By: Pete Basso
Sunday marked the second to last race of the year for our Iowa Series. It was a perfect day to race, originally there was a threat of rain but no-go on the rain, all we had was sun and mild heat in the 80's.The day started out with Lou, Donny, Andi W., Brian, Terri, John C, Andy L, Bill and Dennis all meeting at Anni and I's house. I'm sure the neighbors were wondering what was going on out there so early in the AM.
After a quick stop at Kum & Go we hit the highway towards Webster City. As we passed Hickman Rd. I saw one of the bikes on Brian and Terri's jeep fall off at 60+ mph. "Look out, a bike just fell off the rack", I yelled at Bill. Strangely nothing ever hit the ground. We were two cars back so we couldn't see everything, but Donny and Lou were right behind them. We pulled over and thankfully JC's bike was holding on by a thread from the rack. Miracuously, no damage to the car or the bike other than some very minor scratches. We readjusted the bikes and we on our way.
Arriving at Kendall Young Park we could see the ground was very dry as the cars in front of us kicked up enough dust that none of us could even see the other cars. After changing into our riding gear and throwing insults at one another we all hit the trail to see what the day's mission was going to be. The first part of the course was a "Cyclo-Cross" course that consisted of riding in grass, sand, more grass, more sand and two creek crossings. After you spun your guts out here then you had to ride over an 80 foot spill way with about 6 - 8 inches of water on it and finally the sweet stuff...nice twisty, turny, single-track. Kendall Young surprised the few of us that had not ridden there before. These trails, although short in mileage, we awesome. They offered a nice variety of everything, even some downhills and serious log obstacles to go a little crazy on.
We gathered for the start of the race and watched the experts take off first. Cam, no doubt, led the way with a host of others following close behind. We launched two minutes after they did. The initial launch started on a gravel road then up around the north shelter and back down to the grassy / sandy loop at the front of the park. We were scheduled to do 4. 5 laps today. Each lap was about 3.5 miles in length. This would be a short race in comparision to the last two cross country races we've done.
Thad shouted, "on your marks, get set" then he paused for what felt like an eternity. I false started causing a hesitation on my start then he yelled, "GO". I was off kilter at this point and didn't get a good start. I saw Donny in the corner of my eye come screaming out front. My plan was to either get in front of him or stay right behind him through the field. Donny has been training hard and losing a lot of weight. He has been getting stronger by the day and I knew he wanted to win this race.I tried to stay with Donny through the front part of the course but "Whitey" was spinning his guts out. Just before heading up to the north shelter again, Tracy and Andy passed me with Bill right behind me. Everything stayed pretty much the same going through the single track until we passed the spill way and headed into the sand. Conlan came out of nowhere to pass everyone and take second place. As rode through this deep sand I started to get "chain suck" causing me to have to back pedal about 10 times to keep the chain from breaking. The same thing was happening to Tracy. Tracy and I were now riding together with Bill, John, and Andy in front of us by about 20 seconds. Tracy and I went back into the single track with both of us screaming at our bikes. Tracy's chain suck was a little worse then mine causing him not to be able to shift into his middle ring on front. We talked about the points standings and how this would affect us if we stopped but we both decided to keep going. Tracy had to slow down because of the problems so I sped up ahead of him. Now I was riding on my own, periodically seeing Donny, Bill, JC or Andy. The smallest gap I could calculate was about 30 seconds away. As I was riding the course I saw Chris Maharry with a flat, the Jay Chesterman, then I saw Lou standing by his car, then Brian P. I kept wondering what was going on. Should be riding more cautiously? Why is everyone having so many troubles...
I was coming around on my third lap when I started feeling stronger and my cadence was much smoother until I hit the deep sand again. Taking a hard right turn, down a 4 ft. ravine, my tire dug in, spun to the right and I was on my back sliding down the trail in what felt like a flash of a second. I have no idea what happened. I jumped back up, covered in sand and dirt, got on my bike and rode another 90 ft when I fell again. "What is going on?" I yelled. Madder than hell, I jumped back on my bike and rode through the two creeks with a vengenence. I felt like I was punishing my bike for bucking me off twice. Although, my bike was punishing me for taking it through water, then through sand, back through water, back through sand. This is not what these bikes are made to tackle in a race. Sand and water are the arch enemies of these aluminum / titanium horses.
Starting my fourth and final lap I was riding better than I had all day, however, with every hard crank, my chain would suck up into my frame preventing me from really attacking the hills and flats. In a moments notice, a light bulb appeared above my balding scalp with the idea of using my water bottle to clean my chain while I'm riding. BRILLIANT!! More like...duh, why didn' t you think of that two laps ago idiot! I could see Andy up ahead what seemed to be 30 seconds ahead. I felt like I could catch him on the sprint to the finish so I really pushed it the last half a lap. I could see him up ahead and I was gaining on him, but he could see me too so he was pushing harder as well. He ended up finishing a few seconds ahead of me to take a fourth place finish and me a fifth place finish.
Overall the race was a lot of fun. I could've done without the sand and would've loved to ride the single track more, but everyone course has it's characteristics. That's just how mountain biking is. Congrats to Donny for his focus on training and losing weight, it is paying off huge. I made a remark to Donny earlier in the season that if he ever beat me in a mtb race on a single speed I quit mountain biking. Now he is making me eat my words. Although I won't give up mountain biking, (sorry Ann, I'm sure you were smiling for a second there), I do have to bow to Donny and offer my apologies for being such an idiot. Great job my friend.
Also, congrats to John Conlan and Bill Fanter for what I think was their best race of the year. My brother John threw down the gaunlet to let everyone know that he is the real deal!! John has really stepped up his fitness lately and now he is a marked man. We all knew Bill had it in him, he has finished in the top three to five all year. Yesterday, Bill finished second and JC finished third. They both rode strong and displayed great technical handling skills. I could hear JC yelling behind me as we leaped over the double log jump section, then hit the downhill. I love to hear people having fun when they ride. That got my blood pumping too!!
Congrats to Cam Kirkpatrick for taking first place in this race after he put a beating on the expert field in Nebraska on Saturday. Cam won his second Nebraska race on a course that is about 80% climbs. Indian Caves is one of the toughest courses I've ridden in the entire Midwest. Cam won that race on Sat, then turns around and puts a lashing on the expert field Sunday. I think it's time to get Cam into the Norba Series to show them how tough the Iowa boys are.
I want to say thanks to Thad & Bruce Neil, Nick Wolley and the rest of the crew for setting up the course, giving away some very sweet swag, and dialing us in with an incredible dinner after the race. That was a great touch!! Thad, you always do a great job putting on the races, we all appreciate your hard work and efforts!!
Next race is on Oct 8th & 9th at Seven Oaks. This is the final race of the year. We are scheduled to do three races on that weekend; short track, criterium, and cross country. This will be a tough weekend, but a lot of fun at the same time. After that...it's going to be a fun fall with lots of long, epic rides at slow paces and lots of coffee!! Can't wait!!