2007 Race Reports
April 1, 2007
Prophetstown, Illinois
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 race.

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.
Prophetstown, Illinois
Roselawn, Indiana
April 22, 2007
Roselawn, Indiana
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 was perfect.

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.