Finally the final round. I'm ready for the 2016 Virginia Championship Hare Scrambles Series season, my first racing off-road, to end. Sick of driving, sick of loading and unloading, sick of damn porta-potties, sick of the sound of dirtbikes and the goons riding them. Wherever I finish today will not affect my 2nd place points position for the year. That takes a lot of pressure off, which will hopefully allow me to relax right into a win.
It's warm, and humid. The weather has been all over the map, cool one day, hot the next. The course is typical VCHSS coastal hare scrambles, woods racing, a little bit dry, no major environmental challenges. I plan on a good finish. So do the twenty other riders in class.
The bike lights immediately when the green flag drops, with a quick flip flop chicane before entering the woods. Diving for the hole-shot, quickly finding myself swallowed up by three other riders. These guys are not screwing around today. It's like goddamn NASCAR out here. Bars bang, somebody goes down, another gets caught up in the course marking tape, dragging it behind him. This is not for me. Not this early, especially with the temps rising and nearly two hours left to race. I have to let them go and hopefully they will tire themselves out. I get shunted as another eager beaver jams his way past. And another. No quarter asked. None given.
Unable to match the fervent early minutes of this race, I try to settle in to a rhythm, ride like I know I can. The leaders are visible from my sixth place vantage point, not far off. Patience, the mistakes will happen. And sure enough they do. I pass the 5th place rider when he bobbles a corner. It's still too early to make a big push, but you have to take the opportunities given. I get an odd impression the rear end of the bike is bouncing around more than usual off of bumps and roots. Blaming myself for holding on too tightly, I try to force the relax (never a good thing). The leaders begin to pull away. At the end of the first lap I am in eighth, and struggling. Nothing seems to be going right. There is no flow, nothing smooth at all about what is happening. Racers are passing me sitting down, looking utterly in control, while I am standing, fighting everything and losing ground.
Then the mind games start. I'm frustrated and flailing trying to go faster. This shit ain't working. The idea of fun goes out the window. The handling of the bike seems to be deteriorating, or is it just my spirit? The course is not overly technical or even challenging for that matter, but I can't seem to make anything happen. Halfway into the second lap, still in eighth, and just looking for it to be over. Whenever I try to pick up the pace, the Gas Gas turns into a hammering, pogoing, ill-steering pig. Second lap turns into the third with things no better. Halfway through the final go round I manage to pass 7th place and make it stick. There is a brief flicker of hope, but I can see no riders ahead. I am alone. There is nothing left to do now but finish, a frustrating seventh place. Season over. I breathe a sigh of relief. As I've gotten older, there is always a part of me that is relieved when a race season ends with rider and machine intact. I know too well the flip side of that coin.
A quick look at the rear of the machine reveals a blown shock, despite having been rebuilt just a few races ago. That explains the poor handling. If I were the type of person to need an excuse, this would be it. But I'm not, so screw it.
Mama said there'd be days like this.
|Off the start, on the outside, in 4th. That was the best position I would hold all day. And not for long.|
|Looking ahead. To when the damn race (and season) is over.|
|Bouncing around like a rag doll on a blown shock.|
|At least this one is sexy.|