Have you ever looked at the finishing times for your class with bewilderment? Have you sat there and wondered how you were going to find those 5 or 6 extra minutes of speed to run with the big dogs? Well, this is a story where I found them....
The "Salute to Veterans" HS took place in Bartow,Fl. The course is ran on land from a reclaimed phosphate mine so it's unique in that it has some interesting elevation changes. The parking area is on a large extended plateau that lends to excellent viewing as the race course is laid out 80-100ft below. The course had received some rain prior to the race weekend so the course was in great condition. Open fields, mature plated pines, motocross elements, and off-camber lines offered something for everyone. The quads ran on their own track for a change so the lines that formed were true single track in many areas and new acreage had been opened up for the club to use for the course. (Sat mileage was 7 miles and Sunday was 8.5-ish)
Haley and I went and did the practice lap before her race. Since she was new to the bike so I wanted to see how she handled the course. She seemed tentative but handled it all with no real issues. We talked prior to her race about how we were back to racing one lap at a time. This was riding with adult sized people, with adult sized bikes at speed.There was another young lady that showed up in her class, so now we had a race.
I think when the gun went off (something new I'd never seen used before) I think the realization that this is the deep end of the pool might have set in. She went into the first corner last (on purpose) and 2 corners in missed a simple off camber corner she had done in practice no problem. A loss of momentum created a bike laying on the downhill side. Some nice course help and she was off. Watching from above the bluff it's obvious this is going to truly be a challenge for her to run the speed the rest of the class is. It's nerve wracking waiting there as the rest of the class streams through and she's no where in sight. My wife exclaimed "I think I see her!", followed with "I think she's off in the bushes" . I asked where and she says "See that tree that's moving around? That's her"
Minutes go buy and she's up and moving. We cheer as she rolls over the step-up jump...and dumps the bike 2 corners from the finish.
So 33 minutes after her adventure began it was over. It seems a beginner rider from 2 rows behind her caused an issue with a right hand uphill which knocked her off-line and caused the bike and her to go their separate ways. Landing on something hard had caused some back pain, rolled in with the reality of the day was enough. Tears were flowing, but the acknowledgment of what lays ahead was taken away from the day and she's excited about the race after next (grades will cause the skipping of the next one).
Which brings me to my race. Went out and ran the practice lap. Course was so enjoyable I ran the whole thing...and I felt good, I mean REAL
good. I don't know why, but a sense of confidence came over me. Either it was the course, the weather, or fate but I was so excited for the race to start, which it did with a kick, and another kick, a wheelie, another wheelie, and the first corner.
The beginning of my race was not going to plan at the moment, but I set off to start passing people in front of me. As simple as this sounds, sometimes it seems a lot harder than you'd think, except for today
.As we strung out along the side of the bluff weaving up and down the side I counted at least 8 helmets strung out in front of me.Then I noticed it..I wasn't worried. I started picking people off one at a time. I was opportunistic as 2 guys had slow wrecks in the pines. I looked for more efficient, smother lines, and kept passing people. I rolled through the chicane to end the first and looked up at scoring...it read "3rd"
Now at this point I'm feeling great. I'm going fast when the course lets me go fast, not taking chances in the MX areas as I'm horrible in them, and almost seeming like I'm riding one gear faster than I'm used to. Soon I see him...34C. Ryan Turner is fast on a dirt bike, to the point he started last in the first race of the year (forgot to turn his gas on..oops
) and still finished 3rd. He won the last race so now I'm thinking...He must be the leader! Now the revelation at this point is one that pays dividends beyond the race, the day, the season. I can do this ! I can run this pace, at least on this day, and that's a shot of energy that you don't find in a energy bar, bottle, or pill. I'm following 34C and we get dumped onto a straight with a few chicanes thrown in. I pulled up along side Ryan and yell "Come on 34C" as I passed him hard on the gas and into woods. It doesn't really settle in at this point, as I'm too busy trying to go fast, but I'm in first place.
First place !!!!
The mere fact that I'm typing those words still seems strange a week later. Having spent 3 years on and way-off trying this racing thing, I only gave this possibility a fleeting thought. So little that It really isn't on my mind as I am coming up on straggler's from classes that started in front of me. I've run across the occasional one in races before, but never in the amount and at the level of rider ability of what I'm seeing now. I'm thinking "what do I yell?" as usually I'm the one getting hollered at. One comes to a stop, right in the bottom of a sand whoop. I kill my speed until I can figure out what he's doing when I miss the next whoop and "down goes Frazier" as 2nd.....3rd.... 4th...and a couple of straggler's go by.
Crap. I run back to the bike , fire it up and start back -off. Thus begins a cycle of not knowing how to lead a race. Seems there's more to it than I would have imagined
I actually thought to my self that I must be going fast cause I keep crashing..
I spend a couple of miles catching back up and I'll be danged if I'm back up on the lead group with 3 riders in front of me. Start out the 3rd lap and try to get back to Ryan. Manage to pass him on another straight and I'm back in first, until I hit a tree trying to pass straggler's in some planted pines. Back by goes 2nd...3rd.."sigh"...pass them both back again and I start to think...I can win this thing !!! Now I'll be honest to say I started to get a little emotional as it's starting to settle in. I try not to screw up as I roll over the step-up and hit the last few corner's before the scoring chicane. All of a sudden I see him out of the corner of my eye..34C. Ryan executed the best looking block pass I've ever been involved in. He squirted off after stuffing me and I thought "Why you SOB!"..then I realized he deserved it for pulling off that move so close to the end..but what's that ahead...the white flag? Seems we're going out for another lap and that's when I realized maybe it wasn't quite over yet.
Now I've got to figure where to make my move. One section of the track we raced up the side of the bluff to a double green at the top and back down. I hugged the post so close my bark buster smacked off of it as Ryan went up higher and I led him back down the hill. Now it's always easier to follow someone than it is to lead, so I'm thinking I've got to get enough distance between us where he loses sight of me and hopefully slows down a little. I race into the pines, desperately trying to get some distance between us, maybe too desperately. Out of the corner of my eye I see it as I rush by...a green arrow. Now the problem with that is I'm supposed to ride between them, not to the outside of one like I just did...aaagghhh !
As I spin around to go back through you-know-who zips past. He either let out a cry of joy or compassion as I now had given up the lead. I circled back through only to miss them again, so after performing a figure 8 I was back on track. Up until now I had been feeling out of this world. Not tired, riding well other than the crashes, and basically feeling the groove. Then the damn broke, or more specifically, the blisters.
I've never raced 4 laps, or as many as the leaders even. The speed, race time, and genius move of wearing brand new gloves all contributed to some big blisters on my left hand popping half-way through the last lap. Now I've got to salvage 2nd so I'll just grin and bear it.Bad line choice and I'm down again. Pick the bike up and try to hold on. Roll through the scoring chicane, 2nd place !!!
I'm getting wood! Seems Ryan put 40 seconds on me after we last parted ways and took the win on his way to advancing up to Senior B. Afterwords he talked about the race and he commented he felt bad for me when he saw me circling around for the missed double green. He wouldn't have protested my finish if I hadn't went back as I hadn't gained any advantage. I replied that without rules we don't have a sport, plus I wasn't disappointed with 2nd. I just wasn't ready to win a race it seems, but after tasting the front it's not something I want to forget!
Now get out there and ride!
Video of race...Vet B rider.
Place # Name AMA # Brand City, State Point Adv Laps Elapsed
1 34C Ryan Turner KTM Casselberry, FL 50 10 4 1:56:22
2 117C Troy Stainbrook KTM Odessa, FL 47 5 4 1:57:00
3 18C Vernon Hackett 223505 KTM Port St Lucie, FL 45 4 4 1:57:41
4 31C Tom Miller 696207 KTM North Port, FL 43 3 3 1:29:30
5 48C David Davis 854296 KTM Lake City, FL 41 2 3 1:29:50
6 27C Brian Brannigan 941420 Yamaha Winter Garden, FL 40 0 3 1:32:02
7 15C Kevin Vaughan KTM North Port, FL 39 0 3 1:32:05
8 818C Irvin Kelly 942897 Honda Kissimmee, FL 38 0 3 1:33:41
9 26C Robert Ryan 941623 Yamaha Lake Mary, FL 37 0 3 1:34:24
10 20C Charles Nix Suzuki Inverness, FL 36 0 3 1:36:07
11 94C Steve Skinner KTM Spring Hill, FL 35 0 3 1:37:22
12 51C Eric Rasberry KTM Geneva, FL 34 0 3 1:39:25
13 522C Kevin Witkowski Honda Sarasota, FL 33 0 3 1:51:12
14 133C Richard Malmberg 941161 KTM Winter Garden, FL 16 0 2 1:01:10
15 40C Chris Tolken 106451 KTM New Port Richey, FL 16 0 2 1:03:47
16 75C Darryl Siemer 930978 KTM Tampa, FL 8 0 1 0:30:50
17 704C David Sommers Honda St Petersberg, FL 7 0 1 0:34:10
18 812C Kurt Miller Suzuki Springhill, FL 7 0 1 0:46:10