2008 Race Reports
March 16, 2008
Belleville, Illinois
2nd of 4 in +30A
Now that I’m 3 winters into my Chicago adventure, one thing is certain:
until I develop an affinity for sub-freezing riding conditions, every Monday
after the first race of the season I will feel like a guy who just received his
first prostate exam. Clever me, thinking a bicycle trainer would raise my
preseason fitness to an in-season level. The
Belleville Enduro Team’s
hare scramble proved there’s no substitute for a good flogging on tight,
twisty trails.

My last
trip here in 2005 bought an end to full-time riding in the St. Louis
area, as afterwards I packed my bags and my bikes and headed to the
Wintry City just after Jason Hawk out-dueled me for the A-class win. Jason
would once again join me for 2 hours of bar-banging in the AMA District
17 hare scrambles series. Four of us lined up on the third row of the
starting grid for the +30A class, made up of guys old enough to know
better but dumb enough to throw caution to the 55-degree wind and tear
through the woods at speeds never intended for fragile bones. Two rows
of riders ahead of us departed in 30-second intervals on the TT track,
which is a flat, oval-shaped dirt track with slightly banked turns bordered
by a plywood wall. I once attended a TT race at Belleville and concluded
that the hyper-modified motorcycles and ATV’s racing around a quarter-
mile flat track for 5 minutes at a time fell into the category of drag racing
and hill climbing in measuring bang for buck. The whole thing sure
seemed like overkill, but as the starting point of the hare scramble the TT
track worked very well.

For those who have read my 157 race reports leading up to this one,
there’s a common theme concerning dead-engine starts: I suck at’em. But
as they say, every dog has its day, and this one was mine. For only the
second time ever, I pulled the holeshot and led the +30A class into the
woods.

The BET course was in absolutely pristine condition, after a week or so
without much rainfall. I led our class of four through the singletrack on
south end of the property, across the concrete erosion control structure
on the southeast corner, then up and down the rollercoaster trail that
lines the eastern boundary of the club grounds. Through here I caught up
to David Brewster in the Open A class, attempting to pass a slower rider.
David made the pass and edged himself out of sight while I tried to find a
path around the same guy. Meanwhile, whatever gap I’d put between the
other three riders in my class quickly disappeared.

Eventually I found a way around the slower Open A rider near the first
checkpoint on the northeast side of the property. Richard Bruce was now
riding on my back tire and would stay close throughout the tight, twisting
trails on the north half of the course. As with past BET hare scrambles
courses, a second checkpoint was placed along the northwest corner of
the property, followed by a high-speed run next to the country road
leading to the club’s entrance.

As we neared the end of the loop, I missed a turn leading down to a levee
across a small lake. Richard Bruce followed me, but as we realized our
mistake he turned back around more quickly. From there, I’d never see
him again. I checked into the scoring barrels in 2nd place and would hold
that position throughout the rest of the race.

On my second lap, a bottleneck had developed at the concrete erosion
control structure on the southeast side of the property. The structure had
an uneven surface patterned in the shape of an inflatable floor of a
Moonwalk ride at a county fair, which we crossed at an off-camber angle.
The trail leading up to it had just enough moisture to dampen the
concrete, causing rear tires to slide down the slippery slope. I bullied my
way past the riders waiting their turn and found a higher, drier line across
the concrete. Fifteen lappers, all passed at once.

My third pass through the concrete structure took more maneuvering past
an even larger bottleneck backed all the way up to a high off-camber
singletrack trail leading to the far corner of the property. While 20 or so
riders idled in a long line, I edged my around them all and found the same
high line over the concrete. From there it was 6 more laps of dodging
lapped riders. As second-place AA rider Lee Lankutis would describe
after the race, the lappers either helped tremendously in moving over, or
painfully hindered progress for lack of alternative lines through the tight
trails. For the most part the lapped riders moved over quickly and
sometimes to their own detriment. I was helped more than hurt by lapped
riders. In a tight section on the north side of the course, a slower rider let
me by at the crest of one of the many mining-induced ridges, only to fall
over onto another rider who was also stopped on the top of the ridge. In
another spot in same area of the course, I followed three slower riders for
a few minutes, when suddenly they all flew past the same turn I'd missed
on the first lap. I passed without having to pass.

Somewhere near the halfway point in the race, I nearly ended my day
attempting a James “Bubba” Stewart launch over a medium-sized jump
atop a ridge. The trail was wide and the jump had two ATV tracks through
the center. On previous laps I’d jumped it in 4th gear through the lower
trajectory provided by the ATV tracks, but in trying to make a pass on
slower riders, I decided to use a line where the ATV’s hadn't been. Two
results came of this: 1) I jumped higher; and 2) I was much closer to the
trees at the edge of the trail. The first part was fun; the second part nearly
knocked me off the bike. A tree limb hung just low enough to whack me in
the helmet, dizzy my aching head and cause me to bite my lip. I stuck to
the center line after that.

At the two-hour mark, the checkered flag came out and I took home 2nd
place in +30A. Chris Graber took the overall win, while Rick Kinkelaar won
the Open A class. Longtime veteran Tanner England took the top spot in
the +40A class. David Brewster DNF'ed after wrenching his back while
crossing the concrete structure, and Jason Hawk took 4th place in +30A.
The well-attended race was one of the best BET races I've participated in,
thanks to an awesome course and excellent riding conditions. I was sore
for two days following the race, but what else is new? Old muscles awake
slowly….

March 30, 2008
Hooppole, Illinois
2nd of 10 in +30A
There’s a fine line between economy and stupidity, and I’m well on my way
to finding it. My newest motorcycle is in its third racing season, my bike
hauler is a 178,000-mile pickup truck with a transmission destined to fail
at any moment, and heck, even my noggin protector has not so gracefully
entered its fourth year of saving what's left of my brain. Somehow, though,
it always seems to come together on race day. For round #2 of
WFO
Promotion’s hare scrambles series, economy and stupidity nearly
combined for a class win.

The Hooppole property makes for a great Spring venue, with plenty of
drainage-friendly sand mixed in with loamy soil. The course is split
between north and south sections of woods with two long sprints across
harvested fields to get there and back. The ATV’s were already tearing
through course when I arrived, so I took a peek inside the north woods
and saw a skinny dude with long, braided ponytails flying down the trail.
The ATV race ended as I hiked back to my truck, where along the way I
noticed the skinny ponytail guy removing…
her helmet. It was Quad Girl,
a/k/a Kim Muzzarelli, fourth place finisher in the Quad B class.

For this race I wanted to show off the only new thing of any moto-related
sort that I bought in the off-season, a
Thor chest protector and BRM
Offroad number plate, but my fingers were cold while setting up for the
race – my body’s way of telling me to wear warm gear. So on came the
riding jacket, and the new chest protector became my little special secret.  

Over 40 riders lined up in the A class row, in one of the most well-
attended WFO races I've seen. The starting line in loamy corn stalks
suited me well as I held the throttle wide open to a 55-gallon drum marking
the first turn. A dash to the woods followed, where after minor jockeying
for position I found myself somewhere around 10th in a long line of
aggressive riders. Near the end of the off-camber trails where’d I’d
spotted Quad Girl in the morning, the 4-stroke KTM of Rick Kinkelaar
showed up beside me as we exited the woods for the first of two long
fields requiring the speed and ballzification which gives WFO Promotions
its name.

Rick blazed a trail ahead of me, full throttle at 75mph across a choppy
cornfield which tested the ability of our steering dampers to prevent the
sort of headshake that ejects riders into the ground. Certain individuals
might believe that attempting to hold straight a set of handlebars
determined to go their own way with the throttle held wide open would
constitute stupidity. Those individuals would be correct.

After about a ¼ mile of this, I grabbed a handful of front brake to make a
right hand turn across a fence row that brought us to a muddy drainage
ditch. The shortest path was, naturally, the slimiest and most risky, but
Rick headed straight for it and so did I. A series of wood pallets helped
keep us out of the deep mud in the bottom of the ditch, but the ATV’s had
rearranged them just enough to kill the momentum I needed to quickly
launch the KX250 up the other side. The rear tire found just enough
traction to propel me over the top, but neither Rick nor I gained anything
for our efforts except more mud on our motorcycles.

Now in the south part of the course, we blitzed through some GNCC-style
trails and into another open field. This one was both softer and rougher
than the previous field, which sounds funny until you think about what
something like
this does to soil. Choppy on top; spongy underneath.

Next up was about 200 yards of new singletrack followed by an
overhanging 18-inch log that would whack me in the head every other lap.
The coolest little feature of the course came after that, a
v-shaped cattle
guard over a fence. The brave guy in front of me launched his bike over
the top sailed across the fence. I took a more calculated (read: slow)
approach and eased myself over the metal bars. A nice section of
singletrack followed, with plenty of tight trees, roots and sand. Next was a
return trip through soybean stubble as fast as the KX250 would go, which
then took us back to the scoring barrels.  

A few laps into the race, around the same time I found a way around #499
Shawn Minnaert, #420 Tim Ferrell inexplicably waved me on by. From
there I led the +30A class for several more laps. Each time I passed
through the scoring barrels, I dumped the clutch, coated the scoring guys
with a silty loam, and sped 300 yards to a beautiful 3rd gear lefthander
turn with the most perfect foot-high berm guiding us back into the woods.

I've encountered a lot of interesting wildlife on race courses, but none
compared to the beast that nearly ran me over – twice. This animal was a
tractor pulling a liquid manure spreader. Early in the race I had to pass
this massive machine along a fence row and beat it to a 180-degree turn
to reach the other side of the fence. The second encounter came as it
was lumbering its way through a gap in the woods to another field. Just as
I was about to launch myself over the v-shaped cattle guard, the huge
hunk of steel and rubber tires appeared at the exact spot I would have
landed. Disaster avoided – barely.

On my final trip around the course, I tried to pass a lapper and lost
momentum up an off-camber hillside. The loose soil made traction difficult
from a dead stop. Tim Ferrell flew by while I let the rear tire spin in the
sand and from there I wouldn't get close enough to have a shot at
regaining the lead. Tim held on for the class win, followed by me and
Shawn Minnaert riding on a flat tire. Adam Bonneur took the overall win,
followed by perennial fast guy Phil Converse. Rick Kinkelaar matched my
2nd place effort in the Open A class. In all, over 200 bikes, quads and
mini’s participated in another excellent WFO event.
Belleville, Illinois
Hooppole, Illinois
Ballzification: the act of
putting all fears aside
and doing something yo’
mamma would tell you
is a very, very bad idea
.