Chippewa Valley Firecracker
Couldn't ask for nicer weather for this race. Mid 70's and dry air is not very common this time of year. A hand full of MN riders made it over for the race: Kyia Anderson, Todd McFaden, Jesse Rients, Jack Henkins, Eric Thompson, Paul Hanson, Berry Tungseth and Trent Warner to name a few. Sam and I both felt a bit lazy when we arrived, besides it was a holiday weekend and we were at a race. I have learned over the years however that this feeling is a good sign for both of us. Sam crashed out of this race the last time we did it at the start and the year before that I crashed out in the first 100 yards, so Sam's goal was to just get through the start and get away from sketchy riders.
Sam and I were sitting 2nd or 3rd row at the start and getting a bit nervous now. The start was a long drag race to the single track about a mile and a half down some double track and a service road. There were a few tight 90 degree corners where you'd go from all out to a crawl, back to full throttle. I stayed on the outside (lesson learned from when I crashed) and was not pushing it too hard to the first 90 degree corner. But sometimes something just clicks on when you see an opportunity. A lane opened up in front of me and I took it, next thing I know I'm making my way up the field. The worst thing was the dust. It reminded me of Ore-To-Shore where your stuck in a big line of riders and you can't see the riders or the trail in front of you. You just hope to God know body crashes in front of you or you don't hit a rock or rut off guard and spin your front tire out. I was doing pretty good and wasn't too worried about making drastic moves going into the singletrack which is important for everybody. I went in behind Berry Tungseth and Sam was right behind me. We were I'd guess around 15th or so. I used the first couple singletrack sections to ease into the race a bit and started to move up when the trail ducked out of the woods. Paul made a mistake and went off trail but got back in in front of me before a stream crossing. He let Sam and I by on the next open section which was a long double track section where I could slow roll a low gear which is always fun. I can't remember who else we passed, there are a lot of Wisconsin riders I don't know and the first lap was kind of a blur. Coming around on lap 2 in the open field section we could see a couple groups ahead that weren't too far off which is always a boost mentally. I remember a small gap between the groups and it must have been where Sagar and the Lelondes took off from the rest of the group. We caught Seth Lenss (I think that's who it was) and he stayed with us for a while and made some moves to try and get away but he fell off up a climb on the double track when we caught Jesse Rients I think. Its like taking a Gu for the brain seeing a rider being shelled and your gaining on them. Over the next couple laps, guys were getting shelled off the chase group, Seth and Jesse were the first followed by Mike Phillips and Eric Thompson. Sam and I worked together the whole race. When I needed a break he would pull and vice versa. It was working out well. Having someone else with you also keeps you from being complacent. In no mans land sometimes I forget I'm racing, and I find myself going slower than I should. Anyway, we both were doing good in the singletrack which flowed really nice. I don't think I'm of singletrack ninja status yet but I'm close. I dinged a couple trees with my shoulder on the same spot but no crashes and we just stayed smooth and efficient. At the end of each lap there was this "Dr Jekle and Mr Hyde section which consisted of some tight 180 switchback berms down a descent into a huge rock quarry that you had to climb out of. Sam and I ran it each time not risking a flat tire from the sharp rocks and we can run pretty fast. Sam let me lead and I hate to say it but, he said he would let me win. I'm sure he could have rode away from me at some point during the race but it would have been hard for him and its not a MN series race so anyway, I can't end it w/o a sprint for the crowd so I gave it all my gears and came in 8th overall. We took 2nd and 3rd in the elite class since we decided not to take the pro license when they made the category changes this year. Neither of us wanted to cough up $150 for a license when payout is overall anyway. So there you have it. Great race on a great day. Thanks to Don and all the volunteers at WORS for making racing possible.
P.S. I have to give special mention to Jack Hinkens. Sam and I were all done cleaning up and packed and decided to go get the water bottle stands down on the end of the course.Everything was over and the venue was starting to be taken down even, so we walked down there got the stands and as we were about to the car walking back Sam yells "Hey Eric look who's coming". Up out of Dr Jekle and Mr Hyde emerges Jack on his way to the finish. He was shot. I guess he had 2 flats and bonked but still wanted to finish even when he was the last one on the course, now that's the mountain biker attitude. He looked like he was going to fall asleep on his bike so we gave him a Gu with 2x caffeine and told him to get some water. It was a character building race for him. I'm sure this will be one of his survival stories he's going to tell years from now.