Stage eight had us line up on the road for a short sprint to the trail. The trail started as a fire road for a grand total of 50 yards, then funneled quickly into twisty singletrack with few options for passing. Entering the singletrack it was Nick in the lead followed by Ricky with me in third with a few more right on my rear wheel. It was a tight yo-yo as the trail bobbed and turned on a bench-cut ridge but no positions were changing. A sudden, abrupt slow down almost caused a pile-up and then the sprint was back on. A steep, rooty, rocky section caused a chain reaction of dismounts and I made my move in a slow-motion grunt/run. As we crested the top I hopped on only to be faced with an intersection but no marker or course marshal to guide the way. Nick yelled out "which direction?" but I was to busy trying to catch my breath to answer. We knew the stage ended at the river so I kept hammering and swung left knowing that this trail definitely led to the bottom and seemed like the best gamble. Plus it's a super fun ripper that's mostly downhill so even if I made a wrong turn I'd still be having a good time.
I quickly found my groove as the trail got faster. Lots of tight trees and tricky little turns that you can really rail and take advantage of if you play it right. I was really feeling the best I had all day and making all of the right moves, just one of those times when you really feel on. I got a good lead and didn't let it go, working every corner and pumping every last bit of speed I could from the trail, this was pure single speed heaven. By the end of the stage no one was in sight and I secured the pleasure of wearing the sweet smelling yellow jersey once again.
Once everyone was gathered again we paraded to the next stage and everyone got to sample a nice, large piece of east coast slick rock, an unusual feature in this park. Some more technical single track and then we staged in a small parking area while the course marshals headed out to get in place. After a bunch of playing on logs, doing wheelies and track stands and otherwise goofing off on our bikes, the start was suddenly called and caught a few of us by surprise. Down the road, then up the asphalt hill and turn left into the single track. Larry had the lead with Stoner right behind. I squeezed past Nick entering the single track to take third. The single track is a short stretch where there are no chances to pass, a steep hillside with a gnarly sliver of bench-cut in it that finishes on a steep, rutted descent. At this point it T's into a wide piece of double track. I was hoping we would be routed left along the river where it was nice and flat, I was starting to feel fatigued. Of course, Jim sent us uphill for another long stage. And who could blame him, I would have done the same thing. It's fun to make the racers suffer.
The climb is not bad, long and steady, conditions are generally good with a few water bars thrown in. Larry is still leading with Jason and I right behind. I'm content to let him set the pace, which is strong and steady. About half-way up Larry slows and pulls over and I wonder what is going on until I see him grab an Outlaw from the bushes. He's got 10 points right there and surely is still in the running for the top three if not #1. Jason is in front and I sit on his wheel, feeling comfortable with the pace and waiting for the right time. I know Larry isn't far behind and I'm sure Nick is right back there too and probably a couple of others. When I think we are near the top of the climb I attack and start pulling away from Stoner. Problem is, the climb is longer than I thought, but I can't blow it now. I keep grinding away hoping that I've got enough in the tank to pull it off. Suddenly I spot an Outlaw and pull off to grab it. I'm back on the bike by the time Jason is pulling up and we duke it out for the lead. As we finally near the top I take it and swing into the big U-turn before hitting another short climb. I know after this there's a series of rollers and I hope I can recover without getting passed. As I head downhill I hear a few riders knocking at the back door and I start spinning like a mad man but I'm running out of gear. Time to work the trail and try not to make any mistakes. As I crest the next hill there's a downed log, fully hoppable at any speed, but there is also a downed tree, a widow maker, strung across the trail at head height and only about 3 feet further down the trail from the log on the ground. I'm moving at a pretty good clip and make a quick assessment, then gamble. I bunny hop the log and immediately duck the tree, just waiting to clip my helmet. I make it through the hole clean but I take a quick look behind me and see it's slowed the others. I step on the gas and take advantage of this and the fact that the trail is more downhill than uphill for a while. As the descent starts there's a series of earthen rolling grade dips, big launch pads for getting air that spit you into loose turns and let you ride the edge. I have a blast hitting probably a half dozen of these and hit the finish still in first place. The mosquitos come out and we start getting eaten up so as soon as the group is back together we roll out towards the next stage.
We climb a seemingly endless uphill gravel road. Last year it was the team time trial stage but Jim has mercy on us this year and just has us ride it as a group to the start of the final stage. The final stage will have us re-enter the reservoir trails and reverse part of stage 4 and part or stage 1 for a finish at the water's edge. We line up on a fire road, I'm positioned a few riders deep but on the edge of the road hoping to go wide. As we take off the mass of riders barrels down the road towards a cable that's strung across to prevent vehicle access. Typically these types of barriers have tidy little ribbons of trail on both sides for foot/bike/horse access. This one doesn't and the momentum of the pack slows as they search in vain for the access point. The riders were gravitating to the sides looking for the go-round line and this left the middle open so I took advantage of it and bunny hopped the cable to take the hole shot. The trail pointed down and I spun out my gear quickly as I tried to make the most of the advantage I had. I kept the lead through the next couple of hills but lost it as I started running on fumes. I knew it was the last stage, so I just kept grinding but Ricky and Tom passed me as I started to bonk hard. I realize my total food intake has been a pack of Clif blocks and that's just not going to cut it. I grab my CamelBak hose figuring water might help but I am greeted with a single mouthful before it runs dry. No food, no water, I'm toasted, I struggle to hang on and dig deeper. Ricky has a good lead but I'm close to Tom as we come to the last hill and everyone dismounts for a run (or crawl) up the rutted, clay soil. Ricky calls out looking for directions, there's a turn up ahead and he must not have listened to the pre-stage instructions. I try to shout "Right" but I'm sucking wind and it comes out as a quiet grunt. He calls out again and I yell louder. He makes the turn and I manage to pass Tom on the climb. We start flat tracking towards the finish, the lollipop choice we chose earlier in stage 1. Which one is best this time? We end at the far end of the loop, turning onto a short stem of a trail that leads to the water. I try to remember back to last year when I made the wrong choice and laid it down in the final corner in a sprint finish. Tom passes me on the flats but as we start the descent I manage to pick up the pace and get ahead. Ricky is out of sight and on his way to the win. As I'm hammering for the finish and trying to set up for the final turn I realize once again I've chosen the tougher turn. I'm completely surprised when I see Ricky at the turn and as I lean in to go left he once again asks directions. It's to late, I've passed him before I could answer even if I could catch my breath. I dump my bike at the finish as Ricky follows me down and dives in the water to grab an Outlaw. It's over, I strip the helmet and gloves and grab a beer. Good times.
We cool down in the reservoir and kill the coolers of beer, then head back to Jim's in-laws where the kegs are cold and the grill has been fired up. After recharging on beer and food we have the final showdown. You see, the race isn't over yet. You may have won points on the stages, you may have scored points by collecting Outlaws, but there's one final game to play. You've got to wager your points in a game of beat the dealer (Jim) blackjack to determine the final placing for the Jamboree. I managed to come out on top in the points, but that means nothing until the cards are dealt. Ricky and Nick were high points holders and Jay, Stoner and Mike were sitting at the table too. When it all went down Ricky and Nick busted, I held onto the top spot with Mike in second and Stoner taking third. For the second time I get to store the stinking jersey until the next Jamboree. Big thanks to Jim, his wife, in-laws and the volunteers for making it a good time. And thanks to The Pedal Shop for the swag and ODBC for the beer. It's definitely one of my favorite rides I do all year, even if my lungs feel like they are on fire afterwards. A few pix were posted here.
Jamboree report - part I //
Monday - July 24, 2006
A couple of Saturdays ago was the 3rd annual Liberty Jamboree, a single speed stage race put on in the tradition of Punk Bike Enduros. The Jamboree is hosted by Jim C. and staged from his in-laws' property that borders a local reservoir which in turn links up to a local state park that provided the dirt for the day's adventure. (note: Jim's in-laws are cool, generous people who keep inviting a bunch of stinking SSers back for some reason). Seemed like there were more racers than ever this year, I suspect around 30 of us who were out there to battle the heat and each other for a shot at glory and the yellow jersey.
Jim puts a few twists on the Punk Bike rules, the first being the yellow jersey. Each winner of the stage dons a yellow jersey that quickly begins to reek from the accumulated sweat of each previous stage winner. Many wearers of the jersey, when ceding it to the next winner, will make sure to towel down with it to add extra stink for the next one to have the honor of wearing it. The overall winner of the event takes the jersey home and is forbidden to wash it. It is brought back and worn by that winner for stage one the following year. This being year number 3, the jersey is smelling sweet.
Nick was last years winner and got the privilege of starting the race in yellow. Stage 1 started with another of Jim's twists: the trail gamble. At various stages the trails will split and meet back up with itself. At some of these there will be no markings or course marshal, you need to pick a path and hope it's the best choice. Stage one started as a lollipop, shooting down a straight-away, they choosing left or right and circling back to the stem to then be redirected to a few more turns and then the finish. As we took off I was up near the front, Nick in the lead and as we hit the gamble he took left and I took right. The trail descended and I was spinning like a mad man, not knowing who was following and just trying to stay out front. As I passed the midway point of the loop and started climbing I was suddenly faced with a screaming pack of racers barreling down on me. It seemed most of the riders had chosen the other leg and I was battling them as I climbed back towards the lollipop stem. I seemed to have a decent lead but as I finished the climb to double back on our start I spotted Ricky d and the rest of the lead pack from the other leg merging in with me. Not what I wanted, I barely kept the lead as we regrouped and put on the gas. One thing was for sure, I am definitely not used to this racing thing and full bore sprinting, the lungs were on fire and stage one wasn't even halfway finished. With legs flailing I spotted a course marshal who directed me left, then warned of an upcoming turn that I overshot but quickly recovered from. Ricky d and Larry Camp were closing in and this years starting stage was much longer than in the past, but I managed to somehow hold them off and finished in front. The stink was mine for now.
Stage two had us reverse course for a bit, then head down towards the water. I started in the middle of the pack and it took a while to work my way up to the front. Another lung burner but pretty straight forward stage. Mike H. took the win with Camp in second and I took third. Already feeling tired. How many stages are there???.
Stage 3 was another one of Jim's creative twists: find someone approximately your size and with the same pedals as you and switch bikes with them for this stage. Carney grabbed me since we were similar in size. Good for me since he's a shop mechanic and I could count on a reliable bike. This stage was a le Mans start, race downhill to the bikes, then sprint uphill for a series of rollers with a final short, steep, rutted climb back to the house for a beer stop. Camp got the hole-shot but I scooted past him on the climb since he was spinning Ricky d's little gear. We were rolling out in the lead discussing The Ring, Michaux, and the Shed just like some casual ride except we were hammering at this point. By the time we neared the finish Larry had a few bike lengths lead and I had traded back and forth with another rider or two but was in second. Spectators cheered us on as we ground out the last painful hill and at the last minute Camp throttled back and let me take the stage. There can only be one reason for that move: he had no desire to wear the yellow jersey which was already starting to smell like road kill. That meant I got to wear it for the extended beer break, probably a wise strategy on Larry's part.
The temperature and humidity were starting to rise, so the ice cold beers really hit the spot, but we couldn't get to comfortable because there was plenty more racing to do. We lined up for stage 4 and were given a bit of instruction while the course marshals got in place. As we took off it was a bit chaotic as everyone broke out in an early sprint only to have to make a hard right onto a rutted jeep road. Ricky d overshot and lost his forward position but quickly caught back up. Nick got out in front and was working hard. I traded back and forth with Camp and Ricky and was hoping to maintain a steady pace and reel Nick in near the end of this long stage. Instead I slipped to fourth and was praying for it to be over as I tried but couldn't find the energy to pass Larry and Ricky. As we crested the last hill and started to descend I remembered a hairpin turn that I swooped Larry on last year to sneek in for the win. He must have remembered that too because he wasn't having any of it this time. Instead of ending the stage by the dam like last year Jim threw us a curve and routed us off the jeep road and down a hard right on to singletrack. Ricky and Larry miscalculated the line and I took advantage to move into second. Nick was out of sight and my hopes for catching him were fading fast. The "singletrack" was a narrow, gnarly rut filled with baby head rocks, just the kind of stuff that would give me a sliver of hope to catch him, Things were wet, we had rain days before and the high humidity left rocks and logs slick with moisture. I managed to hang on and hold it together, I could hear Nick but he was still just out of sight. As I reached the river crossing I saw him off the bike wading through. It was deep but my only shot was to charge it. By the time the water was well over my hubs and getting deeper I knew the stage was his and hopped off to wade through what wound up being crotch deep water. Good stuff, nothing like some added adventure and it was hot as hell anyway, the swim was a nice cool down. The troops regrouped and only one or two grumbled about the water crossing but they were promptly heckled.
Stage 5 was off to a grinding, bottled-necked start on single track that swung left up what would best be described as a dry, rocky stream bed of a trail. Well, it would have been dry if it wasn't so humid, instead the rocks were glistening with moisture. A pure, technical climbing stage that offered a bonus of 10 points (equivalent to a first place finish) for cleaning it with no dabs. This was the scene of last year's "Ride the Lightening" stage that took place in a fierce thunderstorm with bolts crashing too close for comfort. Fortunately we didn't have that to contend with that this year. It was a long grind and Ricky d showed us who was boss by taking the yellow. Nick took second, I took third and Tom and Camp rounded out the top five if I recall correctly. I munched some Clif blocks, the gummy candy of energy food, and tried to recover.
Stage Six was the derby. Quick and dirty is how it went down, a circling mass of riders throwing elbows, ramming tires and doing everything to knock others down while staying upright. There are no friends in the derby, only potential targets. I was fairing well and when it got down to four of us the circle was tight as the fallen riders moved in to give us the pinch. Nick decided to get aggro with me, a bold move that cost him some skin when he went down on the asphalt. Big props to him for bringing it on. I fended him off just long enough to grab the number 3 spot. Dave B. wound up the victor, not the first time I've seen this derby master make it to the end. Can't remember who got number 2, wish I could give them their proper due.
Stage Seven was another Jim C. original, the team time trial. Riders were randomly assigned a team. Teams went off at one minute intervals and you time was determine by your last man across the line. The stage climbed an asphalt hill before we re-entered the woods and reversed course on the stage 5 steam bed/trail before swinging left and getting down on some rooty, twisty singletrack. I pulled Stoner, Jay and the man himself, Jim C., for a team. A good bunch to be assigned, we were last in the start queue. We made good time and pulled a second place finish, passing an earlier team that flatted. The group paraded up to the park to refill water and start the next stage. Dave B. passed the jersey to Mike H.