably decent jump off the line and was about 4th going
into the first turn. A quarter-mile into the course, as we passed by the
pits, the engine bogged and began to die. In classic Stichnoth fashion, I
had forgotten to turn on the gas. The entire class passed me by as I
flipped the petcock to its correct position and attempted to kick the engine
back to life. Ten kicks later it fired up and I began charging towards the
pack, now about 30 seconds ahead.
Over the next two miles I caught up to a few guys in the Vet class and
drag-raced a Kawasaki through a pasture straightaway. Here's a bit of
advice to slower riders who hold me up in the woods and then want to
race hard through the open fields: Don't make me angry. You won't like
me when I'm angry. Resistance is futile. You will be passed. [minor rant
now done...that felt good]
At the midway point of the lap, I could see K-Ruck #94 about 15 seconds
ahead of me as we approached a drop-down into a narrow, winding creek
bed. The creek was dry but full of odd-shaped rocks, and the same spot
that challenged me on the practice lap got me again. I lost some time
pushing the bike over a tree root and Kevin was out of sight.
Later in the first lap I began to feel the heat, as temperatures were close
to 90 degrees. With cool weather throughout the Spring and few
opportunities to "heat train" on the mountain bike, my body was a bit out
of shape for a hot race. But I felt good on the course. I ended the first lap
in 4th place, about 15 seconds behind #383 Neal Soenksen and K-Ruck.
At the beginning of the second lap, the first creek section had been
re-routed and I read the course arrows wrong. I lost more precious
seconds getting myself back on the trail.
Eventually I caught up to K-Ruck and waited for an opportunity to pass.
Kevin's speed makes him tough to get around, but I took an inside line on
a corner and made the pass. Later on I passed Neal and trailed only #76
Gary Mittleberg, back in fighting form after a nasty injury last year. As I
passed through the scoring lane for the second time, I accelerated hard
in the open field that had served as the starting area. I missed the shift
from second to third gear, and with the engine still racing I tried again.
Still no third gear. One more try, with more effort and strange noises from
the transmission, I jammed it into third gear. However, after that it would
barely shift. I found 2nd gear and passed through the re-routed creek
section, but it became clear that further shifting would be a fruitless effort.
Rather than abuse my clutch for another hour, I decided to call it a day.
The next night I discovered the shift drum bolt had come loose, revealing
perfectly clean threads that suggested threadlock had not been applied
at the factory. A brief search of the KTM owners' cyber-world showed that
this was not an isolated occurrence. Grrrrr.....
Doug Stone took the overall win, followed closely by Chris Thiele. In the
Vet class, Gary Mittleberg won the race, with Steve Crews about a minute
behind. Although I did only two laps, Jeff Smith did exactly as
requested...yeah, I looked good.
July 27, 2003
4th of 11 in Vet
Post-race conversation with God:
Forgive me, for I have sinned. A lot. You see, it's summertime in St. Louis
and the National Association of Female Personal Trainers just finished up
a week-long conference at the convention center, just across the street
from my office. All day long, the streets were filled with thousands of
highly toned and tanned bodies of young women from across our fine
nation, dressed appropriately for the hot Midwest sun. While I could
argue that I was simply expressing my appreciation for the physical
beauty you've bestowed upon this great earth, that beauty being
supplemented by a pair of exquisitely installed Mentor 275cc implants (my
own estimation of volume; she apparently disagreed), a Commandment or
two may have been compromised. However, I humbly propose that what I
experienced today might be considered adequate punishment for last
week's transgressions, and maybe another year or two of future offenses.
Hopefully you will agree. Please allow me to explain....
The morning was already hot and humid when I loaded up the bike at
6:30 a.m. The KTM was finally back in running order and ready for its first
race since the Knob Noster transmission debacle last month. The bottom
end of the engine took a leisurely 3-week vacation at a local dealer while I
missed two rounds of the MHSC series. The good news is that I learned
how to use my new digital camera during that time and spent one
afternoon getting up close and personal with Missouri's state insect, the
tick, while shooting pictures of MHSC racers at Flat River. The bad news
is that I didn't do much of anything during that time except contemplate
the purchase of a new, non-KTM dirt bike.
Lord, you know that I appreciate all your gifts of nature, especially
99-degree temperatures on cloudless days with 82% humidity, gently
rolling hills with an infinite assortment of sharp-edged rocks embedded in
hard, dry soil, and of course, dust. Oh, Praise the Dust! On the practice
lap, a few diabolic phrases may have been uttered in response to the
scorched earth left by the 4-wheeler race, but I could not help myself for I
am a weak man and ATV's really are evil. I am confident that if I should
be so fortunate to someday join you in heaven, God, it will be devoid of
The effects of my four-week layoff showed in the practice lap, leaving me
tired and beaten. Not a good sign. During the week I had picked up a cold
that was sticking with me like bad luggage and caused an above-normal
amount of time cleansing myself of evil stuff inside the sauna-like
port-a-potties. I single-handedly reduced the overall supply of T.P. to
dangerously low levels just prior to race time. Our normal 12:30 starting
time came and went as the promoters searched for a missing quad rider
in the woods. Just after 1:00, in the heat of the afternoon the bike racers
gathered along the fringe of the starting area, laying claim to any spot
resembling shade. When we finally lined up in our respective rows, the
sun baked my left (sun-facing) boot to about 150 degrees, medium rare
by most professional standards but in my book, hotter than Stifler's mom
at the lake house.
When the Vet class finally left the line at 1:22 p.m., the temperature was
nearly 100 degrees. My usual mid-pack start was in a cloud of dust with
virtually no vision whatsoever beyond my front fender. The first stretch of
trail was a high-speed pasture section, a wonderful way to start a dusty
race. Put 15 bikes together and let them blindly drag race WFO for a
quarter-mile. Nice. Even worse was the first woods section, where I
followed about 6 other riders and could just barely make out the back tire
of the guy in front of me. Putting along in 1st gear, the lead riders were
long gone within the first 5 minutes.
Further in the woods, the pack spread out somewhat and I was able to
make a few passes. Each was a struggle, as the course was incredibly
rough. Near the midpoint of the first lap I lost my balance trying to take a
shortcut around some riders and dropped the bike on a side hill. All of the
guys who I had worked so hard to pass were now ahead of me again. By
the time we neared the last couple miles of the infernal first lap, I was
choking on dust and coughing so hard I nearly hurled up the turkey
sandwich I'd eaten for lunch. The water level in my Camelbak was
dropping at a dangerously fast rate.
I hope you can forgive me for the exclamation of creative metaphors that
resulted from blowing through the yellow tape that marked the first turn in
the starting area. You see, at the start of that second lap I expected
arrows to point me in the right direction, but the hand of Satan must have
removed them. Or maybe the club assumed that we were smart enough to
remember how to ride that section. Either way, I was upset and frustrated
and wanted to hurt someone. Well, not really, maybe just scare someone
really bad, but not a Manson-like psychotic type of fright (choose your
Manson, either one applies); more of a wet-your-pants kind of scare.
Two rows behind, Matt had already caught up to me while I fumbled my
way back on the course. I don't really remember much about that second
lap, other than dust and heat and fatigue. I was clearly out of shape for
that level of heat, and it made me angry. Last year I prided myself on my
heat tolerance and never "bonked" during a race. But today I was
definitely feeling a serious bonking coming on. Others were already there,
with many riders parked along the trail trying to cool down.
One the third lap, the pack had thinned out enough to make the trail a
little easier to see, and I finally settled down and rode better. I had been
following #73 Open B fast guy Mark Kendall and got around him on a
tricky hill, then caught back up to Matt, who was leading the Open B
class. He stalled his bike and I passed him while shouting out a warning
that Kendall was right behind us. I kept up a decent pace but fell a couple
times on that lap.
The pace I maintained and mistakes made on the third lap cost me some
stamina, and on the fourth lap I was running out of energy. The trail was
still horribly rough but not much worse than the prior 3 laps. Kendall
eventually passed me, which meant he was a couple minutes ahead
overall. I figured that his pace would be fast enough to finish in the top
20, which was my goal for the day. But to accomplish that, I would need 5
laps. Near the end of the 4th lap, my watch indicated at least 10 minutes
until the two-hour mark, so it was clear that I'd be riding another lap. I
thought about calling it a day, knowing from experience what I would feel
like after the race if I did another lap. But somehow the sight of #30 Adam
Ashcroft pulling off the trail was an incentive to keep going. Adam is a
strong racer, which is a testament to just how hard this race was. I wanted
to tough it out.
Two events made toughing out the 5th lap even tougher. The first was
that sickening feel of sucking on the Camelbak tube and getting nothing
but air. The second was the feel of a loose gear shift lever. I stopped a
couple of times to hand-tighten the shifter bolt, but after a few minutes it
would loosen again. Eventually the lever fell off and I rode to the finish in
2nd gear. I felt beaten in every imaginable way. I couldn't move. Matt had
to load up the bikes while I forced myself to drink (back home, the scale
showed that I was about 8 pounds lighter, which meant I had lost 5% of
my body weight). We didn't bother to stick around for the results. We just
wanted to get the hell out of the most hellish course this side of Kahoka.
In summary, the Catholics call it Purgatory, but I call it Florence. Amen.
Knob Noster, Missouri
Hell's Best Kept Secret