Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Battered, Not Broken

The fifth annual Liberty Jamboree was this past Saturday and like last year it was a blast....... when I wasn't falling down ravines, over logs or on high speed descents. Jim Casey, Pedal Shop rider and W.U.S.S pioneer, puts on this little event every year as the summer time equivalent to RiderX's Punk Bike Enduro. It takes place mainly in the McKeldin section of Patapsco Valley State park, however, the staging area and post Jamboree festivities take place on the property of his in-laws. For the last five years they have been gracious enough to host this event and deserve a huge thanks for their hospitality.

Part of stage one was on a tear-dropped shaped trail that riders could chose to go either way. That meant being very aware of two-way traffic and passing could get sketchy. As I came up the other side of the drop there is a small tree hop required and somehow I botch it and go OTB. I gather myself quickly and continue to ride hard. I make up the spots I lost and continue to push the pace. As I go to pass another rider I brush by a long raspberry branch that is extending deep into the trail. It catches my face and puts a couple shallow cuts on my cheek and lip. I end the stage in third place, but, the price was a bruised knee and a bleeding face. This was a re-occurring theme throughout the day for me.

Jim decided to make the stages longer this year to keep the racers moving and end at a decent time. The long stages meant you could make a couple mistakes and still have time to recover from them. Stage two was actually my best stage and I played it smart. I was in third place going into a long climb and cargo Mike got stopped by a stick at the base of the climb. The leader was right in front of me and I let him burn himself up on the climb. The rest of the pack was far enough away that they didn't pose a threat and I had a feeling the stage was almost over. Before seeing the finish, I pass to his left and kick in the after-burners. Stage two was mine, as was the not-so-coveted lead pony jersey. Now, let me explain the "lead pony" jersey. This was an old jersey of Nicks from 8 years ago. Much like the TDF, the leader of each stage must wear the jersey, however, unlike Le Tour, the jersey must be worn next to the skin and has not been washed since the inception of the Jamboree. So, 5 years, countless bodies and summer time sweat makes for one nasty ass jersey.....and it was all mine.....for this one stage.

Stage three was the first real downhill stage and it was looking pretty good for me, until I flipped over my bike and down a ravine. We were all screaming down an over-grown piece of gravel road that lead into a hard right turn and some very technical single track. Ricky and I keep thinking we have over-shot the turn when we see Nate pointing to our right. Unfortunately he is right at the turn instead of a little before it and we over-shoot it and have to double back, losing a couple spots in the process. I think I was in third at this point now and at the very first log I hit the brakes a little too hard to avoid striking the rider in front of me. Well, that extra tap on the front brakes was all that was needed to send me OTB and down the hill to my left. Crap, I'm having a rough day here. Three stages and I have gone down twice already....and lost spots in the process. I lick my wounds and limp to the finish as everyone asks about my tumble. I shake my head, know the day is early and I'll make up for it on the next stage.

We get out to the road and do a long parade over to the McKeldin main gate. Enter the park and re-group near the bathroom. While some people refill their packs, Mike and Ricky have a go at some picnic table hopping. Well, actually they were trying to hop up onto the table and both only got as far as the bench seat. From here we move down to the trails and the start of stage 4. This stage starts off with another screaming descent and I am out at the front of the pack. The trails over on this side are dry and loose and this section is highlighted with numerous rolling grade dips that make for some fun high speed jumping. There are large loose rocks on top of the dry dirt and some of the turns are thrilling and scary at the same time. RiderX and I were wheel to wheel on one particular turn, he on the inside and I had the high line. As we go into the turn I feel my front tire start to cut loose, just about the same time I hit a 2" thick flat rock that sends my wheel skyward and me to the ground.....HARD! At the speeds we were traveling the crash was very much a blur. I do remember putting my hands down, then I went into a roll and at some point I think my bike was on top of me. Needless to say I got pretty fucked up. I ripped through the right palm on a pair of new gloves, my right shoulder took a good hit and my left hand wasn't feeling very good either. I jumped to my feet cursing like a sailor and then waited for the pain to hit, which it did quite promptly. My day was over. The stem got knocked a little sideways and I have a few new scratches on the frame, but, other than that my bike fared pretty well. I slowly got on the bike and made my way down the rest of that sweet section of trail, pissed that I could barely hold onto the grips.

Happy to be in one piece, relatively, I decide to give Jim a hand as a course marshal and photographer. This gave me the ability to ride, at a safe pace, and still enjoy the day. I got some great shots of the action during this break and you can check them out here. I don't know if it was the ibuprofen Joe gave me, the beer at road or some divine intervention, but, I was feeling pretty good and was able to compete again on the last three stages, the derby, team time trial and the race to the reservoir. I did okay in the derby and got pretty far until my main man Darius decided to take out my rear wheel with a nasty pseudo-tee-bone maneuver. I didn't know what hit me until he went riding off laughing like a mad man. He employed these tactics to the rest of the field until there was no one left. Big D takes the derby and the lead pony jersey.

A requisite beer break before the team time trial and we should have handled things differently. The two ladies on our team were getting a little tired by this point and we were allowed to "assist" teammates on the hill. Instead we just cruise up the hill and do not provide assistance until the final stretch. In retrospect we should have helped push them sooner. It wasn't until the final wall that I swung back to help out our only geared rider and she was very appreciative for the assistance. Two of the other guys do the same and help our other female teammate, however, I know our efforts came to late to do any good.

Final stage, the run to the reservoir. I'm feeling pretty good now, about 95% and decide to actually hit this final stage hard. Unfortunately I am at the back of the pack before the start and have a LOT of places to make up. We're given the go and I pass a lot of people in the first 100 yards. The trail starts to get loose and rocky and I throw caution to the wind and let'r rip. On the hill climb I catch several more people and have moved into 5th then 4th. On the flat before the final descent I get another person and am now in third. We are back at the lollipop and I could have sworn Jim said the trail to the water was more on the left side of the circle, I see Nick go right and I gamble on the left side. I really need to stop gambling. As I swing around the bottom of the trail I see several of the people I passed head into the final section. My little gamble cost me three spots and any hope for some final points. I roll down to the water in 6th place, one spot out of the points race. Still, not bad for a guy who was lucky to be racing after everything that happened throughout the day. Nick takes the stage and I but mug Nate for an Outlaw, which I got. I'll take it and my cold beer into the water for a nice refreshing dip.

Back at the staging area (house) kids are everywhere and the festivities are just getting started. Barb shows up with the wee ones as I'm getting changed. The rest of the day is filled with burgers, beer and chasing Jackie around. The points are only part of the over-all race and we still have a hand of Blackjack to play. Again, gambling is a big part of the Jamboree and many_a_previous winner has been decided by a hand of cards. Mike, our over-all points winner, couldn't beat the house and walked away empty handed. Nick pushed, bet smart and took away the win and the lead pony jersey. Jonathan, last years winner, race and gambled smart and took the second spot and DC Tony did the same for third. Me? I take the "Ball Breaker" award home for the second straight year. Damn, I am consistent.

Photos by me & Joe W.


Anonymous said...

Hey now, I was having a bad (race) day, what can I say. I bonked hard about halfway through the race (somewhere right before the derby). I did win one of the stages early on- so I'm not always slow ;)

I did appreciate the push up the hill though, thank you. Nice meeting you, and maybe next time you won't have to push me up the hill.


Todd said...

I'm sorry about that comment, I regret making it and should not have been so negative. It was a long, hard day and you should be commended for riding so hard. I owe you a beer.

Anonymous said...

No sweat. I'll take that beer though :)