April 1, 2007
2nd of 6 in +30A
Crafty veterans racing in the over-30 class for A riders are usually a
consistent bunch. We’re still racing dirt bikes with most of our
faculties in working order because several years ago we came to a
realization that limping into work on Monday morning was less
desirable than taking an extra half-second to ride around a two-foot
log instead of using it as a catapult to make a pass. But every once in
awhile we (read: me) make a bit of a rookie mistake. Such was the
case at Prophetstown.
Let’s just say I was a little excited off the start. In full throttle in 2nd
gear on the short approach to the first turn, I was heading for a front-
of-the pack position going into the woods. It was great while it lasted,
then I realized I needed to slow down, and fast. I duplicated, for the
most part, my first crash as an 11-year-old on my brand new Suzuki
TS100. With a firm handful of front brake, the bike flopped to the
ground and I flew headfirst into sand, in front of about 150 spectators.
And John Gasso's camera, captured on digitalia and uploaded to the
internet for billions to see.
I didn't go down alone. Two other guys couldn't get out of my way,
including #121 Paul Mitzelfelt, who chose an unfortunate spot next to
me on the starting line. As it goes, the cause of the pileup (me) often
ends up on the bottom of the heap and is usually the last to restart. I
watched the entire row of +30A and +40A riders disappear into the
woods before I could get myself moving again. A minute later I caught
and passed 3 or 4 guys in a tricky side-hill and then settled into a
wide gap between the rest of the field.
Prophetstown's terrain was in surprisingly good shape, considering
the prior week’s rainfall. Even with a cold drizzle during most of the C-
class race, the sandy soil kept its form throughout the two-hour event.
As usual, the trail layout was alternately fast, then narrow, then fast
again. But this time it was much rougher than the half-frozen mess I’d
ridden the previous month. And in playing catch-up, I had no idea
who I was supposed to be catching up to. After those initial passes
early in the first lap, I’d seen no others ahead of me.
In one of the fast sections, a series of 4th gear jumps gave us two
options – right or left, heading down into a low area on a straight,
wide path. I’d had a sphincter-tightening experience in choosing the
right side on the first lap, so the next time around I took the left side.
Much more fun. The KX's suspension compressed at the landing of
one small jump, which was also the takeoff for a second jump. Front
and rear springs then uncompressed, and presto! My wheels never
touched the ground until I hit the landing of the second jump. Each
time through, same 4th gear, same result.
With nearly perfect conditions, the fastest of the fast were riding extra
aggressively. About 5 laps in, the lead riders in the Pro class were
already lapping me. Adam Bonneur on his Yamaha was the first to fly
by, followed later by Ryan Poulter on a screaming Honda 4-stroke.
Just after the motocross track I tried to let Ryan by taking an alternate
line and he fell over beside me, somehow keeping the bike running
and remounting in time to successfully pass me about 8 seconds
later. Eventually Ryan would overtake Adam Bonneur and win the
I, on the other hand, could only muster 2nd place in the Vet A class
and was surprised I actually passed anyone except the guys I
knocked over in the first turn. Two jerseys on a cold, misty day were
just enough to keep me comfortable during the race, but I nearly
froze afterwards. The heat stayed on the whole way home and I
contemplated John Gasso's pending internet photography…as
expected, it was glorious.
April 22, 2007
Sand Goblin Enduro
3rd of 13 in Vet A
Some of the most fun to be had with any enduro near Roselawn,
Indiana is the explanation beforehand to those curious enough to ask
where this little town is and what it’s famous for. While cattle do roam
certain parts of the sandy countryside outside of town, the Ponderosa
Ranch is not where you’ll find them. What you will find is that which
makes Roselawn one of the more interesting venues for an enduro:
naked people. Depending on which club hosts the event and where
the trail is routed, it is indeed possible to view spectators along the
trail in a blurry nakedness that you wish you hadn't seen. It’s never
what you hope for.
But alas, the Grand Kankakee Trail Riders didn't subject us to the
saggy bodies of the Ponderosa Ranch or any of the other clothing-
optional clubs throughout the area. All we had to look forward to was
beautiful trails and a warm, sunny April day in Northwestern Indiana.
At sign-up, I selected row 18, which seemed to be my best chance for
trails broken in just enough to be easily readable without being
unnecessarily choppy or rutted. In all but the last section, this row
The GKTR club stepped up the challenge this year with 90 ground
miles. My generic 24 mph roll chart didn't go that high, but it didn't
really matter. I was extremely confident the last 10 miles or so
wouldn't require much timekeeping anyway. I lined up next to two
guys from Michigan and another guy on a Yamaha, who I noticed was
in my class. I also saw that he had a Watchdog enduro computer.
Perfect. My unbreakable Timex Ironman watch had finally expired for
good and I’d only managed to bring one cheap Walmart LCD clock. I
was in need of a backup plan and the Yamaha guy was it.
Like the previous year’s race, our warm-up at the start was several
miles of a trail painstakingly marked with wooden stakes and yellow
tape throughout an open field. The highlight of this section was “The
Snail”, which was a long circular series of left-hand turns with
gradually decreasing radii. For the geometry-challenged, this means
the further we progressed, the tighter were the turns (and you
thought you’d never use your high school geometry). Eventually the
turns became first-gear tight and then reversed with a series of right-
hand turns with gradually expanding radii. From overhead, the trail
would have had the outline of a snail. Very cool.
From there, we left the field and began 10 miles of intense woods
filled with logs, sand, grassy whoops next to creeks, small trees, large
trees, and even a cow or two. This came at the point where most
riders typically expect a leisurely ride in and out of woods and road
sections, but today was no day for that. I put the blame squarely on
Mr. Jeff Fredette, one of the primary leaders of the GKTR’s enduro
efforts. His course design strays from the Bill Gusse school of
thought, where the toughest obstacles are laid end-to-end in a never-
ending physical challenge. Mr. Fredette’s approach is reverse
psychology: punish riders when they least expect it.
At the end of the section, 45 minutes into the race, I was a bit winded.
While catching my breath, I noticed that the Yamaha guy on my row
with a dirt-covered face appeared remarkably similar to one Jeff
Snedcor of Kankakee. As fate would have it, he was in fact Jeff
Snedcor of Kankakee. I’d seen his class name (Vet A) written on his
scorecard but didn't bother to check the name. The last time Jeff had
seen me on a KTM was at Roselawn in 2000, when we rode together
with Ryan Baker. Camouflaged in our riding gear, neither of us was
familiar to each other on the starting line, but now we were catching
up on various happenings since we last raced together during the
previous summer’s District 17 hare scrambles series.
Rule #2 in enduro racing is this: The Guy With the Computer Gets To
Go First (Rule #1 is Attempt To Start Your Engine More Than 10
Minutes Before the Race Begins Because That’s Approximately How
Long it Takes To Figure Out There Might Be a Rag Left In Your
Airbox. But that’s neither here nor there). Thus, I let Jeff enter each
woods section ahead of me. Following the first reset, we came upon a
section of rolling pasture with just enough trail out of sight that all
riders proceeded with caution, for we were running a bit early. Jeff
kept me precisely on time as we found a surprise check in the bottom
of a sand pit. From there, I foolishly relied on my own timekeeping
abilities as Jeff eased out of sight inside the next woods section.
Apparently time passed a bit quicker than I expected through what
seemed like a relatively short section. After emerging onto a series of
country roads and fields, I leisurely cruised to the next section of
woods a minute late. Naturally, a check was placed just inside. Jeff
zeroed it; I did not.
One more section of tight woods and a long road section around a
large tract of land owned by The Nature Conservatory, and we were
back at the staging area for the first gas stop. I had remarkably little
to take care of during the 15 minute break except my appetite. The
Colorado-induced crack in my front rim seemed to be no worse that
when I’d discovered it the day before, so I sat on my truck’s tailgate
with a Power Bar and Gatorade until I was due to head back to the
dirt track. The fact that the KTM was performing so well after such a
long layoff was somewhat of a miracle, considering it had sat idle for
8 months, suffered through the coldest winter of its life and had a
complete top end rebuild. I was just happy that no critical parts had
fallen off yet.
The second loop began as the first, with the long dirt track in the field
next to the staging area. One thing the field track proved was the
night-and-day difference in handling between the KTM and my more
regular ride, the KX250. The orange bike just doesn't want to turn like
the KX. It mattered little, however, as the track was fast enough to
maintain the necessary speed average, and then some. Both times
through, Jeff and I ended up being early by the time we exited the
track. This time, however, the course took us a difference direction to
a drainage ditch, which we followed alongside on a grassy, heavily
whooped trail full of slower riders. Had a check been placed near the
end of this short section (as it had been last year), Jeff and I would
have dropped a point. As it were, no checks appeared and we
continued through various woods sections and fields until we crossed
a very busy State Road 10.
On the north side of the highway, the woods were more of the same,
with plenty of logs scattered throughout. The logs revealed the other
key difference between the KTM and the KX: the lightness of the front
ends. The KTM was still a throwback to my days of rock abuse in
Missouri, when I’d loaded down the KTM with 10 pounds worth of
FMF Gnarly pipe and a steel pipe guard. Those extra pounds are
great for rock protection but the first few logs were a bit of a surprise.
A little extra lead time was crucial.
The second loop ended as the first did, with a long road section
leading back to the staging area. At this point I really would have
enjoyed turning in my score card and calling it a day. But Mr. Fredette
and the GKTR's would have none of it. They had saved one final loop
for the A riders. By now the small end of my pipe guard had lost its
hose clamp and was adding about 3 inches to the overall width of the
KTM. I gave it a few kicks, called it good and headed back out to the
dirt track. The next 15 miles was a repeat of the first 15 miles, and by
the end of it I was tired. And thirsty. I’d forgotten to refill my
Camelback, which was now empty, and the protruding pipe guard
was producing many interesting noises as it whacked itself against
any trail object in its way.
We followed the same country roads around the Nature Conservatory
land on our way to the final woods section. After more than 80 miles
in the saddle, mine wasn't the only sore behind in the group of riders
around me. Everyone has their own way of dealing with monkey butt.
Jeff Snedcor stood frequently. Dan Janus rotated butt cheeks on the
seat. I simply groaned and put up with it. Jeff and I pulled into the
field lane that would start our final test of the day, with about 10
minutes to spare. I could have taken a long nap on the spot and
wished we could just go and get it over with. We expected the
toughest trails here, and that is exactly what we got.
My row choice had worked pretty well up to this point. The two nasty
creek crossings on the course were still passable for those of us on
rows in the ‘teens, and the trails were just well enough broken in to
be easily readable. However, almost all the other A riders had the
same idea. Only 3 riders were ahead of us at this point, and as Jeff
and I entered this section of woods, hardly a tire track was visible.
After the check-in checkpoint, Jeff took off and I fell over in the sand. I
pulled in the clutch to keep the ending running, but somehow
positioned my hand backwards around the handlebar grip. Try and
visualize that…it is actually possible to pick up the bike this way and
then release the clutch to get moving, but I would not recommend it.
Jeff was long gone and arrows were randomly placed wherever was
convenient for the course workers. I got lost at least 3 times in the first
mile. Then came the tightest woods I have ever ridden through. A
person leisurely jogging on foot would have doubled the progress I
was making through there. Even though the trees were barely
budding, hardly any sunlight was making it to the ground.
The section mercifully ended and I rode out the last of the singletrack
by myself. The course ended with a pass through the same
abandoned house as last year, which was much more enjoyable this
time because nobody was in front of me. I dismounted in the tight
hallway in the center of the house, walked the bike into the back
porch and then found out firsthand what happens when you try to exit
through a 30” door with 31” handlebars. I backed up a few inches,
retried with my handlebars turned slightly and shot through the door.
Jeff was already done, having put at least a minute between us. From
there, we rode back to the staging area and I collapsed on my truck.
After changing clothes and loading up my gear, I slept in my truck for
nearly an hour while the results were tallied. Jeff finally came by to
wake me up when the results were about to be posted. He and I were
2nd and 3rd in the Vet A class, separated by about 3 points. I was
especially glad to see I had accumulated the proper number of
checkpoints on my scorecard (unlike last year). Another great race by
the Grand Kankakee Trail Riders.