I’m not able to do as many races this year as I would like to but the National Harescramble in Rhinelander, WI was one I earmarked as a must do. I’d done it in year’s past with mixed results but the course has always been challenging and Rick Anschutz always puts on good events. The weather was perfect at 65 degrees but it’s been dry up north so we expected some dust. Joe and I headed out at about 5am to make the 4 hours jont due north.
The dust was bad but a light breeze prevented most of it from settling on the course. The C Class race started just as we pulled up so we got to see what the dust would be like for our race later in the day. Getting a good start was paramount and I started getting my head around what that was going to take. I registered, put my RM144 with a For Sale sign over by the commons area, ate some lunch and rode my mountain bike over to the start chute. I made note of a few soft turns and the order of single and double jumps on the MX track before the long, dusty 5th gear straight that lead to the woods.
I opted to race in the Vet 30+A class this time around. The $100 AA entry fee was a bit steep for me. I didn’t realize it until I lined up but all the guys I normally race with and a few from neighboring districts lined up on the rows in front of me. This was highly motivational. Seeing all those red backed number plates get a 2 minute head start got my heart beating fast when it came time to race.
I managed the holeshot in my group and tried like mad to put in a solid 2-3 opening minutes. I imagine the dust the first few riders kicked up made it nearly impossible to see enough trail to go fast if you were farther back at the start. My son’s borrowed step stool, a holeshot device and a recently revised start procedure paid off big time for me.
National HS races are 3 hours. That made nutrition and pace important for me since I’ve only been on my motorcycle seven days this year. The shortage of ride time has made me feel rusty but I’ve worked hard at focusing my gym and cardio training on improving on my perceived moto skill weaknesses. I seem to be benefiting from the intensity workouts and balance / agility training I’ve been doing. I tend to need to race into shape but I felt okay out there on the trail.
The course was a mix of high-speed logging road and near walking speed single track. You’d go from 5th gear wide open on squirmy sand to rich and loamy rutted second gear single track in the blink of an eye several times each lap. The wide open sections were bright with sun and the woods were dark. I had a tough time for those first few seconds every time the trail dove back into the woods because my eyes couldn’t adjust quickly enough. The other struggle we all had to deal with was the deteriorating trail. Dry conditions usually mean ruts and chop and by late in the race my hands and wrists were blistered and battered. Thanks heavens for Factory Connection. I’ve also been racing a Tubliss rear set up these past few races (and at the Snowshoe GNCC last year). There was never a concern about pinch flatting even though the fastest way for me to get across some of the exposed roots was front end in the air, gas on full and deal with the consequences.
The 25 minute laps did loops in the woods that occasionally took us close to a part of the course we had just ridden or were about to ride. I kept tabs on a rider that was on my tail over the first two laps but stopped seeing him after a while. On the third lap I caught a red number plate and push hard to get by him and put time on him. Catching a AA rider gave me confidence. Shortly after that I caught two AA guys I new – Ryan Finnel and Mat Herrington. Ryan is a 16ish year old local speedster who’s riding an RM144. Mat is doing the GNCC series in the XC2 class mounted on a KX-F250. It took me a long time to find a place to get by Ryan. The 144 he was on was so fast in the turns and the course was nothing but turns in some sections. The only place I could sneak by was on an open fire road where my taller gearing and additional horsepower made a difference. Mat was a different story. He was fast everywhere. I don’t remember where I got by him the first time but I know we swapped places a few times when we bobbled or stalled it. In the end I put some time on Mat but it took a lot out of me to do it.
One of the habits I’ve been trying to bolster lately is looking farther up the trail. I use my mountain bike to build this skill and get a feel for things. I think because of that I’ve somewhat hindered my ability to benefit from a rider that’s directly in front of me. It used to be that I could match the pace with a faster rider as long as I didn’t make any mistakes just by riding in his tire tracks. This was not the case at Rhinelander. My focus and pace were disrupted when I got too close to the riders in front of me. Something to remember, I guess.
If you’ve never worn Moose Sahara gear, you don’t know what you’re missing. I come from the cycling industry where technical clothing is an integral part of your ride experience. I’ve often thought that moto ride gear wasn’t technical enough. I’m talking about the fabrics ability to wick perspiration or vent well enough to keep you cool, not to mention offer protection or stay in place. I’ll never race in 65 degree or warmer weather in anything but Sahara ever again. It totally rocked.
Late in the race I started thinking about how bummed I would be if Jason Raines lapped me. I’d been having a good race up to that point and really wanted to finish on the lead lap. I tried to up the pace a little and kept thinking about what the next turn was leading to or where my successful lines had been in the previous laps. I did have a frightening tumble after clipping a tree with my left Cycra hand guard, getting off line and plowing into the next tree with just about all of my right side. My bike and I had parted and it lay dead in the middle of the trail. I adjusted my Bell and Oakleys, fired up the RM and tried to get back up to speed. My right foot hurt a little at the time and it’s been badly bruised ever since. I didn’t loose that much time but it sure hurt. I didn’t get lapped by Jason but I didn’t finish on the same lap as he did either. He snuck in under the 3 hour mark and got an extra lap in – I did 7 and he completed 8. My result is much better than I’ve done at this event in the past so I can’t be too disappointed.
All in all I had a very good race. I won’t the 30+ group and finished 5th overall by time. I beat all of the AA guys except JD and Jason Raines. That feels good. Next stop – June 13 and 14, Rick’s WIXC race in Lakewood, WI. Hope to see you there.