August 13, 2006
2nd of 8 in +30 A
An odd theme is emerging in the District 17 hare scrambles series:
livestock. Two weeks prior was Wardy's Fox Valley Off-Road, situated
behind a Tyson chicken farm. Today’s race, a WFO event, was on the
site of a hog farm. Personally, I’ll take the hogs over the chickens on the
stink-o-meter and chicken over hogs on the tasty-o-meter. But for racing,
all livestock is equal.
The staging area was a Missouri-sized hayfield near the historic Hennepin
Canal, where I chose a parking space approximately 3,000 feet from the
signup tent. On the long walk I paused to chat with Rick Kinkelaar, still
chasing points in the D-17 overall standings. With a new clutch slave unit
for his KTM, Rick was back in action and ready to challenge all comers.
As with previous WFO races, all the A classes lined up on the front row. I
was back to my usual reaction time when the gun fired and sprinted to the
first turn in mid-pack. Will Heitman and Ron Peterson were both ahead of
me as we rounded a couple turns before the woods. Once inside, we
blasted through some ATV trails, flew down the center of a soybean field,
hopped over a few logs, and finally came to one of two creek crossings.
The creek was not particularly wide or deep, but the opposing creek bank
had given many riders fits on the practice lap. Most guys hadn't been
aware of a metal bridge across the creek, a few feet down the trail and
out of sight where the bottleneck had been. Made out of a ramp for
loading pigs into trucks, if ridden carefully the bridge could take away
much of the effort of spinning and cursing one’s way up the opposite
bank. Now, everyone took the easy way across.
After the bridge was a series of singletrack trails and high speed fields,
then back to the area around the hog farm. One minor crash put me
another 20 or so seconds behind Will and Ron, who had distanced
themselves in the chaos that is the beginning of every hare scramble. My
next opportunity for stupidity came on the second lap. At the metal bridge
over the creek, my front tire slid off the side. Dumb luck kept the bike on
the bridge, only because my left fork tube was resting on the edge. A
quick jerk of the handlebars got the tire back on the bridge and me back
Near the end of the second lap I finally caught up to Ron and Will, who
were checking into the scoring barrels. Just like Fox Valley, we raced in
formation until I cut off a corner and passed Ron. Leading up to the metal
bridge, course workers inexplicably pointed Will straight into the creek,
and he obliged. Why? I had no idea but gambled that I could make it
across using the bridge, and indeed I did, edging out Will and taking over
the lead in our class. From there, Will rode my back tire until we reached
a bottleneck at a tricky series of logs. While waiting our turns, Will passed
the time by nudging my back tire, again and again. It didn't help – we were
at the mercy of course workers lifting bikes over logs.
When my turn came up, I hopped over the three logs without any
assistance. Apparently Will wasn't as successful. After the log bottleneck,
I couldn't hear his Yamaha thumper behind me. I hammered through the
wide open sections and picked my way through the tight trees, hoping to
keep out of sight from Will. But luck intervened, the bad kind, at a
whooped-out sand section. A lapped rider ahead of me was looking a bit
dangerous while climbing a small hill, rear wheel swapping back and forth.
I moved to the left to pass, then he drifted left. My front tire ground
against his rear tire once, twice, and a third time before I lost my balance
and fell in the sand. If he hadn't slowed, all would have been fine, but luck
has a funny way of changing things. Will and Ron both passed me.
Eventually I caught up to Ron but never could get within 30 seconds of
Will. From that point on, we were running absolutely identical lap times.
Three times in a row, I could see him in the exact same spot ahead of me
on the other side of a gully, and I do mean the exact same spot. Try as I
might, I wasn't gaining any ground and was not helped by a lapper who
went out of his way to let by a guy ahead of me, but refused to take all of
1.5 seconds to let me by. Will probably gained another 15 seconds in the
minutes I begged and pleaded with the guy to let me pass.
The laps clicked by quickly, and a glance at my watch showed I was on my
final lap. Once again, I could see Will the same distance ahead of me and
settled in for a 2nd place finish. On the back side of the hog barns, in a
wide open section next to a small motocross course, I climbed a sandy,
whooped-out hill and was shocked to see a downed rider directly in my
path. I had just downshifted from 4th to 3rd gear, plenty fast enough for
severe pain in a collision. The impact was harsh, but somehow I jumped
away in time to keep from crunching bones against the guy’s KDX. He
apologized, over and over, and I shrugged it off. No harm was done to
either of us, so I hopped back on my bike and finished just behind +40A
winner Joe French.
Back at my truck, it became apparent that my pipe had taken most of the
impact of my last-lap collision. The pipe was toast, but the day was
otherwise a good one. Dan Burgard took the overall win, lapping me in
the process, as he did in winning at Hooppole in June.
August 27, 2006
2nd of 7 in +30A
Racing a new motorcycle in its inaugural season is a joy for many
reasons, none less pleasurable than the limited amount of prep time
needed to ready the bike for competition. Other than the routine air filter
cleanings and oil changes and chain adjustments, for most part it’s gas-n-
go. Unless, that is, you borrow various parts from an older motorcycle and
slap them on your new bike. Such has been the case with my ’04 KX250,
which completed its 9th race two weeks prior at Geneseo. Most of its
components were still tight and within tolerances, except for those
swapped from the ’03 KX250, now retired and looking for a new home.
Both wheels were taken from the ’03 bike, along with the handlebars,
triple clamps, handguards, silencer, large capacity gas tank, Hebo
clutch…the list goes on. While everything native to the ’04 bike was
working just fine, the swapped components gave the bike the flavor of a
well-used (read: abused) motorcycle. And as slow as I am at bike
maintenance, Saturday mornings before races are still reserved for my
home away from home, the 10x20 storage unit in the Chicago suburbs
where my toys and tools live.
Such was the case for my second trip to Wardy's Fox Valley Off Road
hare scramble. The pipe I’d smashed in a collision at Geneseo had been
replaced by a new FMF Fatty in the ultra-wannabe-MX “factory” style.
Those folks at FMF are smart. They pull a bunch of pipes off the
assembly line prior to the nickel plating process and tack weld an oval,
stamped metal piece that reads "FMF”. The unfinished look is reminiscent
of pipes on factory motocrossers back in the day when the upper echelon
of professional racers preferred two strokes to four; thus the name
“Factory” for this line of pipes. With this, FMF can sell aspiring motocross
racers a pipe that would seem to be made with less effort than the ultra-
shiny (and much prettier) nickel-plated version, for about $20 more than
the regular Fatty. Motocross racers will gladly pay this premium because
they are morons. Actually, I am being overly harsh and I do apologize.
Motocrossers are often very helpful in my quest for cheap, as their
preference for whatever RC and Bubba are doing this month has led to a
fire sale of all things 2-stroke, including FMF’s Factory Fatty pipe which I
picked up new on eBay last year for $71 delivered to my door.
As for the racing, this time at Fox Valley the temperature was 20 degrees
cooler and the dirt was wet from rains during the week. The rocky creek
was again part of the course, run basically in reverse of the July race. My
start was average as usual and I managed to fall over just past the first
turn, then waited patiently while #640 Tim Perkins stalled his Husky at the
bottom of every hill. The downhills were a bit tricky, some with 90-degree
turns at the bottoms. On later laps, just about all the red and yellow tape
around the sharp corners would be torn off as riders slid past the
My fancy new FMF pipe brought some extra life to the KX’s engine while I
tried to keep up with #401 Will Heitman and #416 Bruce Richard on the
first lap. Just behind me was #408 Jeff Snedecor, who passed me on the
second lap. He was out of sight in no time until a fall in the creek later in
the race. And speaking of the creek, I must say I rode that thing like Tuff
Hedeman on Bodacious at Long Beach in ’93. The proverbial 8 seconds,
I owned it, every rock, tree root and muddy rut. I made more passes than
Bill Clinton at an unwed mother’s convention. The creek was mine.
An hour into the race I finally caught up to Will, and due to Jeff Snedecor’
s fall in the creek, briefly took over the lead in our class. But Jeff caught
up quickly, passed me like I was standing still and I never saw him for the
rest of the race. In the final lap and a half, Jeff put a 35-second gap on
me. The whole time, however, I thought I was no better than 3rd place,
based on the scoring display. As it turned out, the scoring display was
wrong. Jeff took the win, with me in 2nd and Will in 3rd. Rick Kinkelaar
bounced back from bike problems the previous two races and won the AA
class, while Trey Verado in the Little A class took the overall win.
position at the start
of a race