come along for the ride
This year was the 40th anniversary of the Virginia City Grand Prix. The race is held in the high desert outside of the small historic mining town of Virginia City. The race is held every year. This year over 1000 racers converged on the small town. RV’s and trailers are parked on every street and spectators throng the bars and gift shops. The race is held over the course of two days, Saturday is for the pros and Sunday is for the novices (that would be me). On Saturday I was able to watch the pros take off from the starting line and head down the city street to the dirt. Several people crashed at the tight turn that was directly after the starting line. Did not realize how tight the turn was until I was at the starting line myself.
My friends and I heard that course had been changed to remove all of the technical sections and that it was wide open and fast, but incredibly rocky. Note: I had never really ridden through rocks before. I entered this race with all of six months of trail riding experience. I started riding trails in November, before this you could count the number of times I have ridden in the dirt on two hands. Half of those times were on slicks during supermoto races. Yes, I have a tendency to jump head first into things. The bike I rode for the race is my trail bike, a brand new 2009 KTM 200 xcw. I literally had only ridden the bike twice before the race. My first trail bike was a beaten up 2005 KTM 200. My old 200 xcw was the first two stroke I had ever ridden. There was definitely a learning curve going from a four stroke to a two stroke. On top of that, nobody bothered to tell me that two strokes have no engine braking. Try going down a hill for the first time without that information.
I lined up for the race on Main Street with 531 other riders. I was in the 17th row. There are ten riders in each row and each row is released onto the course every 15 seconds. I was nervous and excited as I came to starting line. I decided to view the race as just another trail ride and tried not to put pressure on myself. I knew the race was filled with riders that had far more experience than I did and that many of the novices really aren’t novices.
I headed out onto the course, the last in my row of riders. Everything was going fairly well till I got to the first long steep dusty down hill. The hill wasn’t what bothered me, rather it was the large group of riders that were stopped and fallen over on the hill that presented a challenge. I headed down the hill sliding in control at a good pace until someone stopped directly in front of me. I was able to stop in time, but when I went to put my foot down there was no ground underneath my boot and over I fell. When I sit on my bike on the center of the saddle I can’t actually touch the ground, so trying to find a high spot to rest my foot on when I stop is sometimes difficult. I didn’t have the luxury this time. I finally got moving again and made it down the bottom of the hill. Unfortunately this would not be the last time I would be confronted by a large group of people stopped in the middle of the trial. The next logjam occurred on a hill that looked like a dump truck covered the trail with large amounts of rocks. About 50 to 100 people were stopped this time. I stayed to the right side so I could keep one of my feet on the hillside, but farther up people had gotten off their bikes and parked them on the side of the hill. I had no choice but to go up the middle of the rocks. The race sweeps helped get me going and I was able to make it up the hill through the rocks. I discovered that the faster I went across the rocks the easier it was to make it through.
The course itself wasn’t all that tough other than the rocks that covered most of it. My main problem is that I fixate on the downed riders in front of me. I am afraid to run into them so I instead of looking through the riders and finding a path around, I end up stopping and stalling the bike. I have to kick start the bike to get going again, thus wasting more energy.
Even though I only did one lap, I still finished with the feeling that I had accomplished something. I wasn’t afraid to go out there and put myself to the test. After I got back to pits, I found out one our riders, Josiah, had had a flight tire right at the beginning of the course. I offered to let him ride my bike and he jumped at the chance to ride a lap of the course. I was glad to be able to help someone who was so eager to ride.
Would I do it again, definitely! I plan on doing many more off road races. Off road riding for me is one of the greatest confidence builders for my riding and me. Being able to control your bike through constantly changing terrain is an amazing feeling.
Thanx to Tim and Abbey for being an amazing and supportive pit crew.
Thanx Seph and Chuck for dragging my bike and I up in the trailer.