Last weekend I returned to where it all started. Back in the 90’s there was a race series at Bike Butler. This was some of the only races in the area and is what got me interested in racing. We had a lot of good times heading up there to camp for the weekend and do some good riding. The Bike Butler series has since diminished and some other races have taken over the tri-state area. This year the Kentucky Point series made a stop back at General Butler state park for the second race in the series.
It was a holiday weekend, but I didn’t want to pass up the chance to head back there. There was a lot of rain early in the week, but the weekend was clearing up to be some good and hot weather. I figured there was going to be some muddy sections, but I was not that worried about it. Racing a SS has some advantages, I don’t have to worry about chain suck or miss shifts when the weather is not good. The only bad thing is that I do have to walk some more section when it is too muddy to get some good traction, but I would probably be walking on the geared bike too.
When I got in to the park I headed to the normal start area, but no one was there. I guess I should have looked at the flier better. I turned around and headed back toward the entrance and it did not take long to find the start/finish area. This was in an area that I have not been at before. I don’t know if it was even there the last time I was there. I do know that the ski resort is no longer on top of the hill.
I found a place to park, signed up and started getting my things ready. I saw a few other riders in the SS class, so I knew there were at least a few of us and sized up the field as we waited for the start. Looking around, I figured I was going to have some trouble with the rest of the field as they all looked fast. I figured I would just try and ride my race and do the best I could.
The race had chips on the back of the number plates to keep track of you lap times. This time the SS field started 2 minutes behind the Cat 2 racers. Normally we all just start together. I kind of liked this since I could keep better tabs on where everyone was. At the start I went in to the woods sitting in 3rd with the guy I figured would win running in the lead. It did not take long before we were in some slick stuff having trouble getting around. Next thing I knew, the leader slid out and we went around him. Jack Wallen was in front of me and I was just fine with that since I knew he was fairly strong. I just wanted to hang on as long as I could, but then Jack slipped up on a section and I found myself in the lead.
Jack stayed on my wheel for a little while on and off as we started picking off the back of the Cat 2 class. The first single track section was slick, muddy and hard going. At some point it seemed that I dropped Jack for while, but as we hit the bottom of the hills and went out in to a sloppy mess in the open field, Jack was right on my wheel. I had to walk most of this section as that was even hard to do and not worth blowing up my legs trying to ride. I told him to let me know when he wanted by, but I think he was having the same issues riding as I was.
We got back in to the single track section that heads toward the start area and I was pushing it harder then I probably should have. I pulled away from Jack again, but in doing this I started to look over my shoulder a lot. I could feel the stress, thinking that I was going to be caught at any time. I have never been in this situation before and it was not easy. As I started the second lap I saw Jack heading toward the parking lot as I was turning back in to the single track section. This let me know I had a little bit of a gap, but not near enough for how bad I was starting to feel. The second lap went better then the first for most sections, but I kept doing the rubber chicken neck and looking for what I figured would be my eventual capture. Going threw the start/finish area starting my 3rd lap, I did not see anyone in my class before I was back in the woods. This made me feel a little better knowing I had increased my gap from the first lap. The first section was getting slicker then the previous 2 laps and with the start of the Cat 3’s, I found a lot more traffic. The back of the 3’s were having trouble with this section and I even saw one person pushing up the hill and out of the woods. As I was passing his buddy, he asked me if it got any better then that. I said it did, but there were also some bad sections too.
The third lap was the hardest. I was getting very tired and started making mistakes. I just about wrecked a few different times, but some how didn’t dismount badly. The trail was changing with some sections drying out and others getting worse. The mud was sticking in the tires more and they were not clearing themselves as well. This made some down hill sections very tricky.
I was still stressing about getting caught, but after I was done with the grassy section at the bottom, I knew I rode that part the best and the stress started to lift. Some how I ended up holding off everyone for my first mtb win! I was overwhelmed with emotions as I completely drained myself pushing hard and felt so good to be able to cross the finish line in first. The only thing I wished was that more people were around the finish area to witness my accomplishment. I was so shot that I even skipped my wheelie at the finish line. Sad times for such a happy event in my life. The long drive home was lonely and I didn’t even stop. I was tired and hungry, but ready to be back home.
This weekend is the Mohican 100. I have already chickened out and changed my entry from the 100 mile race to the 100k race. I just don’t feel like I have 100 miles in the legs right now. The 62 mile route should still be a good race and maybe I will surprise myself and get a decent finish in the SS class. I hope to finish in sub 6 hours, but anything close to that will be just fine with me. It should be good times seeing some people and hanging out in the cabin for the weekend of riding. Maybe I will see you there.