By: Chris Orr
We all saw the forecast. We all hoped they were wrong. 124 fools still showed up anyhow. My type of people. It wasn’t raining when Josh sent us off. I hit the first climb hard, trying to stay with the front group for as long as possible. All of the sudden, people started telling me my seat bag fell off. Shit! I had to stop at the top of the climb and toss my 3rd bottlein the ditch to put my seat bag in my back pocket. There goes the field. I put my foot on the gas pedal to climb back through as much of the field as I could so I could find a strong group to work with. I found Greg Vaught and his son Nigel, along with Joe Kliedesty, and was that group. Around mile 10, it started getting dark—really dark—then the lightning and rain ensued. Some of the lightning was less than a mile away. As the rain came down, Joe started to complain that his legs were burning from all the embro. I think that the motivation to take Don’s KOM on the bear creek climb must have distracted him, because he didn’t mention it again.
We continued in the heavy downpour until we came upon Josh’s girlfriend Carrie was at the bottom of a creek crossing directing us to carry our bikes upstream where they had a safety line stretched across the creek. Don Daly was standing in the creek making sure all the racers got across safely. After regrouping after the crossing, we carried on through the rain at a solid pace until my brakes started to fade to the point that I couldn’t even slow down. I just about took someone out at a low water crossing. This brought back some bad memories of last month’s Land Run. We finally stopped to pee and so I could adjust my brakes. I was able to adjust the front brakes enough that I could reasonably stop, so I could carry on. Around mile 40, we came up to an unmanned creek (raging river) crossing. This one was pretty sketchy. It was about 3 or 4 feet high, and we took really tiny steps to make sure we didn’t lose our footing. Once we got through this one, we turned back and saw Ethan “the people’s champ” Froese, walking through it. What was he doing behind us? He said he was having so much fun, that he did some of the course a couple times so that it was fair to everyone else. What a sportsman! We made our way to the Montreal 50 mile checkpoint along the paved county road. Hofer and JP were there to help us regroup with some red bull and Reese’s and then we were off.
We knew the leaders of the 80 mile course weren’t too far out, so Joe started pulling at the front of the group and we were making good time. This went well until we hit a low spot and had some walking sections. As we hit the state park, our group broke up a little and I stayed with these two guys from Memphis until they stopped for some mechanical issue. I could see the tracks in the road and knew I was somewhere in the top 5, so I really started pushing. After getting through the highway section, I saw the 3rd through 5th guys, and went right by them. Then, my tire started going down. I stopped put some CO2 in it and then those guys caught me. I got away from them again for a couple miles until I had to stop and put a tube in my tire. Joe and the Vaught boys (did I mention that Nigel was 14?-what a talent!) went by while I made the change. It was raining pretty hard, but the end was in sight.
As I crested the final climb, 5 miles from the finish, the trees started to lay over. The wind and the rain was unbelievable. I was on D road, and the visibility was almost zero. Fortunately, the heavy wind became a tailwind! I flew down to the finish line for a 6th place finish. On a day like that, any finish is a good finish. A day to remember and memories to last a lifetime. It was great riding with a pack of dirty dogs most of the day, it doesn’t get much better than that.