In short order I am able to catch and pass the third place rider. The woods appear empty in front of me, now it's time to find the rhythm. Grip the tank with your knees, no arm pump. Fast, fast, but smooth. Falling loses so much time and burns so much energy, which really becomes a factor during these two hour races. A two hour trail ride is one thing, but trying to stay alert at race pace for that long is mentally and physically grueling. It is not uncommon to see the sides of the course littered with those who blew their wad early, unable to continue.
After a few minutes of solo tree dodging, another rider appears on the radar. There is something emblazoned across his ass that soon becomes clear: "Jaramillo". Juan Jaramillo. This is the rider that won our class at the last event. Who knows what position he is in now, but this is a good thing. Hanging with him means he will tow me around the course or I might just toss myself into a tree riding over my head. Either way it's gonna get interesting.
The study of his riding style commences, looking for strengths and weaknesses, not only does it help with strategy, but it takes my mind off the fatigue that is trying to set in way too early. Notice the trials tire on the rear of his machine, the way he never seems to let off the gas on rocky uphills, the fact that he prefers sitting to standing, listen to the tone of his KTM two-stroke engine. All of these things tell me much about my competitor. Watching him ride proves, to my mind, he is, after all, human. And humans can be beaten. It's funny how that simple realization can cause a big mental shift, like a kid waking up from a nightmare and realizing his demons aren't real.
He proves his humanity once and for all coming upon a stalled rider. Unable to go around him due to the proximity of trees, he is forced to grab a big handful of front brake, causing his front end to wash out, down he goes. With just enough time to react, I pick a different line and pass both riders, much to my amusement. Now is the time to hammer it and get some distance between us. I figure he will lose about 10 seconds picking the bike up, 15 if he has to restart it. Go. Go!
|Another race, more water, and somewhere out there, is Juan.