2004 Race Reports
June 6, 2004
Warrensburg, Missouri
10th of 15 in A Sportsman
In any given hare scramble, the final results rarely tell the full story of the
many individual battles that take place throughout the race. We all have
stories to tell afterwards, but every once in awhile there’s a long-lasting
duel that becomes burned into permanent memory. At Warrensburg, I had
such a battle with #237 Elston Moore, with whom I swapped positions
about a half-dozen times.

Back in action for the first time since the White Rock enduro was #791
Matt Sellers, who I picked up in Wentzville on the way to the race site.
While heading west on I-70, also know as John’s Least Favorite Interstate
in All of America, an 18-wheeler honked its horn as it passed us in the left
lane. In my experience, vehicles honk at me for two general reasons: a)
they are unhappy about something, said honk often combined with the
universal hand signal of my #1 status; or b) something important is about
to fall out or off of my vehicle. Matt and I assumed the latter and looked
for evidence of gear attempting to free itself from the confines of my truck
bed. Everything appeared to be in order, so we continued on. Several
minutes later I caught up to the horn-honking truck and began to pass on
the left. The driver rolled down his window and announced himself as
none other than #587 David Brewster. With this year’s top candidate for
Most Outstanding Statement of the Obvious, Brewster proclaimed, “I can’t
race today!”

At the race site, we checked in and did a practice lap. The course was
beautiful, as usual, with smooth, relatively dry singletrack and a few new
trails I hadn't seen before. Some of the familiar sections were present,
including a couple passes through the center of a tight, winding creek bed
and the treacherous second crossing of the large creek that flows
through the property.

On the starting line, I noticed that the 15-second board was dropping
almost in slow motion as the AA and A classes left the line. Some riders
immediately detected the initial motion of the board dropping and got a
good jump, while others were slower to react. Naturally, I was a little slow
to react when the board dropped for our class and was headed for the
first corner amidst a pack of riders. As we braked for the first turn, #644
Carl Dobson's rear wheel slid out and he fell in front of me. For an instant
I had an opportunity to use his bike as launch pad, but instead fell down
with him. Observing this on the Open B starting line just behind us, #370
Ray Osia uttered another potential candidate for Most Outstanding
Statement of the Obvious: “That guy can’t buy a good start.” My front tire
was lodged between Carl’s rear tire and fender, and I yanked on the
handlebars a couple times to separate my bike from his. We both
gathered ourselves and headed into the woods, me in last place and Carl
just ahead. About a half-mile later we caught back up to our class.

The first creek crossing gave me my first opportunity to make up some
ground, as riders were struggling to make a sharp left turn up the
opposite bank. I passed at least one guy there and a few others later on,
including Elston Moore who had stopped briefly to fix a minor mechanical
problem. Over the course of the first lap I worked my way up to 10th
place, just behind #364 Bob Searing. On the second lap I passed #29
Steve Crews on a nasty climb up a short hill that was becoming a
bottleneck. But in the process of getting up the main line of that hill, which
was becoming a shiny, polished clay rut, a few riders got around me, one
of who might have been Elston. By the end of the lap he had turned on
the speed and was nearly a minute ahead of me in 9th place.

On the third lap I caught back up to Elston and passed him in one of the
narrow creek beds by cutting up and across one of the banks instead of
following the contour of the creek. I rode as hard as I could, but since I
wasn't gaining more than a few seconds on Elston, I could sense that a
mistake-free ride from there on would be the only thing keeping me in
front of him. Mistake #1 happened near the end of the lap on a steep
drop-down to cross a small creek. On the other side were some nasty ruts
that I tried to avoid by cutting to the left. When the front wheel hit the silty
creek bottom, I came to an immediate stop and gave myself a bath in the
creek. Elston passed by while I was lifting my bike out of the water. A
couple corners later I was surprised to see Elston on the ground. I passed
him again just as he was about to get going and completed the third lap in
9th place.

Our battle was even more interesting on the fourth and final lap, when I
came upon two riders stuck at the top of a short but steep, sandy hill. The
approach was a quick right-hand turn, and I couldn't see the guys stuck at
the top until I had already committed myself to a deep rut at the base of
the hill. I waited a few seconds for the guys to move out of the way, but
along came Elston and found an inside line around all of us. I could see
him in the distance as I finally made it up the hill and out into an open
area. Ever so slowly I reeled him in, a little at a time, until I was close
enough to pass. He and another rider were approaching the short hill of
past bottlenecks when I noticed a line about 20 yards in front of the sharp
left turn where the established route went up the hill. Elston and the other
guy passed by this little shortcut but I seized the moment and beat them
both up the hill.

I stretched out a lead over Elston that was just enough that I couldn't hear
his bike behind me, but I knew he was back there just waiting for me to
make a mistake. Near the end of the race he got his chance. In the last
mile or so I got bogged down by some lapped riders and Elston caught
back up. About a quarter-mile from the end was a small creek crossing
that had developed deep ruts. A few riders ahead of me were taking turns
going up what appeared to be the best alternate route and like a fool I
waited for my turn. Just as I was about to drop down into the creek and
cross over, Elston snuck in ahead of me and made, in his words, a sucker
pass. But I’d had too much fun to care. Call it the evening out of karma: I
had already made two slightly questionable passes on Elston. Once
again, the competitiveness of the A Sportsman class showed in the
results, as the 7th through 10th place spots were only a handful of
seconds apart. And as usual, everyone rode fast at Warrensburg.

June 20, 2004
Marshfield, Missouri
4th of 11 in A Sportsman
Beware of the practice lap, for it can end your race before it starts. This I
almost learned the hard way at Round 6 of the Missouri Hare Scrambles
Championship. After arriving to beautiful weather for mid-June in
Southwest Missouri, Matt and I went out for our customary practice lap,
where I tried to get around a guy and fell over in a shallow creek. The
silencer was gurgling underwater but by some miracle I kept the engine
running. I picked up the bike and saw a mini water cannon shooting out
behind me each time I revved the engine. With wet packing material inside
the silencer, the exhaust note changed dramatically. I caught up to Matt,
who had taken off ahead of me, and drowned out all evidence of his
running motor as I passed by with my ear-splittingly loud silencer.
Eventually the packing material dried out and the KX250 returned to its
usual semi-noisy self. The first half of the course was fast, with much of it
following ATV trails. The second half was mostly singletrack, and like last
year’s Marshfield course, some was technically challenging and downright
tight for Missouri.

While riding to the starting line I was greeted by #149 Ryan Rohleder,
winner of every 200C race he has entered this year and son of #259 John
Rohleder who is affectionately nicknamed Crazy Jesus by his fans, in part
because of his resemblance to the universally accepted portrayal of
Jerusalem’s most famous carpenter and also from a riding style that begs
the question, “How would I ride if I cared little of neither life nor limb?” I
lined up on the inside of the A Sportsman row next to #76 Gary Mittleberg,
who along with the rest of my class left me standing while I two-kicked the
bike. I settled in behind #487 Tom Huber and followed the pack for much
of the first lap. Toward the end, I nearly strangled myself by getting a little
too close to a vine while trying to find a good line through a muddy gully
and finished the lap in 6th place.

As with last year, stapled to random trees were paper plates containing
various notes of encouragement, observation, and fact. The rockiest
section of creek bed was named in honor of the notably absent Doug
Stone and some of the tighter trails were identified as Spud Cut. One
message confirmed, finally, what for years had been the subject of rumor,
speculation, and innuendo: Todd Corwin does, in fact, blow goats.

On the second lap, #35 Kevin Ruckdeschell caught up to me after taking
a first lap spill. He put on the pressure and I let him by in one of the grass
tracks. Kevin put a small gap on me in the tight trails but then got caught
up in a minor bottleneck. I followed him into the muddiest section of
singletrack, where his pace slowed and I shouted some words of
encouragement. He responded by dumping the clutch and roosting me
with mud, then pulled over to let me lead for awhile. We checked through
the scoring trailer just a few seconds apart at the end of the lap.

Kevin stayed close behind on the third lap and then passed me again. I
followed closely as we entered the tight trails in the second half of the
course and watched him get slightly crossed up after clipping a rock.
Somehow Kevin avoided bouncing off about 10 large trees. Later on, he
showed me a good line around a rock garden because that’s the helpful
guy he is. I had one opportunity to pass where most riders were taking the
long way around a log, but I didn't react in time to hop over the log and
continued to follow Kevin. When we reached the muddiest trails near the
end of the loop, we both went wide left to avoid the worst of the ruts. He
went a little wider left than I did, and I came out ahead where the alternate
lines converged into the main trail.

I completed the third lap in 4th place, where I would remain. Todd Corwin
was about a minute ahead of me in the 3rd spot, but I was only able to
close the gap to about 45 seconds. All the while, I figured Kevin was close
behind so I pushed as hard as I could. In the tight trails, I came up on
#122 Nick Bryant, last year’s 6th place finisher in the Junior class and now
a 200C competitor. The narrow course made it difficult to pass. After
following him for a short time, he disappeared around a corner and
suddenly came back into sight, hung up on a small log. I couldn't abort in
time to avoid him and smacked into his rear tire. Nick and his bike both
went down. I felt bad about knocking him down and worse about not
stopping to help because I was too preoccupied in keeping ahead of
Kevin. As it turned out, Kevin whacked his knee on a tree root that slowed
his pace on the 4th lap and I finished several minutes ahead.

As is often the case, the tight trails at Marshfield were kind to me in the
overall results, as I broke into the top 20 for the first time this year. Slade
Morlang edged out Gary Mittleberg to win the A Sportsman class, while
Steve Leivan took yet another overall victory.
Warrensburg, Missouri
Marshfield, Missouri