IMBCS #3 – Boone’s Bane by Cam Kirkpatrick
Heavy rain forced the postponement of IMBCS #3 until July 10th. So instead of racing on the original date on peanut butter, we raced on July 10th on baby powder. The trails were very dry and dusty in some spots. However as is always the case at Seven Oaks, the trails were sweet.
Seven Oaks is my favorite venue on the IMBCS schedule. Troy and his crew always serve up a healthy dose of incredible singletrack that contains just about everything one could ask for. Seven Oaks is probably the most technical venue on the schedule. The terrain is hilly and contains several challenging sections with trees and sudden drop-offs lurking around almost every corner.
This time around, the course had to be modified because of a motocross event that was destroying the front side of the ski hill. I hope that none of the mountain biking trails on the front side of the hill were damaged. Part of the reroute contained a sick drop that sent riders plunging downward about 20-30 feet over a horizontal distance of about 10 feet, I’m not exaggerating either. Simply put, it rocked! I’d heard that there were several ‘over the handlebar’ victims on this section, thankfully I wasn’t one of them.
The start list was a little larger than usual and my main competition was a cat from Iowa City, Thomas Sulentic, Squirrel, WWJ, Nooner, Chia and Greg Shimonek (from Omaha). The shotgun went off and we were away. My strategy was to be the first person to the drop because I figured the drop would take some by surprise, others might have difficulty and crash. I didn’t want to get caught up behind any that. I managed to make it to the drop in first with Greg and Squirrel on my wheel. I went into the drop a little too hot and almost overcooked it at the bottom. I made it to the bottom going somewhat sideways and managed to keep the bike upright without dabbing. At the bottom of the hill I punched it on the flat to see what kind of legs the competition might have. I was able to open a small gap, but I wasn’t sure who was directly behind me. I kept the throttle wide open the entire first lap.
I came through the start/finish for the first time with about a 25 second lead on Squirrel. Nooner was about 35 seconds behind Squirrel. Squirrel is the maestro when it comes to technical stuff. If he had a set of lungs to go with his bike handling, he’d be stuffing everybody in Iowa into the hurt bag. I knew that I was going to have to back off on my pace a little. I probably didn’t make the right tire choice because I was doing two wheel drifts around all of the fast corners. Thankfully, everybody else had backed off as well.
I settled into a good 23 minute per lap pace on the second lap and could see Squirrel on some of the switchback sections. I could tell that he was on a mission to put the hurt on a few people, I think he succeeded in the end. I could also tell that I was slowly increasing my gap on him and the other pursuers so I decided to try and maintain about 23-24 minutes per lap for the duration.
At the end of the second lap I had about 50 seconds on Squirrel, Nooner was about another 15 seconds back. Things were going well, I had enough in reserve that if I had to, I could pick the pace up. I was able to motor up the climbs without too much effort and I was riding well technically despite my frequent two wheel drifts around some of the corners.
By the end of the third lap I had increased my gap on Squirrel to about 3 minutes. Sulentic passed Nooner and was about 3:15 behind me. I knew that I had a really good gap by now because I couldn’t see Squirrel, or anybody else on any of the switchback sections. I felt kind of bad for Mr. Squirrel, he was on fire today and his fitness level, it seemed, had finally caught up to him. I truly hope that someday he can get his fitness level up to a point where he and I can bang bar ends all the way to the finish line. That would be a fun race.
At the end of lap 4 I more or less knew that it was my race to win or lose. I slowed the pace a little more, enough to where my front tire was no longer sliding around the corners. I didn’t want to take anymore risks. An altercation with a tree or some other bonehead move could easily wipe out a 4 minute lead. Sulentic had passed Squirrel for second and was about 4 ½ minutes back and Squirrel was about 6 minutes behind me.
I ended up winning the race, Sulentic came in second 6 minutes back. Squirrel came in third, close to 9 minutes back. As I was doing my cool down in the campground area, I saw some other people putting on their cycling clothes. As I drew nearer, I noticed that it was none other than Brian and Kim Eppen. Apparently they had e-mailed my work address on Saturday, asking about the start time for the race. One of the many perks about my job is that I don’t have to work on weekends, doh! Brian and Kim are both pro caliber racers, Brian is a regular top five finisher in the WORS series and has taken down a lot of pros. Kim usually wins all of the women’s races in the WORS series and has put her share of pros into the hurt bag. I really wish they would have gotten there early enough to race. I would like to see how I would have done against Brian on a course that I consider to be my ‘back yard’. Squirrel, I know that you claim Seven Oaks as your back yard also, however, until you take me down, it’s my back yard and you are my guest! Peace Bro.
I also want to put a good word in for my bro’s Squirrel and Pete. Pete won his second sport race in a row. This cat weighs in at over 200 lbs. and for him to win on a hilly course like Boone is truly remarkable. For Squirrel, I think this was kind of a break through race for him. I am extremely happy for both of them! I also want to thank Grand Master Lou, Andi and t-Pod for coming up and yelling at me and everybody else. One of the coolest aspects of cycling is the people that I’ve met and the friendships that I’ve made.
Next up is my annual training camp in Durango, I also plan to hook up with Nooner in Aspen for a few days.