May 10. Arkansaw Cycle Park. The first D16 race.
Wow. It seemed like winter would never end. But then I went on a long business trip, and when I returned it is spring. The leaves are coming out on the trees, the grass is green and more importantly – we are racing!
Scott picked me up at an oh so early o’clock – 5 minutes before 5am to be exact. Scott and I have a thing about, when you say we are leaving at 5am, that means driving off at 5am. It was dark in the driveway, we both had to be up at about 4am to get going, but we were both giddy. I mean there is always something special about the first spring race day. The air is crisp, there was a forecast for rain, it is dark out when you drive out of the driveway… yowza!
Arkansaw Cycle park is way over on the west side of the state. The event is a shared event with the D23(Minnesota) crowd. They have a big district over there and this will promise to be a big event. Arkansaw Cycle park is a big piece of property with fantastic dirt, lots of rocks in the soil and big hills. The loop is a great mix of MX track, tight woods, big hills and GP type course on the fields. The loop is about 8.5 miles around and is about 20 minutes long.
We had a 3rd person with us in the van today. Our friend Roger Bird is back racing with us again. Roger has had a series of injuries, and is now healthy again and looking to finish out a season with us in the van. It will be fun to have him along. He races the same class that I do, but we have been friends a long time. In fact, Roger is the one that got me into all of this in the first place. Good to have him back with us, too bad he rides the wrong brand of bike.
On the way to Arkansaw, the skies opened up on us. I was thinking, “ugh… a mud race!” But, as we got closer the rain stopped and the fields on that side of the state are not underwater like they are on our side of the state. It was going to be a good race.
We set up our pits, sort of an abbreviated version of what we did at all the GNCC races last year. We did not have the camper, and we did not need the full set up for just a day race. But, I think as usual we look to represent.
There were at least 140 people on the start. The +40 wave was 20 people deep. That is a big field. Almost the size of the afternoon race at a GNCC. Pretty much the same size of the+40 line.
The gun went off for the AA line, and Scott actually took the holeshot. I watched him zoom off up the hill into the woods with JD in hot pursuit. But, I will let him tell that story elsewhere.
For our start, things were interesting. JD’s dad had warned me that there was a huge puddle in the 2nd turn. Stay to the outside. John Buechner got the start, I came out of the first turn 4th. Not bad, but in that 2nd turn I went outside as I was advised, but the guy in front of me went right into the lake of water and coated me all across the front with mud. I pulled a tear off and got my vision back and was pleased to see that I had not lost any places. We tore off up the hill and into the first woods section in that order.
In that first woods section, the guy in front of me tagged a tree and went down fast in front of me. Too fast for me to avoid his bike. I wedged my front wheel between his rear fender and his tire and was stuck there. At least 5 riders dodged around us before I could get going again. So, the chase was on.
I chased hard for most of the race, but for the first 2 laps it was basically just follow the leader. One line in the woods and 150ish riders equals single file and difficulty passing. Eventually it opened up and I could ride hard. The middle part of the race I put on a charge. At one point at about the 1.5 hour point, I was in site of John Buechner, but my body ran out of gas. I fizzled and did not make it all the way up to John. I made it back up to 4th, but could not get any higher. Turned out that I was only 1.5 minutes out of 1st, but I could not get there. John was actually 2nd on the day. Don’t know the guy who won, and it turns out there was actually someone in between John and I that I did not see. Roger was a very credible 6th. Not bad for his 1st race back in a few years.
– The course turned into one big long rut in the woods. The dirt was soft, and a lot of the trail was virgin singletrack on a side hill. That makes for one big long rut.
– That rut killed my clutch. (Actually, the rut is just a trail condition, I killed the clutch because I was dragging it so much while paddling through that rut) I need new plates, new basket, new clevis arm, new push rod, new springs… Hopefully our big parts order is in at Vesrah.
– I was jetted a little on the lean side. It was only 55 degrees, and I was jetted for 65-70. That was what it was all week, so that is what I assumed we would have for race day. The bike was a bit challenging to ride when I was tired. I am better with a bit richer jetting, especially when I am knackered.
– The grip in the fields was incredible. I was pulling 3rd and 4th gear long wheelies out of turns. The berm around the outside of the turn was crazy fast. You could just hook into the berm, roll on the throttle and sit back. The bike would just grab a ton of traction and rocket towards the next turn. wow.
So now, I move onto next weekend. The Pearson Harescrambles on Saturday and the Pearson Enduro on Sunday. A big weekend.
You can only have 1 first race of the year.