Roots, rocks, deep ruts and just enough mud to make everything greasy. Just the way I like it. The harder, more technical, more painful, the better. And to top it all off, four laps instead of the usual three. Even better.
Off the start I'm about sixth. This is not going to cut it. Make a move early going into the woods, winding up third. Take an alternate line discovered on the pre-ride into second place. Miller on his 2017 KTM XC300 peels off into the distance. It's too early for anything other than to not screw up. Trying to give serious chase now will only put me on the ground. I force myself to breathe, slow down and focus.
There's ruts everywhere full of drying mud, even in the fast field sections. That's the scary part, jamming through those areas in 4th or 5th gear knowing that to cross rut at those speeds would send you on a wonderful flight ending in an abrupt face to face with the earth. Heart is in throat a few times during those moments, but manage to keep it upright. I'm tired at the end of the first lap and my right hand has pulled that falling asleep bullshit it usually does. I shake it out every opportunity just to get some blood flowing.
Second and third laps, ease off a bit to save some energy for the end. There has been no sign of Miller in front or Jenkins, who is most likely behind in third. Just got to grind it out and keep from making mistakes. The end of the third lap, a glimpse of orange and white. Can it be? Sure enough a few seconds ahead is Miller. I've caught him. Brain switches gears, many things change in that moment, plans, strategies, attitude. A decision is made. I am going to win this damn race.
Miller proves faster over the smooth, quick sections, where the lightweight and tremendous power of the XC300 outpaces my aging Gas Gas, but in the rough stuff I catch him every time. It turns into a game of cat and mouse. Several times he seems gone for good, only to re-appear ahead of me fighting with a root or rocks. Calm is the key here. No stupid go-for-broke moves. He makes a mistake and a window opens. I jump right through and pass. Coming to a faster field section, surely he will try something. But nothing. Back to the woods, slick red clay, off camber right hand turn to a decent sized uphill crowned with roots, slippery. Slowing way down I hear a voice behind me, "Ohhh shit!!!!".
Something hits the back of my bike and we nearly go down. Miller has just slid into the back of me. I stay upright. He does not. Make a break now. Almost ready to count those unhatched chickens, but as the fourth and final lap begins, I can feel and hear him stalking. He's remounted after taking himself out and caught me. One tiny error in a creek crossing gives him all the chance he needs and that's it. Gone. Watch him disappear up the long hill climb with my dreams of a win. But all the fight is not out of this dog just yet. There's miles to go before this thing is done. And all those rocks and ruts.
Deep breath and relax. Hit the rough section and sure enough, there he is. Wait. Patience. Follow. Doing lots of other things as well, but I'm not willing to reveal all my racecraft here, so you can just imagine. Suffice it to say every part of this brain is lit up and working overtime. Finally, I get what I want when, under pressure and trying to be faster, he breaks traction on a root bundle and goes off course. Now. Every ounce of energy for the final push. Three miles to go. Across the rutted field so fast you want to puke. The only thing that matters now is the win. If I can't have it, I would rather fucking crash than accept second place. Death or glory. Now.
Risking a look back there is nothing but empty field. Two miles to go. Still nothing. One mile, still alone. The finish line is in sight. Fully expect a KTM two stroke to drop on me from the heavens at any moment and crush my dreams, cringing, can't breathe. Past the scoring computer, it flashes: #2p P1. I've just won this race. By thirty seconds.
Every dog has its day. Today was mine.
|This certainly doesn't look like a race winning move here, (not sure what I've just screwed up).|
|Top of the box, the only place to be...|
|What it's all for...a $1 Mason jar with a sticker on it.....worth every damn bump and bruise.|