Wednesday, June 25, 2008

ben(a criminal)

It is said that all criminals return to the scene of the crime. In July 1992 I visited a small town in the Canaan Valley of West Virginia called Davis. The crime was a mountain bike race that was part of the Canaan Mountain series. My partner in crime was J. Michael Dant. It was my first mountain bike race. It is also said that all criminals must be punished. Man....was I punished. Many hours later, after pushing my bike up the power lines, tumbling down the downhill course, riding and hiking through numerous mud bogs, creeks, streams, and I seem to recall a beaver pond, I crossed the finish line. The reward for my crime was great stories for many years to come, and pizza from this joint in Davis named Sirianni's Cafe. I sat across the cafe from two pros from Diamondback Racing and Nuke Proof. I sat in awe as I listened to stories about this place called "The Moon Rocks" (the beginner course didn't go there), and learned those guy's had just ridden twice as far, in half as much time. WOW! They were really fast and I was really slow.

Fast forward 16 years. Last weekend I was in Davis for the 2008 West Virginia State Mountain Bike Championships. Once again my partner in crime was Mr. Dant. However, this time joining us in the caper was Mike's wife Christi, and his son Cole, both riding in their first ever bike race.
Saturday afternoon we scoped out the beginner course. It looked like the perfect crime. The trails were dry (by Canaan standards), there were bridges over the creek crossings, and the trail crews had done a great job marking the course. Mike and I were going to check out the second loop of the course, but a bike problem sent me off to the bike shop, where Matt Marcus worked magic and came up with parts I needed to keep my bike rolling. So far things were still looking pretty good for our little adventure. I have been back to Davis and Canaan many times since the first trip, but it was not until this year I heard it called "Can Rain Valley", and man it did! At 9 pm the sky opened up and it rained, and it rained, and it rained some more. By Sunday morning, those nice dry trails resembled stream beds and rivers.

We began our day Sunday with breakfast at the Bright Morning. Our spunky little waitperson Sarah, delighted in telling us how wet the trails were, that we were going to get our butts kicked, and we were actually going to pay to do it!

Misery loves company, and a bunch of other criminals were in attendance to partake in the debauchery. The former Diamondback Pro (now wearing WV Cannondale colors) and his lovely wife ( Mr and Doctor Shogren) were looking to break bad in Canaan. There was Sue, and Jeremiah sporting the red and white colors of the Trek gang, back from Europe and out to kick some butt and take names. Local bad boy Nick Waite, taking a break from the pro road scene was on hand and ready to rumble.

Roger lined everyone up; pros and experts, then sport, and then beginners. One, two, three, go, and they were gone. Within minutes I was bringing up the tail end of the sport class. Shortly after the start I heard a large CRACK beneath my butt, and I was afraid I had broken the rails on my seat. A quick inspection of the seat didn't reveal anything, so back on the bike and off I went. A bit further down the course was a section of trail completely covered in water, and there standing on the side of the trail was none other than Spunky Sarah yelling, laughing, and cheering for everyone as they rode through the water pit. Thanks girl! By now my bike is making all sorts of grinding noises. I write it off to all of the mud. I have a few moments of brilliance, but mostly I'm just going slow. I write it off to the wet conditions. I finish my first lap, and I am told by (my) Sarah that Mike is way ahead of me, and that I am way behind him. Thanks Hon, Luv ya. I still can't get the bike to go. It seems like the harder I pedal, the slower it goes. I make it to the split and start the outside loop. I hike though a mud bog, push up a hill, and ride through a puddle that stops just below the headset. Deja Vu, it is 1992 all over again, except this time I find myself headed to the moon rocks. It is at this point that I discover that the grinding noise was not mud, but that the seat tube of my Trek had cracked and and now is completely broken in two. It is just about this time that Nick with Jeremiah in hot pursuit go blasting by. I can barely walk this stuff and they were riding right on through it....FAST! I'm just about as far from the start/finish line as I can be. Joy, joy, happy, happy! Nice day for a hike in the woods. Too bad bike shoes suck for hiking. I press on, following the course, maybe I will go for a DFL, not a DNF. A bit later Sue rides by, fast, and making it look easy. You can tell she is having fun. I ask her to tell Sarah that I'm broken down and that I may be awhile. I'm hiking a sweet down hill and Matt Marcus passes with Gunnar on his tail. Gunnar yells something about an old school battle between Matt and him, and I yell something back about just being old. They were riding really fast. I finally reach the last section of the course. I find that if I pedal lightly, I can ride some of the smoother sections of the trail. I dismount for other riders and for rough sections. I hear another rider coming up from behind, and it is non other than Betsey Shogren, I yell "What'z up Doc" and cheer her through a little rock garden. She smiles, rides by fast, and disappears around the next corner on her way to a second place finish behind Sue. Three hours, 34 minutes, and 45 seconds after Roger yelled go, I dragged my butt and bike across the finish line. Yeah!

Mike beat me as usual. Cole and Christi finished their first mountain bike race, all covered in mud, and smiles. Sixteen years from now, I can't wait to hear Cole's story about his first bike race in a town called Davis. As for me, I'm still in awe with how fast the pros ride, I'm still really slow and the pizza at Sirianni's is still the best in the world.

No comments: