Finally a little relief from the heat as the humidity dropped a bit and the temperature backed off a few degrees for the Wednesday night ride. Only six showed up total (all sporting single speeds though) so, in an act of solidarity, we headed out in one group. Trails were in pretty good shape, tacky with a few mud holes. Some new trees down from this past weekends massive storms and the 3 inches of rains we got did some erosion damage.
Friday night, prior to the Jamboree, a bunch of us headed out to catch Los Straitjackets and the World Famous Pontani Sisters, who tend to get most of the guys (and some of the girls) hot and bothered. If you like blistering surf guitar, burlesque acts and wacky hi-jinx then check them out. The two acts tour together quite a bit, check their web sites for tour dates.
The Jamboree, as it is known, is a single speed stage race in the spirit of the punk bike enduro. In this case the Punks you can capture for points have turned to Outlaws and the top riders at the finish wager their points in a case of "beat the dealer" black jack to determine the final winner. About 30 riders showed up to drink beer and throw down for bragging rights. Winners of each stage wear a yellow jersey much like some other famous race. I was defending the jersey that has been hanging unwashed in my shed for a year, you'll have to read to the end to find out how that went. The jersey was ripe with funk, but will be much riper after this year's event. The conditions made for a truely epic adventure. The report below is a combo of the race director's write up (in standard text) and my recollections (in italics).
Wow what a day! Thanks to all the riders that showed and stuck it out through the rain. The WUSS meteorologists were correct when they predicted that the rain would be "spotty at best", what surprised us was how big those spots were and how much thunder and lightning would accompany the rain.
Stage 1 - An L-shaped 1.5 mile stage which started off with a slight incline through a picturesque pine forest. The rain started to come down in buckets and had riders immediately covered head to toe with mud, a look we would all sport for the rest of the day. Nick stormed to victory on this stage and was first to take the covetted yellow lead pony jersey off the back of last years winner Joe Whitehair. Larry Camp came in second with Joe right on his heels. Mike came in 4th and Junkins showed a strong start coming in 5th. The rain started right at stage 1. Lined up about mid-pack at the start, the course had an immediate split option to sweep wide around a log or straight over it. Seemed liked most were going wide so I headed for the log with only one rider in front of me. He went down but I was able to bunny hop it and keep going. Sprinted hard for the lead, the log route had already paid off. Came to another higher log, tried the ol' bump and jump technique but as soon as I touched the front wheel the wet wood dumped me like a chump. Nick and Larry took advantage of this miscalculation on my part and got ahead of me. Redlined it to the finish and felt whipped already. Going to be a tough day.
Stage 2 - Stage 2 would be an all out sprint back to race HQ for some well deserved beers. Thanks to Dominion for a keg of New River and a bunch of cases for riders to sample. Stage 2 starts off pretty easy winding riders along a relatively flat area until you cross a creek and start heading up gradually and then the last 200 yards are steep and not easy to navigate a good line. Camp must have been thirsty and was up for the challenge, he crossed the line first with Nick following closely, then Jason, Butch and Joe rounding out the top 5. Props to all riders that cleared that hill without a dab, not an easy feat even on a dry day. Not much to report on this stage except I started off decent and then was sucking wind on the final hill. Felt like I already had blood in the lungs and it's only stage 2. At this point I'm wondering what the hell is going on with me. No good explanation except some days you have it and some days you don't. You can guess which description fit me at this point.
Stage 3 - After a well deserved beer break, riders set out on the longest stage they'd encountered so far. Winding up and up a fireroad that played tricks on you making you think you're at the top, but then punishing you with another incline around each turn. Finally dumping you down on to a loose stone fireroad down to Liberty Dam. Standing at the bottom of the hill I knew this would be a close finish and it didn't disappoint. Larry Camp came into view first but as he came barrelling down the hill toward the finish a blurr appeared on the horizon and was coming down like a flash to overtake and startle Camp at the line. Joe Whitehair was not going to be denied a victory on this stage (I believe he owned this stage victory in 2004 too, maybe). Mike followed closely behind Joe with Junkins still strong and taking 4th, Bobak the Iranian daredevil rounded out the top 5. The beer was good and I loaded up one of my bottles with some extra for on the trail refreshment. Crazy right turn into the beginning of the stage as the pack was thick with riders and the trail was a gnarly series of bumps, ruts and roots. I don't think anyone went down but I'm not sure how that happened with so many people jockying for position. With an early chunk of downhill I was able to move up the ranks and eventually get to the front. Mike had me most of the way, I just didn't have the legs to attack on the hills and was trying to recover on the descents, hoping to attack on the next climb. Not sure how many climbs there were but kept wondering if the next one was the last. Larry was knocking on the back door and then took us on the final climb and pulled ahead quite a bit. Mike started to get a couple of bike lengths on me too. Three 29ers duking it out up front. I mashed the pedals and closed the gap on Mike as we crested the hill. I swooped him on the inside of a left-hand hairpin and started blasting down the hill giving chase to Larry. I knew the stage ended somewhere at the bottom and he had a big lead on me. Flying blind without my glasses I hoped there weren't any surprises in the terrain and let it rip without any brakes, whipped through a turn and got aero enough to surprise Larry at the finish and take the stage by a half wheel. I was back in yellow.
Unofficial Dab no Dab section: In an attempt to spare riders from taking unnecessary risk on a narrow, rock strewn, steep hill down to the lower section of the dam with one shute that is extremely difficult we paraded down at our own pace. JohnO will produce the pictures, not sure how many cleared it since I was in the back, but if you did, great job. A quick dip in the reseviour and riders continued the parade up what would be the begginning of the next stages downhill. Did I say it was raining? Picture the worst downpour you've seen this year, with lightning striking and about a tenth of a second wait for the cannon like thunder. Yelling to the guy 3 feet from you was the only way to be heard. Between the horses and Ma Nature this little shute down to the river is a greasy series of trials moves on rocks. And then things really get turned up. Holy hell, the rain is coming down in sheets. Fierce lightening firing off all around us and it's only getting worse. But, it's warm out and everyone is having a blast.
Stage- 4 - Chaos insues courtesy of Nick Daniels. At the top of the climb there was a small clearing. Race directors instructed riders that they were not allowed to ride their own bike on this stage. As riders found fellow racers with similar pedals, lightning struck no more than 50 feet from the pack and with the flash a few riders were off on the decent (led by Nick screaming). Nick mistook me yelling "HOLY SHIT!!" for GO and so at that point I just had to start the stage knowing that there were no volunteers on the course to direct traffic and there was no finish line. Riders enjoyed navigating a downhill where a creek was now flowing fast down the trail on a bike that was not there own. Personally I enjoyed riding Don's bike with the 3 foot seat tube and reversed brakes;) The trail finally spills out to a gravel road. When I got to this point all the riders were in a pack unsure if the stage was over. Not just yet. Nate rode off to be the finish line and riders were set up in sprint position spread across the road in a line. At the gun the lead riders were off like a rocket. Nick took the sprint, with Camp, Jason, Mike and Joe rounding out the top spots. The thunder and lightening is getting way too close for comfort. I've been in some serious thunderstorms before, but this may be the worst. We trade off riding and pushing up an old road that is all rock with a few downed trees. It has literally turned to a stream that is about halfway up to the hubs. But it's rock, so it's actually rideable most of the way. We get to the top, switch bikes and realize that standing around all of this metal is probably not that wise when lightening is cracking all around us. The thunder is deafening. Strangely, there are no high winds or you would think you were in a hurricane. A major thunder boom sends the pack hurtling back down the way we came. I take a couple of chances on the wet logs and some how don't crash and claw my way to the lead. I'm on Jay's Stumpy with the seat jacked up my ass and a bent brake lever which is not helping negotiate this crazy, watery rock descent. I get to the bottom where the trail tees and think I've kept the yellow. No luck, JC arrives to let us know the stage is not over yet. The pack steps on it again and we duke it out on some tight trail and pop out on a gravel road. Nope, false alarm again as everyone regroups and finds out the stage is still not over. Another couple hundred yards, we go off in a sprint and the stage I thought I had won earlier I am now 5th in. But who cares, that was a blast.
Stage- 5 - After parading up and into McKeldin for a little rest and water refill riders lined up at the top of a nice long downhill with plenty of ramped up water bars to launch off of and a few loose rocky turns to keep you on your toes. This was the beginning of the days longest stage. As riders came to the bottom of the climb they turned left and soon started up a long climb that took they back to the parks highest point, a grueling climb any day. At the top of the climb riders were greeted with another sweet downhill to the finish. Joe W finished strong and took the stage with Camp and Mike close behind. Jason had a stong finish for 4th and Bobak?? got 5th. Find I've got a flat on the parade and do a quick change. We line up at the start of the stage with instructions to take off in 10 minutes. The trail is wide but I'm near the back waiting. We are pointed downhill so it might be tough to get up front quick but that's how it goes. The pack takes off and I quickly move up near the front but sense some sort of question in the crowd that either we shouldn't be going yet or they are unsure of the trail. I call out to make sure we are indeed racing, get a "Yes" from somebody and then step on it to jump to the front. I think JC has given us a little relief and handed us a pure downhill stage. I'm in familiar territory now although it's been a year or mor since I'm done this trail. It's now got these big rolling dirt water bars through out and I'm launching them with a big fat smile on my face thinking it's all downhill for a quick stage. Blast through a tight corner and almost have my wheel washout but make the save. Another corner in the opposite direction, another water bar jump. Get to the bottom and don't see a finish and realize this is not the cake stage I thought it was going to be. I know where the trail goes: back up to pay for the downhill we just got. I've got a decent lead but as I'm grinding to the top, barely turning the cranks I think I can hear someone getting close. I assume it is Larry or Nick, but it's no use looking, I can't pedal any faster. I make it to the top and no one is on my wheel so I accelerate and try to pick up the pace but recover at the same time. At least I'm feeling better than the first two stages. A couple more descents and climbs, smaller than the first two and then a ripper to the bottom of the river valley. More water bars and jumps but tighter turns and a bit more technical. My grip is turning moto-style from all of the rain and I'm trying to keep it from flying off the bar. I manage keep it on and get back in the yellow jersey. I realize at this point that the downhill is where my advantage is today, because the climbs aren't where I'm gaining time. What happened to those legs I had a couple of weeks ago in Colorado?
Stage 6 - Stage 6 started with a quarter mile road sprint into a fireroad climb that again took riders to the top of the park. And after a day of mostly fireroads and doubletrack riders were greeted with a tight windy downhill that ended with about 100 yard steep rock garden decent, while some people have cut a track to go around this steep section, I'm happy to report all riders took the difficult line and cleared the sectioin. While I was standing at the bottom of the hill the finish was still a bit off as riders were instructed to follow the trail for another mile or so and loop it back to me. Camp was happy to reclaim the yellow lead pony jersey, with Joe, Nick and then JohnO and Butch Ramsey storming into the top spots. More rain, more lightning, but things are clearing up a bit. The lungs are burning good now. At the beginning of the stage I'm thinking I really don't want to keep the jersey going forward. It means defending it. I'm content to follow Larry and Nick as we begin the climb. Either they are starting to get tired too or my legs are feeling better, but we stay tight and as we near the top of the climb I go to make my move. By now I've decided I want to stay in the yellow. As I go to do this I see Larry pull off to grab an Outlaw (worth 10 pts., equivalent to a first place finish) in the bushes and realize I really need this stage now. We are up on top of the ridge and I motor on with Nick chasing. There's a trail split and I go right and wind up at a dead end with a frisbee golf basket. Nick has unfortunately followed me. I should know this part of the trail, but it's been a while since I've been here. We see Larry pass and give chase, Nick leading. As we enter the gnarly rocks we are hot on Larry and I go for a bold move hoping not to crash and burn. I hack Nick (sorry dude!) and slide into second, but it's not over. Some flat sprinting on a final loop, but I've got nothing left to give chase with and Larry takes the yellow from me plus he's captured two outlaws in the process bringing his total points to 30 for this stage alone.
Stage 7 - Derby time! Claman took over the helm to coordinate some derby action. We paraded up to the top of the park and found a nice grass clearing. Derby started off wide but in one fell swoop, about 10 riders went down. It was close until it was down to two. I believe the finish ended up with Bobak 1st then Jason, Butch, Mike and Nick. But at that point I was pulling mudcakes out of my eye so I could be totally wrong. Good derby, no serious injuries. I managed to stay up for a while but tried to get crazy and caused myself to go down instead.
Stage 8 - Ah the Team Time Trial in honor of Lances final tour (unless he's like most great athletes, and comes back after a year of missing the competition). After bombing down the trails and exiting McKeldin for the day, racers were greeted with a cooler of beer provided by my father in law and my sister Catherine. At this point as rider sucked down some well deserved beverages, they were instructed to draw a number out of a hat. The plan was for teams of 4, and then with an extra rider or two we'd have some teams with 5 or 6. The time trial course was a climb up to the top of a long gravel/paved road that sees little car traffic. Teams were allowed to tow any riders that needed it and then the 4th rider across the line for each team was the time to count. The climb was gradual at first then flattened out sligtly before turning to a wall of climb for the last 1/4 mile or so. Team 2 won the stage, Tony, JohnO, Bobak and Jay had a stong showing after a grueling day. Great addition to the event. Draw random numbers to find out who is on your team. Tough road climb, those pre-stage beers definitely helped. Our team consisted of JC, Mike, Mike, Kevin, Ken and myself. We managed 2nd.
Stage 9 - Final Stage. After some riders bailed to get back to wife and children by taking the road back to the house. The remaining field was treated to a nice rolling stage with a brutal climb up the backside of race HQ then turning to blast down to the inviting reseviour for a well needed swim/bath. At this point all my volunteers were either gone or tired of directing traffic so the group indicated they could do the stage on memory since we were backtracking on the trails from Stage 3. It was a blast, Joe and Nick shot off the front on the first climb and the rest of us stayed fairly close knowing that the end was near. The final descent down to the water lets racers gamble and either go left or right at the top of a hill with both trails leading to the final singletrack trail to the water. Nick was in first leading to this point with Joe W ten yards behind and thinking "whichever way Nick goes I'm going the other..." Nick went right, Joe shot off to the left. While Joes trail would be more fun it has two sharp turns that slow you slightly, just enought so that Nick was able to swoop right into the singletrack ahead of a braking Joe who needed to turn hard left onto the singletrack to the water. Nick 1st, Joe, then Mike, Jason and then Chris rounding out the top 5. Hurting now, Nick takes the lead but I stay right on his wheel. I'm content to let him set the pace. When we get near the end of the last climb we are both pushing. As we get on the flats I stay on his wheel, planning my move for the downhill. I figure this is where I've been strongest today. There's a split up ahead, both routes lead to the finish. They should be pretty equal in distance, but I don't know this for sure. I took right leg last year. I debate what to do, then decide in a tactical move to take which ever leg Nick does not take figuring I will hammer the downhill balls to the wall and maybe he will won't be as inclined to do that without another rider gunning for him. Nick takes right and I take left and seal my fate on the unfamiliar leg. A hard right in the descent forces me to scrub a lot of speed. I accelerate again and see Nick coming into the trail intersection a bit ahead of me. Last chance will be a final short descent to the water, but I've got to hook a left dog leg and he's got the straight line from his angle. He beats me and in a last ditch effort I go full bore into the turn, braking at the last possible second. No rear brakes, the pads are gone from the day's nasty conditions. In a desperate attempt to make the turn I over brake with the front and wash out in a dramatic spill. Stage over, Nick's got it. I meet him at the bottom and go for a swim. The rain has finally stopped and the grime is coming off. He offers to share his beer since I lost mine in the wreck. A fine day of racing, it doesn't get much better than this. The rest of the crew must be as spent as we are because I don't see the next rider until I start hoofing it back up the hill to look for my lost brew.
Points were tallyed back at HQ while riders cleaned up, visited with family and friends, drank tasty beers and ate some wonderful food.
Although the riding was over the race continued. Top ten riders were required to wager as many of their points on one hand of blackjack. Beat the dealer, win the points, lose and lose the wager.
Larry Camp who was first in the points leading into the blackjack, beat the dealer but found he didn't wager enough (10 of his 78pts) and slipped from 1st to 3rd overall. Nick who was second in points wagered half his points 36 of 72, beat the dealer and moved in to 1st with 108pts. Mike who was third in points went big wagering 58 of 58 pts, but he busts! Zero pts, great riding though Mike, awesome showing in your first Jamboree. Joe W wagered 36 of his 54 pts and won big moving up to 2nd place with 100 pts. Bobak and Jason both went all in and doubled their pts to 44 and shared 4th place.
Ball Breaker went to Junkins who had a strong early showing in his first Jamboreee. Had a sweet spill that, although I didnt' see, he proudly displayed the carnage afterward and if it wasn't already filled with mud might have needed stiches. He also admitted to audibly cussing my name the whole way up the Team Time Trial course which was music to this Race Directors ears!
Great day, thanks again to all the riders who, like me are probably still trying to dry out. Thanks to all the volunteers and my in-laws for all their hard work preparing for the day.
Results 1st - Nick (remember the lead pony jersey can not be touched with any detergent and must be brought unwashed for next years race) 2nd- Joe 3rd- Larry 4th - Bobak and Jason Ball Breaker Award - Brian