Steele Creek…wow!

As I sit here in my hotel, after the race, all showered and hurting, it is almost surreal feeling. I have never seen or done anything like what I did today. I have never seen hills that big, I have never seen downhills that treacherous, I have never seen that much mud, and I have never hurt this bad before. If all GNCC races are like this, then I will have a completely new perspective on all of this.

It is not as if our racing at home is not hard, it is. But, it is only 2 hours. Something about that 3rd hour makes it not just another 50% harder, but it feels like it is twice as hard.

At this point, if you want, you can jump right to the punch line

– David Knight won.

– Scott was 8th in his class.

– I was 15th out of 35 in my class.

But if you stop there, the whole story really isn’t told.

So last night, it rained. It did not just rain a little bit, but it rained all night. It was cold, so we had the heater running and the generator. In addition to all the other generators in the pits. So, I sleep with earplugs in to help take the edge off all that noise. In spite of that, I could hear the rain on the top of the camper all night.

Yesterday, I posted pictures of the huge hills on the course. I could not sleep much last night at all, because I was laying there thinking about the rain and thinking about how difficult all those hills were going to be, and thinking about how bad the ruts were going to be. I was working myself into a tizzy over it all. I was honestly scared.

At 7am, we got up out of bed. It is still dark at 7am in this part of the world. After a trip to the bathroom, we made breakfast and watched the rain out the camper window. It looked like it was going to be as muddy as possible.

As usual, we worked on race morning prep while the kids race. The order of the day, is kids race at 8 – 9:30, morning adult race from 10:30 – 12:30, and then our race 1:30 – 4:30. Our routine is to work on race prep during the kids race. You know, prepping goggles, mixing gas, last minute bike stuff, tire pressure on the Pirelli tires etc… The kids race a different course than us so it doesn’t pay to spend a lot of time watching them – although it is fun to watch the kids race. Then, we watch the start of the morning race and then take a look at how they are dealing with the course.

The morning race, confirmed my worse fears. They were not dealing with the course well at all. There were bottlenecks stopped all over the course.

Here are a couple of photos of the morning race trying to deal with the hill that I showed yesterday.

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See those riders halfway up the hill? They are all stuck. Completely clogging the hill. Yes, those are riders coming back down the hill as they could not get up it. Many people, ended their race right here on this hill – on the first lap.

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This the kind of bottleneck I am talking about. This one is just getting started, about halfway up the hill. In about 15 minutes, it stretched all the way to the bottom of the hill.

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Of course all the bottlenecks led to this scene. That is someones bike completely overheating, loosing all of its coolant and about to detonate. In this case, this rider was completely oblivious about what to do about it.

Eventually, the bottleneck on our hill stretched all the way down the hill. It had to be 100 riders thick. Most of them just sitting there with their motors off. Many of the riders were overheating and burning up clutches. I talked to a few riders who ended their day because of a burned up clutch.

Eventually a spectator started sending the riders down the hill, and once one rider did it they all did it. The riders found their way around the mountain that they were supposed to go over, and onto the course. That group of 100 riders cut the course by at least 10 minutes. But, it was probably half the field. I asked the spectator that started sending the riders down the hill if he had been told by a GNCC official to do that. He looked at me like I had 2 heads or was from Wisconsin or something like that. Yow!

I think they cut the morning race short, but I cannot be certain, as the next part of our routine is lunch at 11:30. I am partial to the day before leftovers. Since we always make pasta with Paul Newman sauce with grilled chicken and a salad the night before a race, I usually have the leftovers of that for lunch. Sometimes I add a peanut butter and Jam sandwich. Scott always has “dog food”, which is what he calls it, refried beans and rice.

Finally, it was time for our race. The start of a GNCC race takes forever. I mean, our local races at home just start up. You line up 10 minutes before the start, and they start on time like clockwork. A GNCC race, has to go over a routine of warnings and announcements, then there is the national anthem, then there is the course description, then there is the prayer and patriotism passage, then there is the introduction of the pros, then finally things get started. But, even after the pros get started it is 12 more waves – one minute apart – before my row starts. This whole thing takes about 30 minutes, and I just sit there with a horrible case of butterflies.

Finally, we got started. We tore into the woods, and just as I suspected – we got into a huge bottleneck at the first hill. There had to be 40 riders stopped in front of me. One by one, we took our turn up the hill. It really wasn’t that hard of a hill, but all it takes is one rider to clog it all up and then a bottleneck happens.

That was it though, no other bottlenecks that I ran into. But, the course was completely chewed up. It had stopped raining that morning, and had really dried up fast. There was still plenty of mud, but it really was pretty fast. Man was it gnarly though. I have never ridden anything as chewed up as this course was. Lots of roots exposed, lots of rocks and lots and lots of square edged holes. I almost never sat down for the entire 3 hours.

The hills were huge. I am talking switchback climbs and minutes of climbing at a whack. And that was nothing compared to the down hills. Some of the down hills went straight down the side of the face of the mountains. They were super slick, and had lines going everywhere. I suck at downhills. They scare me.

I have to admit that my knee is killing me. Paddling through the ruts is really really hard on it. I was ready to stop when I was finished. After sitting in the van and now sitting here on the hotel bed, my knee is completely swollen and is tough to move. It is just not really strong enough to stand up on a motorcycle all day and fight that kind of terrain.

But, in the end I had a good race. Sure, I would have liked to have been in the top 10, but I was happy to finish and not to make mistakes. I will work my way into the top 10 eventually. I am still not riding as well as I was last year. Knee surgery has really slowed me up and made me tentative.

Oh, I forgot to mention the 2 really great mullets I saw in the pits today. They were classic.

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Above is the one that I was able to get on camera. Wow. That is a mullet.

So, now we clean up bikes, organize for the next race in 2 weeks and fly home with a list. But first, some sleep.

Joe

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