March 15, 2009
1st of 5 in +30A
On the day my 2008 racing season ended, so began the snow. For two solid months
the snow piled up in the Rockford, Illinois area and my Blazer spent many miles
locked in 4WD. When temperatures drop below freezing and stay there the entire
winter, the only two-wheeled racing in this area takes place on frozen lakes and
rivers. I hibernate during these times, do some routine maintenance on the
motorcycles and wish for the start of a new racing season.
Enter Bill Gusse to the rescue, with his regional MXC series. The racing actually
began the prior Sunday, and even though the KX250 was fully prepped and ready to
ride, a gully-washing downpour that morning convinced me to roll back into bed and
sleep a little longer. Rain, I can do. Rain and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, not so much. I’
m old, I don’t race for points, and I prefer 60 degrees and sunny. On this day, I got it.
The sandy soil of the Prophetstown venue had sucked up all the rain from the
previous weekend and was in fine shape, other than a couple shady spots in the
woods where the dirt was slightly frozen. Everyone gets a practice lap at MXC races,
and for me, it was my first ride since the March of Dimes race last November. It was
also my first ride since I reassembled the KX after its complete tear-down over the
winter. No parts fell off, so I made some minor adjustments and called it good.
The Prophetstown race always starts next to a small motocross track and reverses
course around a tight 180-degree turn. I've had some spectacular failures at this turn,
but today I rounded the corner in 4th, and at the next turn bullied my way around a
KTM. The “old guy” classes were all on the second row, with most of the “less” old
people in the +30A class leading the way around the course. Paul Mitzelfelt and
Jason Soseman set a fast pace through the singletrack, with Paul eventually pulling
away and leaving my sight. Another bar-banging move put me ahead of Jason and in
2nd place somewhere behind Paul.
About halfway through the course was a large log, which was easy enough on the
practice lap, but only because I’d taken an alternate route around some downed
trees on the other side of the log. On this first lap, I missed the easier route and
followed Paul into a mess of logs and stumps and branches. Paul was there with me
and got himself moving while I let my KX fall over between two trees. When I finally
pushed the bike through this section, most of our row appeared to be well on their
way down the trail.
As it turned out, most of the +30A guys got hung up here. After another lap or two, I
caught up to Paul and took over the lead. I didn't know this, but I did notice that every
12 or 13 minutes, a pair of attractive young ladies would mark my score card and I’d
spin through the sand. Every gear in the transmission was used at the Prophetstown
course, thanks to a wide, sweeping section of loamy dirt which led to the motocross
track. The fearless could start out by doubling a pair of jumps while tapped out in 4th
gear. Second gear and one at a time was good enough for me.
Near the end of the 1 hour, 45-minute race, I checked into the scoring barrels just
before time ran out. My blistering hands could have done without another lap, but I
played through the pain and finished in just under 2 hours. In the following days, my
body would punish me for that trophy, but for one glorious day, I savored the new
racing season. Then came the ice packs, heating pads, Ibuprofen…..
April 5, 2009
2nd of 3 in +30A
The nomadic existence of yours truly took a turn toward Dakota, Illinois in March
2009, resulting in the return to actual home ownership, and by that I mean the kind
that comes without neighbors 12 inches on the other side of a wall. On this day, I
awoke to sunshine, 34 degrees and a light coating of snow on the ground. Winter
tends to retreat reluctantly in these parts, and I would rather have climbed back into
bed and forgotten about racing. But with Easter Sunday the following weekend (no
races anywhere reasonably close) and the two-day ISDE qualifier looming the
weekend after that (my entry form and $90 mailed long ago), I knew I’d suffer badly in
Missouri if I didn't get in some saddle time today.
So off I went, back to Prophetstown and its sandy trails along the edge of the Rock
River Valley. I packed all the cold weather gear I could locate and drove across scenic
rolling hills through towns like Lena, Pearl City, Lanark and Morrison (editor’s note: if
you want to see the grandest old row of houses anywhere in small-town Illinois, try U.
S. 30 through Morrison). The chilly temps kept the nice lady who takes my money at
Bill Gusse’s MXC races planted inside her car, so we traded cash from my window to
hers, and she remembered that my name is not Brian With the Red Truck, it’s John
With the Green Motorcycle.
I pulled into a parking spot beside a covered trailer owned by a gentleman with a
proclivity for the F-bomb. His report on the course (unlike me, he showed up in time
for a practice lap) and his description of his Suzuki RMZ were laced with more F-
words than a Patti Blagojevich dinner conversation. I did learn from him that rain
showers in the morning had firmed up the sand into nearly perfect condition for
racing. And since the well-wooded staging area blocked out most of the bitter wind, I
could leave my cold weather jacket in the truck and ride with two jerseys instead.
With less favorable weather than last month’s MXC event here, fewer riders entered
the adult classes and Mr. Gusse decided to run all of us in the same race. We
packed into the usual starting area near the motocross track, where I found myself in
the middle of about 15 guys on the second row. When the green flagged dropped, my
brain failed to immediately realize it was go-time. This delayed reaction has been an
elemental part of my hare scramble existence for much of my racing career, although
the past couple years riding KX250’s had seen considerable improvement. But true
to old form, my slow reflex put me in the middle of the pack as we drag raced about
100 yards to the edge of the motocross track. We were to enter the track at a 180-
degree hairpin turn at the edge of a small jump, which created a tight off-camber turn.
Several riders positioned themselves in a single file line for an inside approach to
this turn, while I sped by in hopes of finding a smoother outside line. For the most
part, it worked. I moved up about five spots as we headed for the first of two double
jumps on the motocross track.
After completing about half the motorcross course, we veered off into a curvy section
of ATV-wide trails, then sliced through some tight, technical woods on the west edge
of the property. The deep sand that makes this venue ideal for wet weather racing
was next, followed by more singletrack. The lap ended near the motocross track.
Last month, the motocross portion of the course was run in reverse. In that direction,
the angle of the approach jumps seemed too low to launch me high enough over the
second jump without fear of embarrassment in front of spectators. Despite the
forgiving sand and a degree of difficulty in reach of most 8-year-olds on 65cc mini-
bikes, I clenched the handlebars like a 90-year-old with a walker, and only grazed the
top of the second jump. Today, I was prepared for more of the same. On the second
lap, I rolled over the first set of doubles while a rider on my row sailed by. At the
second set of doubles, I grew some testicles and flew over them the way God and
Bill Gusse intended. The landing was soft and supple and my satisfaction was
matched only by my desire to catch up to someone, anyone on my row. Five or so
guys were ahead of me when we left the motocross track on the first lap, and I’d seen
none of them since.
The sand was much deeper now than last month, and a trouble spot was brewing on
a small but steep hill. Two general routes could take you to the top, each option
requiring a sharp right turn at the crest, which joined a narrow off-camber trail. A pair
of riders were struggling on the side of the hill on my second pass through here, and
I’d have a clear path up either route only a couple of times during the race. Another
difficult area was a 4th gear straight section that had been bulldozed into the woods
many years ago. Whether by nature or with the help of a Caterpillar, the rolling terrain
was filled with fast jumps, which were much fun. The landings became problematic
as rear suspensions rebounded and tires grabbed for traction, leaving a trough in the
landing zone. During the first few laps it appeared a few guys had, upon landing,
planted their front wheels in the trough and taken wild over-the-bars rides. I nearly
joined them on the second lap and wished for a little more compression damping in
the front forks.
On the third lap, I finally decided to launch my KX250 over both sets of double jumps
and continued this for the rest of the race. It really is easier that way. What isn't so
easy is watching guys like overall winner Adam Bonneur attack the sand and make it
look so smooth. Why can’t I, my self asked itself when Adam lapped me about
halfway through the race. He passed me in the technical singletrack on the west side
of the property, and I kept him in sight for a minute or so, but once we came to the
wider sand trails, he was gone.
Unlike the previous race here, my city boy hands resisted blisters, but the sand
whoops were wearing down the rest of my body. I did nothing particularly dumb
throughout the race and only fell over a couple times. I wasn't able to catch +30A
winner Brian Studniarz, but I did win a bunny trophy for my 2nd place effort.
Prophetstown, IL #1
Prophetstown, IL #2